In an ever-changing, VUCA world, staying ahead through innovation and customer-centricity is paramount. While adapting to a new set of cautious consumers, social distancing norms, and market volatility, brands are building up strengths with recalibrated strategies and new pivots. The smartphone industry is poised at the cusp of interesting change as well, with consumers seeking to experience technology and enrich their communication through a fresh new lens.

Let us chart some of the key trends that will re-shape the frontiers of the smartphone industry:

Co-creation, a lynchpin for innovation

Changing human attitudes and behaviours are calling for new strategies, and consumers are at the very heart of it. We have a technologically savvy, entrepreneurial generation of consumers with a keen appreciation for the latest gadgets, technologies, and a connected lifestyle. For a consumption-intensive industry as the smartphone sector, co-creation is gaining prominence as the voices, ideas, and feedback of people are playing a critical role in product innovation and development. For instance, a quad camera with high pixel count used to be an aspirational feature, available primarily in the premium range of smartphones. As Indian consumers evolved to seek more sophisticated camera functions at an affordable price point, these premium specs have now been democratised across entry-level smartphones as well, finding mass favour. If the pulse of the people is harnessed properly, brands can co-create with fans and consumers to build products with superior design, performance, and quality. Not only does co-creation play a huge role in product development, but also presents the opportunity to improve customer servicing and operational processes.

Sharpening UX with next-gen technologies

Simply put, user experience is wholly inclusive of a user’s journey and experience with an organisation, its services, and products. Today, user experience has moved far away from a consumer’s journey with a single product. Technology is the great enabler, and companies are investing strategically in tools and platforms to augment their UX edge. And we are witnessing a direct impact of this with an ever-proliferating IoT ecosystem. Today, consumers demand a seamless, multi-device journey to complement a connected lifestyle, pushing smartphone brands to create a rich and immersive experience across the product ecosystem. Wearable devices have become an extension of smartphones, sending you urgent reminders in case of a sudden dip in SpO2 (oxygen saturation) levels, body temperature, heart rate, etc. With 2019 driving demand for VR headsets to satisfy gaming needs, brands are also incorporating AR and VR pitstops in their user journey. From AI screen recognition in smartphones to augmented reality capabilities such as motion tracking and light estimation, disruptive technologies are playing a critical role in transforming the user experience.

Redefine the barometer of customer experience

The rules of engagement are undergoing a drastic change, post-Covid-19. With consumers across the world reeling under a health crisis, there is an element of cautiousness in the air. A recent study by Kantar highlights that there is a huge gap between brand promise and customer experience for retailers. It is now, more than ever, that masses are seeking a personalised communication outreach, imbued with empathy. Brands are strengthening the focus on carving out an unparalleled customer experience with sophisticated chatbots, real-time support, and self-service options. In fact, with customers being on the move constantly, they expect quick turn-around and doorstep service. Utilising machine-learning and predictive analytics capabilities, brands can gain a deeper understanding of a customer’s liking, preferences, purchase patterns, and create a seamless experience. Technology evolution in the smartphone, AI, and IoT ecosystem is also playing a key role in re-sharping the brand-customer equation, with the latter opting for a responsive mobile-first strategy.

Views are personal. The author is CEO, realme India and Europe, and vice president, realme.

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