Jim Bowes, CEO and co-founder of Manifesto, shares his top predictions for the coming year.
As 2016 draws to a close, it is time for brands to consider which technology trends will be big in the New Year and which they should be looking to implement. This will ensure that marketing teams will be able to engage with their customers via the right channels, whilst at the same time staying ahead of the competition.
The rise of VR
It was predicted that 2016 would be the year that Virtual Reality really took off, and the availability of technology has certainly gained pace without the full impact of VR hitting our homes, but we expect to see the technology get closer to the mainstream in 2017. In the next 12 months we’re likely to see VR and AR become more widely used marketing tools with many more people experiencing them.
Large brand names are already experimenting with this technology. Car giant Volvo has been using VR to allow potential customers to test drive its latest model by taking the driver on a scenic trip down country lanes. Luxury brands such as Ferrari are perhaps some of the best placed to take advantage of this technology, tapping in to the aspirational nature of their products to engage with new audiences that could be the customers of tomorrow.
This opportunity to experience something outside of the everyday has also been taken up by the fashion industry, with well-known designers such as Dior and Balenciaga using VR this year to give customers the chance to experience sitting on the oh-so-exclusive front row at Paris Fashion Week.
Personalised conversational interfaces
2016 saw Facebook launch chatbots on its Messenger app. The service allows businesses to communicate directly with their customers through the app using AI that is able to navigate the conversations, offering a unique and personalised experience. As a result, many brands are already experimenting with Messenger and linking it to adverts on social media platforms. Customers that click on a Facebook ad in their feed will be taken to a direct conversation with the brand in-app, improving the customer experience and allowing brands to learn even more about their target audience – if combined with efficient data analysis.
In 2017, we’ll see a lot of the tasks we currently perform manually become increasingly automated through conversational interfaces. Setting alarms, changing the heating and ordering a pizza with voice commands will all soon be the norm.
AI has already made its way into the consumer’s home in the form of gadgets such as Amazon Echo. Amazon has started to link up with major brands such as Domino’s Pizza and Hive to offer the customer a complete user experience where customers can order make orders or control appliances in the house by talking directly to Alexa, the AI assistant powering the Echo. These are still mostly command-based and the learning elements are in their infancy, but it won’t be long before the devices in your house have worked out your living patterns.
We often focus on the frivolous elements of these technologies, but these also have huge potential for home security or making contact in cases of fire or medical emergency. Soon your home will know if something unusual is happening, which could literally be a lifesaver.
Many marketers are considering how they can use speech-based interfaces like these to offer a highly personalised customer service as the technology continues to develop in 2017.
Personalisation is the new black
Personalisation is definitely the buzzword in marketing this year, with many marketing companies now aiming to create personalised content and adverts to engage with their target audience – and this won’t change in 2017. In the digital world where consumers often feel bombarded by content and information, offering unique and personalised services in this way will help brands stand out from the competition.
As brands look to individualise their products by including customers’ names on Coca Cola, Nutella or Marmite packaging, mass customisation has turned personal. For some businesses, this will mean ensuring all touch points on the customer journey are specific and individual. For others, it will simply mean streamlining the purchasing process in order to make it more responsive, therefore creating an easier experience for the customer.
2016 has seen technology change the marketing landscape forever and 2017 is shaping up to be another exciting year where technologies we’ve seen for a few years become mainstream. Brands must therefore ensure that their marketing strategies remain agile in order to make the most of the opportunities that technology offers. To be truly successful, however, businesses need to remain true to their core values and not simply use the technology for the sake of it.
A great story, a strong brand and shared passion with your target audience remain more important than any trend. The next 12 months will be an exciting and crucial period for marketing professionals as more and more brands begin to experiment telling their story with new platforms to increase customer engagement and stay ahead of the competition.
Jim Bowes is CEO and co-founder of Manifesto