2019: the year in which
human interaction makes
a comeback

The more technology that comes into our lives, the more we all start to yearn for authentic physical experiences as a counterweight. Digital and physical, online and offline are not rivals. In fact, in 2019 they will reinforce each other more than ever. The companies that respond well to this trend will be the winners of tomorrow.

1.Digital transformation is not about IT but about customer-oriented innovation

A digital transformation starts with a solid, up-to-date and flexible IT infrastructure, but this is never the end point. This is shown once again by a report from Altimeter. Organisations should start their digital transformation by investing in new IT infrastructure and technologies such as the cloud, collaboration, communication, security and mobile capabilities.

It is only when this IT infrastructure is in place that they can move the focus to improving the relationship with their customers. A good customer relationship is simply indispensable for enabling the business to maximise profitability, also in the longer term. This is an aspect that many organisations still need to work on, because companies often get stuck at the infrastructure level. About 41% of the organisations surveyed by Altimeter opt for digital transformation without investigating what their customers actually want and as a result they miss a lot of opportunities.

Digital transformation needs to be directed more than ever at improving the customer touchpoints. The focus of the internal IT department should therefore shift more and more to where it can make the biggest difference for the company: on customer-oriented innovation – online and offline.

2. Artificial intelligence will improve human interaction, not replace it

In 2019 artificial intelligence (AI) will have an unprecedented impact on making online interactions better and more efficient. We have a good example here: Carglass Carrosserie's plan to use artificial intelligence to recognise vehicle damage in photos that customers can upload themselves. Based on the damage that the smart system detects, the customer automatically receives a quote for a fast repair. This means the customer is helped quickly while employees can focus on other more complex damage cases. So it is always a combination of the two: human interaction and AI. Human interaction is mainly used when it can have the biggest impact on customer satisfaction.

3. Merge physically and digitally, and reinforce each other

In 2018 we already saw that people are longing for 'authentic' physical experiences, as a reaction to the digitalisation of our lifestyle. This year we will see this trend becoming increasingly important. The more we do everything online – shopping, working, communicating, etc. – the more importance we're going to attach to the physical. As a result, physical stores are seeing a revival, but they have to be able to distinguish themselves with a unique shopping experience. This can be done by combining the advantages of the digital and physical shopping experience. By using their knowledge of online customer behaviour, companies can give offline experiences a new dimension, and vice versa.

Digital transformation is more than ever about improving the offline customer touchpoints, if companies really want to make a difference in their sector.

The blurring of these different boundaries between offline and online, physical and digital, human and artificial intelligence means that in 2019, companies will again have to think very carefully about how they themselves want to evolve and respond to these trends.

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