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2016: The Year Ahead

Alex Spencer

Happy New Year! As we step into 2016, we've asked some of the industry's best and brightest to share their predictions about where the next 12 months might take us...

Adam Croxen, Managing Director, Future Platforms

Adam-Croxen-20152016 will be the year of contextually aware solutions. Our smartphones contain more of our personal data than ever before; banking information, upcoming trips, photos, notes, memories, health information, and where we went for dinner last night. Most of this data is packaged away in individual apps, kept safe for quick and easy access when we need it. What we’re seeing now though, is devices evolving from just storing this information to preemptively surfacing it at the most opportune moment.

It’s mostly being done at the OS level, through features like Google Now and Siri, but with Apple and Google opening up these APIs, the potential for brands and third-party developers in 2016 is huge. Being able to get services or information in front of users at the very moment they need it adds so much value to their mobile experience, and recent advances suggest messaging might be the best way to do this. Retail perhaps has the most to gain here, using in-store tech such as beacons and geofencing to better enhance a customer’s in-store experience.

Carl Uminski, Co-Founder And COO, Somo

Carl-Uminski-colourNext year, as mobile phones connect to more and more items in the home, we'll see a new era of products ushered in. We will no longer focus on creating responsive or adaptive products but completely rethink how we deliver the right product to the customer in the right place. For example,? now that you can browse the web within a virtual reality headset? will browsers take a completely different form? We could see spherical browsers allowing the viewer to interact with content all around them.

A new era of TV will be huge next year as the shift to app-based viewing grows and traditional viewing begins to disappear. As more brands launch TV apps for the Apple TV, we will see a whole new app ecosystem emerge playing seamlessly with the Apple ecosystem. We will also see virtual reality reach maturity, with mass market use cases in every sector, across consumer and enterprise businesses.

The ways in which users interact with content are growing massively, from touch to voice to gesture controls. In fact, nearly half of all Millennials use voice search in the US. Voice interactions are an incredibly powerful medium for brands to consider for seamless navigation, but a strategy is essential. Not only do brands now need to consider designing and building for the ever increasing numbers of screens but also for no screens at all with what is deemed ‘Zero UX’.

Finally, security will take centre stage. Consumers will have to become increasingly aware of home security beyond the conventional lock. Brands will need to take action in order to protect and reassure customers of their high security standards.

Sienne Veit, Online Product Director, John Lewis

Sienne-Veit2015 was the year that visual search became useful and delightful enough to truly drive serendipity for many retailers. At John Lewis we released ‘Find Similar’, which enables our customers to shop similar fashion items to those they are looking at, based on colour, pattern or shape.

Pinterest also launched their visual search tool, which allows its users to define a part of a picture and then search based on that colour or pattern. Google’s Photos application now automatically tags your photos based on location and can help you search for things or actions. In early December they released their Cloud Vision API to enable any developer to harness their visual recognition technology.

For shoppers this will be a boon – that coat you saw the girl wearing in the coffee shop in Shoreditch? Take a picture and you can find it online. The next great leap forward will be the fusing of this work together with augmented reality to unlock truly useful and personalised information in real time for mobile - everything from identifying plants and vegetables to providing a Museum of London-like overlay to any vista that I might see through my mobile lens.

Jon Hook, General Manager, Advertising, Phunware

Jon-Hook2016 is going to the year that advertisers stop measuring vanity metrics and measure what actually matters to their business. What do pricing metrics like CPM and CPC actually tell us about our audience? How do “engagement” rates directly translate into revenue? Marketers should be measuring revenue or business metrics. For transportation, average cost per first booking. For travel, average basket size. For publishers and broadcasters, average cost per subscription.

CEOs and CMOs simply want to know “If I spend X on marketing, what do I get?” It’s about time we gave them a simple answer in sterling or dollars, as opposed to a marketing award to sit on the boardroom shelf. So what's holding us back? A desktop mindset. Apps are replacing desktop sites. With third-party tracking tools like Tune and Kochava, marketers can now track users all the way through the funnel on mobile – just like they can with cookies on desktop.

Jon Buss, Managing Director, UK & Northern Europe, Criteo

Criteo-Jon-BussIf 2015 was the year of mobile shopping – Criteo data found that 46 per cent of online shoppers in the UK are now buying from their phones and tablets – then 2016 will be dominated by the rise of cross-device. We already know that plenty of people are using more than just a desktop or laptop to browse for and make purchases, but 2016 will see a shift from device-focused to people-focused marketing. Here’s how we see this trend mapping out for marketers next year.

Almost half of all eCommerce transactions are already made using multiple devices. As that figure crosses the 50 per cent mark in 2016, retailers will need to redesign the online buying experience for this new reality, and marketers will need to keep pace. Even with probabilistic and deterministic matching now possible, today’s cross-device linking is only capturing part of the picture. In 2016, marketers will begin to align spend with how consumers are moving across devices, publishers and environments to consume information. We will start to see more evidence of true people-focused marketing.

