Before the internet, forms and surveys took the shape of direct mailers or clipboard-wielders who were often lucky to get eye contact, let alone a thoughtful response.
Today, the world of forms is drastically different. Enjoyable online form experiences that feel like a conversation benefit brands and their customers alike. Customers share what they think, and businesses get the information they need to make better decisions.
In the years to come, this form-fueled symbiosis will only expand. According to Verified Market Research, the form-builder software market is projected to grow from its 2021 market value of $3.65 million to $9.16 million by 2030.
This means significantly more marketers—as well as sales and customer service teams—will start collecting insights directly from the source. But what lies in the immediate future for forms, polls, and surveys? What factors will influence how marketers ask questions of their customers?
Let’s dive in.
What’s ahead: forces to be reckoned with
Some technological shifts are simply too far-reaching to ignore. The changes they bring will touch virtually every part of our lives and businesses, transforming the marketing sphere.
Three of the most prominent shifts marketers are facing are:
Saying goodbye to third-party data and cookies
A focus on collecting and using unstructured data
The prevalence and power of AI
1. Closing the (third-party) cookie jar
The long-discussed—and dreaded—death of third-party cookies is fast approaching.
Marketers depend on web-based cookies to track users’ behavior, gather data, and target their advertising accordingly. But since 2018, GDPR and other privacy regulations have begun to spell doom for cookies and other tracking methods.
Beginning in 2023, Google Chrome will join other major browsers in blocking cookies—and once that happens, marketers can write off third-party cookies entirely.
So, now what? Marketers need to find new ways to capture attribution data in order to make informed decisions—and it’s time to shift their focus from third-party data to zero- and first-party data.
Zero-party data is a win for everyone involved; customers voluntarily offer up the information without privacy concerns, and marketers gain the information they need straight from the source. Best of all, you own your zero-party data, so there’s no risk of losing access to it like we’re now seeing with third parties.
2. A spotlight on unstructured data
Zero-party data, first-party data, qualitative data—another term for this type of data is “unstructured data,” and it’s essential to the modern marketing strategy.
Unstructured data is typically subjective, anecdotal data, such as customer opinions gathered via social media (photos, conversations, text), transcripts of customer support interactions, or written responses given through tools like forms, quizzes, or surveys.
The value of unstructured data is that it surfaces organic, complex reactions to your brand that go much deeper than numbers. This depth of data offers a more holistic understanding of your audience—much more than the vanity metrics marketers have often relied on in the past.
Historically, much of this data has been hard to track down due to its, well, unstructured nature. Most analytics software can’t collect this data, so it’s a challenge to organize it in databases like Excel or SQL. Geekwire estimates that 80-90% of all unstructured data has remained largely untapped.
But with AI continuing to advance, our ability to understand and act on this form of data is improving. Natural language processing and machine learning helps marketers capture major themes across huge data sets. For instance, AI solutions notice patterns in customer feedback far faster than humans could otherwise. (We’ll talk more about this in the next section.)
As we learn to handle unstructured data, the vast insights available are sure to power deeper connections with customers. In the future, truly data-driven decisions won’t just be powered by the stats you can gather from Google Analytics—unstructured data will be marketers’ right-hand tool to shape their understanding of customer sentiment.
3. The rapid evolution of AI
If anyone had lingering doubts about the prevalence of artificial intelligence, those likely dissolved with the recent unveiling of AI powerhouse, ChatGPT. Now, anyone can wield the creative power of artificial intelligence to augment or support their work—and marketers, of course, are no exception.
Two important ways AI and machine learning are impacting marketing:
Assistance with content marketing: Already, news outlets like CNET and Associated Press are harnessing machine learning to write and publish articles. AI content marketing tools like Turtl and Jasper promise blogs and marketing collateral at 10x the speed of traditional writers.
However, the human touch is still needed. While Google no longer penalizes all AI-generated content, the search giant has been clear that “spammy” content written just for search engines—rather than humans—simply won’t cut it. Plus, most AI is not sophisticated enough (yet) to capture the same cohesive flow and brand voice as a human writer.
CNET demonstrated a potential model for marketers, calling their tool an “AI assist” and explaining that, “while the AI engine compiled the story draft or gathered some of the information in the story, every article on CNET – and we publish thousands of new and updated stories each month – is reviewed, fact-checked and edited by an editor with topical expertise before we hit publish.” In short, you’ll still need your copywriters and editors, but it’s worth exploring how AI can offer support.
Data processing and analysis: We don’t need to tell you that data is king, and that every strategic marketing campaign ought to be heavily data-driven. AI is the key to processing vast swaths of data and making it actionable—such as turning that data into better, more personalized customer experiences.
This is especially true for processing unstructured data. In a recent article about the potential of AI, McKinsey & Company breaks down how you can use AI to process this data, writing that:
“Companies can teach AI to navigate text-heavy structured and unstructured technical documents by feeding it important technical dictionaries, lookup tables, and other information. They can then build algorithms to help AI understand semantic relationships between different text. Next, a knowledge graph can dynamically create an information network that represents all the semantic and other relationships in the technical documents and data.”
