Nine digital technologies that will transform your life in 2017 and beyond
Published: 17 May, 2017
The digital age is two-fold. It has brought with it a huge amount of disruption, but an equal amount of opportunities for brands to leverage digital technologies to their advantage.
Below we outline the top digital future trends to look out for in 2017 and beyond.
1. Virtual reality (VR) / Augmented reality (AR)
VR/AR is one of the biggest technological breakthroughs of the decade and its full potential is still being realised. Companies will continue to create immersive video content featuring elements of interactivity.
In a nutshell, 'virtual reality' refers to the use of digital technology to create immersive simulations whilst 'augmented reality' lets users interact with digital content overlaid onto the real world.
With the inclusion of VR in user experience, users can enjoy more control over their interactions with brands. Toshiba developed a way for shoppers to virtually 'try on' articles of clothing. Soon enough, car dealers will let potential customers sit inside VR simulations of new models.
As well through brands, content wearables (such as the Spectacles by Snap Inc.) are becoming increasingly affordable and accessible to everyday consumers. With Snap Inc. planning to utilise full body AR, we can expect major impacts on how content is shared and consumed in the near future.
2. Live video/social stories
Back in 2015, Syndacast foresaw the need for marketers to start creating and incorporating video as part of their content strategies.
Brands have since moved on from producing a single campaign video used across all its channels. With the introduction of Facebook Live in 2016 and Instagram Live quickly following suit, live video arose as an important medium and content marketing tool.
What's in store for 2017 and 2018? We can expect brands to capitalise on live video functionalities even further with live interviews, event coverage, social stories and influencer appearances.
What’s also on the radar is Facebook's announcement of their plan to expand its live video functionality to enable 360-degree video. With the support of drones, the features of live video are likely to combine with 360-degree technology to create new immersive experiences.
3. Proximity advertising
Proximity advertising is no longer a buzzword, but has become major reality in the digital world.
With the increased convenience of online shopping, proximity advertising gives brick-and-mortar stores the exposure it needs by creating digital ads with location-based relevance.
A recent example includes Facebook’s 'store visits' objective. These ads generate instant awareness of the nearest location of a store and tells the customer how to get there. In his testimony, Richard Cran from Jack in the Box praised the opportunity it provides businesses to see the direct impact of its digital advertisements on driving foot traffic.
As new techniques in geo-fencing and geo-targeting evolve in 2017 and 2018, a customer's current location will soon become an attribute for all digital placements.
Location will be utilised as a factor to determine the context of a customer (whether they're on public transport, walking through a shopping strip or sitting on a couch) and such detail will be used to tailor advertisements.
4. Artificial intelligence (AI)
2016 was the year artificial intelligence (technologies capable of performing tasks normally requiring human intelligence) went mainstream. We're talking about Spotify making new music suggestions based on a user’s prior listening behaviour, or Facebook's new AI-powered photo search.
Image and speech recognition technologies are advancing quickly, with AI currently allowing cognitive assistants to handle up to 27,000 customer conversations simultaneously and in dozens of spoken languages.
AI has been referred to as the 'new UI' and a company's digital spokesperson and may very well become the default touch point for a brand's customer service needs.
As well as conversational technology, more and more machines will be able to learn and complete tasks that have traditionally required human intelligence. AI will have a growing influence on our daily lives, with businesses in 2017 and 2018 increasingly using AI to improve efficiency and productivity while reducing costs.
5. Conversational technology
Aided by advances in artificial intelligence, conversational technology such as chatbots and digital assistants will continue to mature over the new few years.
Consumers will notice that brands are increasingly embracing bots and chat-based marketing. Chatbots are now reaching a maturity level that allows brands to deliver quality, one-to-one marketing experiences on popular social messaging platforms.