As the majority of consumers now research online before visiting a retailer, understanding a shopper’s prior online activity is vital. According to Google, 8 out of 10 shoppers that have a smartphone are using it in-store to help them shop, even though most later purchase at the POS. Retailers are starting to get a better view of the customer’s shopping journey by connecting with them via their app, and/or by using beacons and technologies to match the customer email ID or loyalty program at the POS.

There’s plenty of change on the horizon in consumer expectations, retail investments and marketing strategies. Social media will continue to have a big influence on online shopping and improved mobile payment services will also help drive eCommerce growth in the new year.

Thomas Husson, Vice President And Principal Analyst – Marketing & Strategy, Forrester

Thomas-HussonIn 2016, the battle for mobile moments will intensify.

With the huge increase in time spent on smartphones, mobile moments are the next battleground to win, serve and retain customers. Winning in your customers’ mobile moments demands both context and data and ownership of those moments. That’s why we will see Internet giants make more acquisitions to expand their audience to reach new demographic segments or markets. Streaming services, news curators and even parts of Yahoo would be ideal targets.

For brands, it means they must first identify the role mobile plays throughout the customer lifecycle, and second prioritize mobile moments. Once they have defined new engagement scenarios, marketers will automate them. In 2016, we expect a minority of mature marketers to tackle cross-channel integration by tracking and measuring the impact of mobile on other online and offline channels, fostering cross-channel planning thanks to mobile attribution.

For marketing tech vendors, it means they will invest in mobile and automate it. In 2016, marketing tech vendors will find themselves in an arms race to provide not just automation, but machine learning to derive insights from big data and campaign optimization. They will focus R&D on improved data management capabilities and predictive algorithms. Mobile-centric solutions will grow and polish their in-app life-cycle management stacks, while the big-cloud marketing companies will look toward more acquisitions and more integration of mobile engagement solutions.

Stephen Jenkins, Vice President, Global Marketing & Communications, Millennial Media, AOL

stephen jenkinsEverything around ad blocking, user satisfaction, and user experience extends to mobile. We’ve become conditioned to tolerate longer load times in desktop than in mobile. Think about it – you’re standing at a bus stop and you’re waiting 10 seconds for a page to load on your phone. That experience feels so much worse than it does on desktop.

In 2016, we will see the industry move to respond to the evolution of ad blockers, as evidenced by the IAB UK’s launch of the L.E.A.N. Ads program, which stands for Light, Encrypted, Ad choice supported, Non-invasive ads. These principles are designed to help guide the next phases of advertising technical standards for the global digital advertising supply chain. While 2015 (plus 2014, 2013, 2012...) may have been “the year of mobile”, 2016 will be the year of mobile experience.

Spencer Scott, Chief Revenue Officer, Fiksu

Spencer ScottGoogle and Facebook will continue to grow their dominant position in mobile advertising, while a handful of other key players, notably Yahoo and AOL/Verizon, seek to hone their offerings and begin winning market share. For the leaders and the up and comers, video will play an increasingly important role as Google's YouTube and Facebook's increasing amount of video ads demonstrate. In addition, video specialists such as Opera Mediaworks' AdColony will continue to excel at driving high-quality users and brand exposure.

The other big trend will be finding mobile audiences programmatically. In the past, mobile marketers needed to find their best users by building demographic profiles, targeting specific publishers, or encouraging interaction within the app (through game play or push notifications). Brands should obviously continue to do these things, but advanced targeting options and data modeling products now allow brands to find more of these users simply by building off their current user base. Cross-platform lookalike modeling can target users with characteristics similar to your most valuable users, letting ad networks programmatically find more people like them.

David Skerrett, Managing Partner, Nimbletank

david skerrettThe big thing in 2016 is zero UX: minimalistic, glance-able, useful connected experiences and services. Last year we were asking the user to do less on mobile. Now we will be asking the user to do almost nothing. The four horsemen – Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are all working on more open and more AI-based personal assistants that will deliver the info we need, where and when we need it, and that are learning about our tastes in real-time.

This will raise the bar for brands trying to stand out with mobile first services. Given our mobile addiction, customers want more personal, contextually aware, time-saving mobile experiences. Look at Foursquare/Swarm – most interactions are via the lock screen based on my location context, I don’t need to do anything. And with Uber you can literally have a Zero UX experience and do nothing whatsoever. When you get to your destination, you don’t do anything – you just get out of your car, you don’t pay, or ask for a receipt – you’re done.

Currently mobile services still require too many taps, rarely think about wearables, voice interfaces or simply aren’t (re)invented for the mobile age. Brave new start-ups are changing the game, and traditional big businesses are disrupting themselves. Zero UX is where the interface game is heading. It’s sure to be another exciting year.