Predicting the future of forms
We don’t have a crystal ball—the closest thing we have is data and the trends it reveals. But these trends will clearly shape how we make decisions and how customers interact with brands for years to come.
Here are our predictions about where forms are headed in 2023, 2024, and beyond.
1. Customers will expect increasingly personalized experiences
McKinsey reports that 71% of customers expect personalization—and 76% get frustrated when they don’t get it.
It’s not just customers that cite the importance of personalization, either. According to Twilio Segment’s 2022 State of Personalization Report, 80% of business leaders say that consumers spend more when they have a personalized experience—34% more, on average.
One of the key ways businesses can rise to this challenge is by offering seamless omnichannel communication. Customers need to be able to contact brands on their own terms via their preferred channels. When they do, they expect context-driven conversations where they’re already known. Forms, surveys, and quizzes provide one of the few mediums for directly engaging with customers at scale.
2. Unstructured data will power personalization
As the need for personalized experiences increases, marketers will look to unstructured data to meet the need. Customer interactions—in the form of call transcripts or surveys—are an often-untapped source of data. The increasing accessibility of natural language processing through AI will allow brands to process these conversations on a large scale to capture:
Customer pain points and problems
Customer sentiment and satisfaction
Brand messaging feedback
Outside of customer support, the flexibility of forms and surveys will capture a wide range of data—both qualitative and quantitative. Where attribution data is limited, multiple choice questions like ”How did you learn about our brand?” or open-ended questions, offer marketers a more multifaceted and deeper understanding of the customer.
The personal data from these interactions can be harnessed with AI and integrations and used to inform every stage of the customer journey—giving each customer a uniquely personalized experience, from using their name to recalling things they’ve previously shared
3. Marketers will use direct customer touchpoints to gather zero-party data
Without the aid of cookies, marketers will lean more heavily on first-party data collected from customer activity on their website, such as shopping cart interactions for B2C brands and content consumption for B2B.
Zero-party data, captured through forms and surveys, will give marketers even deeper customer knowledge. Brands can offer incentives like giveaway entries and discounts to encourage shoppers to take the time to answer questions about their experiences, feedback, and desires.
In return, customers will voluntarily provide answers to questions as only they can for a clearer picture of who they are and how brands can better serve them..
4. Marketers will explore interactive form experiences
According to Statista, mobile users worldwide spend nearly three hours per day on social media video apps (TikTok and YouTube) alone. Marketers already see the value of short-form video: In 2022, 62% planned to invest more in TikTok and 49% in YouTube.
With these consumer behaviors in mind, it’s only natural that they would expect video to be incorporated into data-gathering experiences as well.
Many marketers will move away from text-only forms and move toward more engaging multimedia options. For example, they’ll create video explanations to introduce forms or invitations to finish a lead-gen form via a reply video.
And with Whatsapp users sending 7 billion voice messages each day, it seems like audio could be close behind as a preferred channel of engagement.
5. AI solutions and integrations will permeate the entire customer experience
By now, it should come as no surprise that AI tools will play a pivotal role in each step of the customer experience—both in customer-facing interactions and behind the scenes.
Customers will interact with AI throughout their shopping experiences, even when they don’t realize it. When completing quizzes and interactive forms designed to personalize their experience, shoppers will benefit more and more from AI recommendations that put their answers to work.
Thanks to a Typeform integration, AI-powered tools like Thematic simplify sentiment analysis of responses for forms and surveys. This means a shorter path to using that data to drive better customer experiences at every step.
6. Companies will increase internal data-gathering efforts in response to the Great Resignation
As workers continue to reevaluate and prioritize what matters most to them in the workplace, companies must respond by listening to their employees. Beyond exit interviews and quarterly reviews, organizations that level up their efforts to understand employee sentiment will thrive.
By using frequent surveys to listen to employees and taking action to respond, companies can create a place where people love working and build their employer brand.
While at first glance these efforts might seem like primarily HR and recruitment strategies, organizational culture does impact profit. Whether through culture’s effect on the morale of customer-facing employees or through the reputation that trickles down to buyers, the bottom line benefits from listening to employees.
Tools like forms and surveys that gather unstructured data will guide their efforts to do just that.
In 2023 and beyond… forms play a critical role.
As tools, methods, and strategies continue to evolve, one thing that won’t change for brands is the need for customer input in every aspect of business success. Their responses help you better understand and support the humans that love your product and trust your brand.
As buyer expectations for hyper-personalization increases, marketers will need to rely on tools like forms to drive every aspect of their marketing efforts. At Typeform, we’re focused on helping you create no-code, conversational forms that people enjoy completing—and that give you the data you need to create personalized marketing campaigns at scale.