Examples of brands using Facebook Messenger chatbots include the eBay ShopBot (assisting with product search) and Burberry's fashion bot (exploring 'see-now-buy-now' fashion). Whilst brands could previously only interact with customers through comments or direct messages controlled by humans, customers can now be automatically directed to chatbots offering one-to-one 'conversational experiences'.
As the ability to buy products and order services without leaving the chat window becomes the new norm for everyday shopping, conversational experiences are fostering a new era in digital marketing.
And let's not forget the rise of the 'digital assistant'. Intelligent digital assistants such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana and the more recent Google Assistant will become even more central to how people navigate work and life.
Beyond smartphones, companies in 2017 and 2018 plan to plant their digital assistants into various other devices. Microsoft is planning to allow fridges, toasters, thermostats, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices to access Cortana with its Windows 10 Creators Update, due by mid-2017.
As more everyday devices re-emerge in the market equipped with intelligent digital assistants, many homes and workplaces will soon have a network of constant access to conversational technology.
6. Internet of Things (IoT) v2
The capabilities of smart devices have been increasing for many years now - so why has the Internet of Things (IoT) re-emerged as a digital trend for 2017 and 2018?
The IoT basically refers to the connection of ordinary devices, from cameras to kettles, to the Internet. In 2017, we will see further advancements in sensors, software and technology that will allow even more devices to become interconnected.
Currently, the ‘smart home’ is one of the most popular applications of IoT given its affordability and availability to everyday consumers. Examples include the Nest Thermostat allowing consumers to change the environment in their home or Amazon Echo where users can play music, control lights or order an Uber – all through voice control.
Business Insider has projected that there will be a total of 22.5 billion IoT devices in 2021, an increase from 6.6 billion in 2016. Clearly, the IoT will be one of the primary drivers of the digital transformation in the years to come.
7. The Digital Twin
Perhaps a trend that has received less attention than the others is this product of IoT and big data - the 'Digital Twin'. Digital twins are expected to become a key component of the IoT space by 2018.
A digital twin is a cloud-based virtual representation of a physical product. With the combination of data and intelligence representing the structure, context, and behaviour of physical products, digital twins can be used to simulate real world conditions, respond to changes, improve operations and add value.
With digital twins, the production of a high quality product can be guaranteed before the actual physical manufacturing takes place. Having physical products 'supported' this way throughout their shelf lives also enables predictive maintenance and avoids unexpected repairs.
In the past decade, we have witnessed the digital transformation of many businesses. Digital twins may potentially be the next step in bridging the gap between the physical and digital world.
8. Influencer marketing
An existing component of the marketing mix, but one that will play a newly central role is influencer marketing.
Considering the ongoing challenges posed by bot fraud, ad blocking and consumer skepticism, brands in 2017 and beyond will turn to this form of word-of-mouth marketing and use social media influencers to deliver messages to their target markets.
The next few years will have companies focusing on micro-influencers (social personalities with 1,000 to 100,000 followers) who often have higher engagement and influence over their communities compared to mass influencers.
Beyond this, live streaming influencers will become mainstream, brands will focus on joint content production and B2B companies will take advantage of influencer marketing in 2017. Many predict that the normalisation of influencer marketing in 2017 will lead to massive scaling of the practice in 2018.
'Blockchain' was first introduced as the technology underpinning Bitcoin and until recently, the talk around blockchain has been mostly restricted to this association.
Blockchain is a secure decentralized database containing a registry of assets and transactions across a peer-to-peer network. It can store anything from a contract, evidence of real estate ownership to intellectual property.
An example of its relevance within digital marketing is illustrated by Google's Display Network. Google acts as an intermediary between website owners and advertisers who want to attract traffic to their page.
The two sides (unknown to each other) allow Google to take a share of the profits in return for its role as a trustworthy central authority. With blockchain guaranteeing the validity of clicks however, the role of central authorities may soon be negated - meaning advertisers and site owners can retain more of their revenue.
With its potential to improve transparency and security, companies can expect to see higher demand in 2017 and 2018 for blockchain technology.