2022 felt like the quest for normalcy. Restrictions were removed. People went back to work, got on planes, went to conferences and kids were back in school. Sure, we’re not out of the woods – the supply chain is still in distress, inflation is running out of control, and the economy is shaky at best. Even so, I am optimistic about 2023. The channel is regaining its balance and learning how to survive in this new environment. Product portfolios are expanding, and large and sometimes surprising investments are being made in new technology.
2023 will bring technological reinforcements to help dealers thrive. Let’s take a look at what the year ahead has in store for the channel:
Digital transformation (DX) isn’t just about getting rid of filing cabinets and making information more accessible. It’s also about taking advantage of what you can do with that information when it’s in digital form. One of those benefits — perhaps the most important one — is the ability to automate the processes that are driven by that information. We are now moving toward hyperautomation, which is the idea that anything that can and should be automated, will be automated.
Thanks to the way COVID-19 accelerated society’s overall digital transformation process, we may be entering the hyperautomation phase a lot sooner than expected. Now that businesses have invested much more in DX much faster than they anticipated, the calculus of what “can and should” be automated is much different.
Expect to hear a lot of customers interested in RPA this year.
Chatbots and AI help the sales team
In 2023, sales teams are going to start using OpenAI ChatGPT to do everything from creating the perfect sales script for every occasion to providing higher levels of help and support on demand. By relegating a lot of the mundane yet critical sales work to ChatGPT, sales teams are going to be able to focus more on the human element of sales. ChatGPT will also have a huge impact on the way businesses support their customers. While AI chatbots already handle low-level support and FAQs, ChatGPT can handle higher-level tasks — again, freeing up human workers to handle the things where AI isn’t suitable.
The second wave of remote conference and collaboration
At the onset of the pandemic, video conferencing licenses and hardware sales exploded. But consumers are starting to realize that the technology they purchased to enable remote working at the beginning of the pandemic is incapable of fulfilling their current needs (or a superior technology was released after they made their initial investment). Customers were grateful for the conference equipment that got them through a pivotal stretch in 2020-2021, very much in the same way they were fond of their first car. But everyone upgrades, eventually.
In 2023, be prepared for a second wave of conference and collaboration technology spending. As office spaces transform — cubicles are converted to hot desking areas and smaller offices are outfitted to be collaboration spaces — businesses will need technology that fits into that model. They are going to rely on solutions that create immersive and equitable meeting experiences and enhance distributed collaborative processes overall.
AR/VR and selling in the metaverse
Like many revolutionary technologies that came before it (radio, cable TV, cell phones, the internet), AR/VR technology and the metaverse faced a lot of scrutiny and criticism from the general public in its early stages. “No one is going to use it.” “Did you see how dumb Mark Zuckerberg’s avatar looked?” “The technology just isn’t there yet.” Also like any revolutionary technology, there will come a point where those naysayers will adopt the technology as part of their everyday life.
It’s coming sooner than you think. In fact, the office technology channel might play a big role in normalizing AR/VR and the metaverse. Take a showroom. It’s in one place, so anyone who wants to see it needs to go there. Compound that with realizing you can only see what’s physically present in the showroom, and you do not know how that device will look and feel in your environment.
AR/VR and the metaverse eliminates these problems. You can create a virtual showroom anywhere in the world, so customers don’t have to come to you. And since the room is virtual, it can be designed to look like the customer’s environment, so they have a much better idea of how the device will look and feel in their environment. Another benefit of the virtual world is you can demo every device in every configuration on the fly, and users can get a feel for the user experience by operating the device in a virtual world. You could even render a competitor’s device so they can try them both side by side.
Ultimately, VR will allow businesses to articulate their value in ways they couldn’t possibly have in the past. It’s one thing to say, “my product is very easy to use and much easier than the rest.” It’s another to just show them.
So how does 2023 really look?
As we roll into 2023, there are some constants from 2022 that will remain unchanged. Pandemic ripples, supply chain disruptions, the shortages and delays, the uncertain economy — these are not going away this year. But maybe the hardest part is over. Print volumes are recovering (but not to what they were pre-COVID) and dealers have only gotten better at the new business lines they’ve taken up to diversify their portfolio. As the demand for new technology areas like collaboration and business process automation grows, so will business.
Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.