Australian and New Zealand brands will lead the next wave of global customer experience innovation as consumers become aware of new technologies and more deeply explore virtual and immersive environments, according to new research from Adobe. To help fuel this transformation, marketers and consumers alike are eager to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), especially generative AI.

Adobe’s Future of Digital Experiences Report found that 87% of ANZ consumers shop in physical stores today – but that percentage will drop to 66% in two years – a shift that will be more prominent in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region overall, dropping to just 40%, lower than the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Consumers expect brands to expand their digital experiences into new formats with over two-thirds (70%) of ANZ consumers wanting to view products through virtual or augmented reality, and 60% wanting to engage with brands in immersive and virtual worlds. 

ANZ brands are planning to respond with new and innovative digital experiences such as virtual/immersive events (67%), the ability to build virtual products and convert them into physical items (67%), VIP access to virtual influencers and celebrities (65%) and offering digital tokens to trade for virtual and physical products (63%).

While the future is exciting, the current economic environment pressures brands to enhance their customer experiences. Almost half (44%) of ANZ consumers say their expectations are heightened by a worsening economic climate. This is particularly true for Gen Z and Millennials, where 50% say their expectations are higher in a down economy.

“Consumers across ANZ have high expectations for brands, and this is only increasing as economic challenges grow in the region. Marketers already recognise the potential of artificial intelligence. The next step is to invest in such emerging technologies and apply it across all CX workflows to accelerate the delivery of personalised experiences,” Adobe ANZ vice president and managing director, Katrina Troughton said.

ANZ marketing and customer experience professionals are already relying on artificial intelligence (AI). Almost half (46%) say AI is helpful in their work, with 12% calling AI “a miracle”. 

Marketing and customer experience professionals are even more optimistic regarding emerging generative AI technologies. Eight in ten respondents anticipate generative AI will help increase their work product quality and volume (85%), enhance their creativity (82%), and help reach more of the right customers (85%). Strong majorities also believe generative AI will help better personalise customer experiences (85%), as well as identifying new audiences and customer journeys (88%).

ANZ consumers also recognise the potential for generative AI to transform their brand interactions. Almost two thirds (63%) say it will enhance the customer experience, while 66% believe it can improve product quality. Consumers are excited for brands to use generative AI, as longs as they do so responsibly. When asked how a company should use generative, 37% prioritised ethical considerations, while 47% prioritised actions that would improve their customer and employee experiences. Only 16% said companies should not use generative AI at all.