The Future of Experience report reveals what consumers want

A participant in the Future of Experience tries a VR headset

The Future of Experience report points to technology becoming more and more attuned to human needs and wants, writes Hannah Gresty

Adobe and Goldsmiths University have teamed up to create The Future of Experience report that reveals the new rules of engagement for brands using emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and the Internet of Things.

The report identifies five new dimensions for brands to consider when it comes to creating the experiences of the future – empathy, serendipity, privacy, reciprocity and adaptability – and explores how technology allows people to experience things that were previously unattainable. And to experience them on a deeper level to change their lives for the better.

Based on findings from over 2,000 UK adults and a host of workshops, interviews and quantitative research, the report found that consumers have a desire for technology to enable deeper connections with others, make us more creative, and produce meaningful experiences.

“The research shows people want experiences facilitated by technologies that enhance the flow and meaning in everyday life. The call-to-action is for experiences that are empathetic, learning, and adaptive,” said Chris Brauer, director of innovation and senior lecturer in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths University.

The five new dimensions of experience

Empathy: In order for brands to connect emotionally with people and create meaningful experience, they have to exercise extreme empathy when using emerging technologies. When technologies are harnessed correctly they have huge potential for implementing social good and fostering empathy, the foundation of a trusting relationship.

The future of experience report found that consumers want technology to power social good, and with the help of emerging technologies such as VR that enable consumers to enter new “realities”, perspectives can shift and attention refocus; an essential element of empathy.

But that’s just one side of the “empathy algorithm”, says the report – it’s down to the content created to turn an immersive experience, as with VR, into a meaningful one (which is what consumers want: 32 per cent of GB adults surveyed said that a great experience was a meaningful one, a personal one [19 per cent] and a straightforward one [19 per cent]).

A poignant example of a VR experience that is both immersive and meaningful is GenderSwap, an experiment produced by BeAnotherLab in Barcelona. The programme uses a neuroscience technique called “embodiment experience” to produce the feeling of being in another’s body. Such a transformative experience becoming available as a result of technology can undoubtedly be used to power social good.

Serendipity: Consumers value surprise and unexpectedness in their engagement with technology; human needs change constantly and an overly tailored approach can be a turn-off, stopping a great experience from unfolding (think ‘recommended for you’ products on Amazon). Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of adults surveyed said that a good digital experience, from AI to wearables, leads them to new discoveries that they love.

The report suggests that emerging technologies should be the catalyst for creativity and imagination, and ignite the feeling of possibility. Far from replacing human autonomy, technology should be used to enhance actions, as trying to overly engineer these can make an experience feel devoid of purpose and meaning.

Wearable technology like this Vinaya ring feature in the Future of Experience report

Vinaya produce wearable technology, like this ring which subtly vibrates when a person has contacted you

Privacy: But not as you know it. Of the adults surveyed for the report, 52 per cent said that a ‘good’ digital experience empowers people to use technology both to connect to the world and disconnect from it too. Paradoxically, it’s through the use of technology that consumers will be able to foster a moment of privacy, whether it’s simply by clicking an “unlike” or “unfollow” button, or opting for an even more personalised approach, such as that offered by wearable technology company Vinaya, which produces wearable ‘filters’ that block unwanted notifications from your phone.

The notion that technology is only helpful in facilitating connections and social relationships no longer applies, the report suggests, and brands may find it’s necessary, however uncomfortable, to allow consumers to disconnect in order to connect.

Reciprocity: The report predicts that consumers’ relationship with technology is set to change radically as we begin to learn from, and teach each other. Unique to the technologies that incorporate machine learning is the need for a deeper level of customer engagement with the service; respondents to the survey expressed a willingness to ‘teach’ a machine if the feedback improved a number of elements in their lives like personal health.

The report also suggests that as a result of coding classes being taught more in primary schools, the next generation of consumers may be able to embark on a more meaningful relationship with technologies as a result of a more sophisticated knowledge on how technology actually works.

Adaptability: Co-operation between products, services, hardware and software is essential in the future as more and more consumer experiences involve emerging technologies.

Participants testing IoT and AI technologies were excited by their potential, but found the experiences were not straightforward or seamless enough, suggesting brands will be required to adapt online and offline, and potentially across whole markets in order to be able to cater to the seamless, integrated journey consumers desire from the future of experience.

The Future of Experience Report

Read the full report here

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About author

Hannah Gresty

Hannah Gresty

Until she left the magazine in August 2019, Hannah Gresty was the assistant editor of Director. She previously worked on a local news website and at a fashion PR company before joining the Director team as editorial assistant in 2016.

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