Dear Doctor Digital, Isn’t it time for one of your ‘crystal ball 2019 trends’ posts?

doctor-digital-question
Doctor Digital

Doctor Digital Says:

What digital strategy and tools do you need to focus on in your business in 2019? Much like 2018 the customer is the front and centre of everything you do. EVERYTHING. So whatever you are focusing on, remember to transport yourselves into the shoes of your primary user base.

Ask yourself what do they need to know about how your brand/product/service can help them, how are they best going to find out about you, and how can you make the pathway from discovery to transaction as short and as smooth as possible. For some trends that are sure to be front and centre of the digital experience, come lean into this crystal ball with me.

You’re the voice (well, Alexa, Cortana, Siri, Bixby etc is the voice)

Smart audio, ie AI driven search like Alexa and Siri have been touted to be the next big thing since the benefits of hands-free search and at notice assistance was invented and then integrated into the platforms of already market dominating platforms like Google. Enter a swag of cheap portable devices for your home and office, and voice over any other form of search is already making a significant impact. Predictions are that typing is passe, in the future you would simply be asking your device of choice what my digital predictions are and Alexa or similar would be reading this blog to you. Why does voice resonate so much with users? Here’s the deal - it’s the ultimate UX - easy to navigate for the needs of all users on every level. No typing, searching on websites with bad site maps, everything you need when you need it. It’s as natural and intuitive as speaking, and finding ways to incorporate it in your business will get you onto the front of this trend which will continue to grow.

Is the future less Facebook?

Is the death of the OG (original gorilla) social network happening slowly in front of us? (Clearly gorilla is a reference to the size of the company and market, not an actual gorilla, we love them.) Facebook has been caught out wilfully selling data and building algorithms that are designed to manipulate, and the people don’t like it. What was once a lovable way to see cat memes and embarrassing photos of your mates has become a weaponised tool for fake news, consumer manipulation and data harvesting. Many people are beginning to #deletefacebook and no amount of Zuck’s mea culpa robot apologies seem to be cutting through. The ongoing momentum to the Facebook backlash is not only driven by the people that make the social network but - for the first time - by the governments that can and most likely will regulate it. As more and more evidence emerges about the state of awareness Facebook had that wasn’t acted on about the darker side of the network, the more it seems to point to a strategic profit over people approach.

Facebook still has by far the greatest amount of users, but are your users there? And where else might they be that you can meaningfully, personally, dynamically interact with them (and future users) to mitigate the brand taint that Facebook may well have on your product/brand if consumers are wary of transacting over the platform. Facebook isn’t dead yet - but when you use the platform you tacitly endorse their practices and become part of their data producing machine. Might be time to get some new friends…

Amazon ads face off

While we are on a roll where the future is less Facebook, keep your eye on retail crushing giant Amazon which has been quietly building their ad empire to swoop in and pick up the leftovers as companies and brands withhold their massive social ad spend on the increasingly murky behind the scenes world at Facebook.

Given their huge global operation and the number of consumers already on their platform, advertising on Amazon (think Google style adwords) makes sense and undoubtedly will be sweetened by some good deals and strong analytics to entice your business across.

Amazon has offered targeted ads around their search results and display ads for some time now, but they have quietly been pulling together all the elements to create a complete advertising solution. Amazon has a gold mine of customer intent data, a function of having a universal customer login that provides cross-device insight across the entire customer journey. Like Google, their algorithm driven world means that Amazon knows all about their customers purchasing practices and can push those insights into their advertising offering. According to recent data up to 55% of customers begin their shopping research journey on Amazon already so, there is a clear advantage to being aligned with their platform.

Automate and perish

As social media and content marketing have been pushed as the only way to stimulate growth, there are endless automation tools helping us save the time it takes to keep up with the content hungry monsters we have created for ourselves. All good you say. Not so much. Consumers are being homogenised and commodified from every angle, and many are sick of the well timed flow of depersonalised information that appears like clockwork. Add to this the cynicism of how many platforms are manipulating data and machine learning pre-empting our every move, and there is a strong trend by consumers to tune out of the automation, and seriously dig real personalised service. If everything you do is set and forget, don’t forget your customers want to be seen and heard, to be understood and empathised with, and have their IRL problems solved. Get back to your tribe in a meaningful way in 2019 and find new, disruptive ways to tell your customers you value them.

Entertain us

I’m tired - are you tired? Tired of endless interacting that is. You may have noticed a ‘busy’ backlash quietly happening out in the meme trenches, and there is a reason for this. We have spent the last decade furiously documenting our businesses lives in real time, then sharing ‘stories’ came along in really real time, and doubling down with our own personal feeds and interacting with everyone else’s stories, feeds, videos, live videos, watch parties and oh lordy, TIRED.

As we begin to see social as less a fun catch up and more an onerous burden with no end in sight, we are seeing a nostalgic renaissance of the passive digital engagement. Think watching YouTube videos, doing online courses (preferably in short instalments), listening to podcasts and audiobooks, in fact just about anything that doesn’t involve us getting involved. Now might be the time to give your customers a rest, and provide some passive entertainment that they don’t have to actively like or share or comment on, which means of course they probably will with all the energy they have saved.

Values as brand

When we regularly see unconscionable atrocities of the business, economic, social, moral and political kinds whiz through to the keeper without much more than an inaudible mutter, it is an interesting trend for business to wade in brand deep to controversy and values based positioning. In a world where “we’re too big to fail” often means too big to sanction or change, our values fatigue is palpable.

Enter the brand value antihero that [gasp] walks away from celebrities who are abusers, sacks corporate executives that play badly, refuses to look away from environmental damage and makes actual tough decisions with short term bottom line impact to create medium term improvements.

In 2019 the path is being macheted by companies like Nike, Patagonia, REI and you too can be a brand activist, ensuring that in a world where so much stands for nothing, you stand for something. To be a true brand activist, you need to have active, measurable, articulable values in place in your business, so if you are looking to stand up and be counted, might be a good time to engage in a convo with your staff, stakeholders and supply chain, to have a look at what matters to your business. There’s a good chance it will also matter to your customers.

Augmented everything

Finally the trend to watch of 2019 is the rise of Augmented Reality (AR) as the new tech enables it to become a ubiquitous part of our consumer and digital experience. While VR is still awkward and hardware heavy, AR is driven through mobile and smartphones, and increasingly is a seamless web based experience that business and brands can build in to their online experiences. No longer expensive and complex to deploy, ARKit and the like have made AR a cheap easy build. Alongside the smartphone cameras of today, this means that experiential activity and engagement with products, brands and information is right here right now. With brands such as Nike and Build.com measuring a 400% increase in engagement using AR in their in-app customer experiences, the numbers command attention, so think about how you can begin to incorporate AR into your offering.

As mentioned upfront, meeting the needs of your customer by ensuring product market fit and exemplary customer experience is the most cutting edge your company can be. Dive into the offerings of the Digital Ready Program this year as we roll out new offerings to help you stay crystal clear in the hearts and minds of your customers.