EMEA: Marketers in Europe and South Africa are eager to embrace the possibilities offered by virtual reality and chatbots, new research suggests, but they have work to do in organising their data to make the best use of these.

Internet tech business Oracle, polled 800 senior marketing and sales professionals across France, the Netherlands, South Africa and the UK for its report Can Virtual Experiences Replace Reality?. This revealed how the use of emerging technologies is set to surge by 2020.

Seventy-eight percent of brands expected to provide customer experiences through virtual reality within the next four years, while 80% expected to serve customers through chatbots – reflecting the growing preference for self-service when it comes to brand interactions.

Around one third have already implemented one or other of these technologies to some degree, and almost half have also implemented automation technologies in sales, marketing and customer service.

But successfully delivering on the potential of VR and chatbots requires effective use of data and here brands face a challenge as they struggle to unify, organise and process huge volumes of customer data in order to deliver personalised customer experiences.

Oracle's research found that 60% of brands don't currently include social or CRM data in their customer analytics. And while 42% reported collecting a great deal of data from multiple sources, they were unable to extract customer insights from it.

"Brands are at a crossroads," said Daryn Mason, Senior Director, CX Applications at Oracle.

"There's an early-mover advantage to experimenting and launching innovative services while others wait and see, but they need to walk before they can run. The reality is that many brands are still unable to get a complete view of each individual customer so the immediate priority needs to be to organise and get value from the data they already have.

"Customers will value a quick, helpful, personalised interaction regardless of how it's delivered so there's hope for us humans yet," he added.

Data sourced from Oracle; additional content by Warc staff