Monday, October 16th, 2017 | 6 min read
Digital trends today are unrecognizable from what they were five years ago.
In 2012, AdAge pointed to Facebook groups, Google Wallet, and location-based discovery as digital trends that were “set to go mass-market.”
How far we’ve come. Today’s conversations revolve around advancements like artificial intelligence, chatbots, and virtual reality. And they’ll likely be much different in another five years.
These shifting trends don’t just reflect the new tools and technologies available to us – they indicate a shift in how consumers behave online, and what they expect from marketers.
That’s why it’s so important for marketers to have their fingers on the pulse of all things digital, and be ready to jump on new trends ahead of time – even five years down the line.
With that in mind, here are five digital trends to watch for the coming year and beyond.
1. Chatbots Usher in a New Era of Customer Care
You can’t discuss the future of customer interaction without talking about chatbots. By gathering personal information and solution histories, these bots can fulfill simple orders, provide customized help, and send automated messages to check up on customers.
In 2016, major brands like NBC, Uber, and Sephora released their own chatbots for messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and LINE. And customers are biting. Ninety percent of consumers globally want to use messaging to interact with businesses.
Going forward, chatbots should only become more efficient. AI-like machine learning will improve conversational experiences and bots will be integrated in home in the vein of Amazon Echo and Google Home. And by 2019, more than 10% of IT hires in customer service will mostly write scripts for chatbot interactions.
Chabots are a win-win for customers and brands. They provide customers with quick and easy support; and they help brands automate many customer care solutions, and save their human representatives for more complex issues.
2.“Voice-First” Interactive Platforms Help Customers Go Hands-Free
To reach customers on the go or while they’re multitasking, marketers will start to adapt to hands-free, “voice-first” platforms. After all, people shouldn’t have to stop what they’re doing to pick up their phone or sit at their computer. With voice-enabled technology, they should be able to complete digital tasks while driving, exercising, or socializing.
By 2020, dialogue-based information platforms like Google Home and Amazon Echo will likely become more popular, and 20% of all smartphone interactions will be completed via a virtual personal assistant. Zero-touch user experiences will also be available across two billion devices and Internet of Things programs.
3. Artificial Intelligence Delivers More Personalized Experiences
The more companies learn about their customers, the better experiences they can deliver for those customers. If brands can automate this process, however, they can deliver more personalized experiences at scale.
That’s why artificial intelligence is a trend to watch.
By 2020, device vendors will look to AI to differentiate their offerings. Just consider the Windows Hello facial recognition feature on the Surface Pro 4, which lets people sign into their devices with a simple face scan. The Boltt wearable fitness tracker also has an AI-enabled virtual trainer.
Going further, by 2021, it’s estimated that 30% of net new revenue growth from industry-specific solutions will include AI technology. These tools will allow companies to run virtual assistants, gather predictive insights, and automate programs and machines.
4. Augmented Reality Transforms The World Around Us
Augmented reality may sound complex, but it’s already a part of many people’s everyday lives. Snapchat filters, for instance, used augmented reality technology to track people’s faces and movements and overlay them with graphics. And Pokémon Go brought augmented reality to the mainstream by turning people’s homes, neighborhoods, and cities into Pokemon-filled landscapes.
These technologies allow people to map digital programs onto the world around them, opening up a trove of new interactive opportunities. And they’re not slowing down anytime soon.
Microsoft is just getting started with its HoloLens, a wearable computer that allows people to interact with holograms in the world around them. And Apple just announced ARKit, a program that allows software developers to create augmented reality experiences for the iPhone and iPad. In fact, by 2012, 100 million consumers will shop using augmented reality. This will coincide with more retailers incorporating the technology into their stores to make the buyer journey even more seamless and intuitive.
5. Social Ad Spend Overtakes TV Spend
Through social advertising, marketers can reach targeted audiences on their favorite platforms at just the right time. As a result, digital ad spend overtook TV ad spend for the first time in 2016, and that gap in spending is expected to widen.
Especially on Facebook, which now hosts two billion monthly users, it’s crucial to narrow your reach to those most interesting in your messaging and products. Customers aren’t just looking at ads, either. They’re buying, too: 26% of Facebook users who click on ads make purchases.
As social networks improve their targeting and analytics – and customers continue to use these platforms – digital ad spend will only increase in the coming years.
The Future of Digital Interaction
It’s tough to predict exactly what the digital space will look like five years from now. But at least we know a lot more about online audience behaviors and interests than we did in 2012. For instance, we know that 60% of customers expect easier access to online support, and 29% expect consistent customer experiences across channels.
With this information at our fingertips, marketers can better prepare for the future of digital interaction. And they can harness available tools like chatbots, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality to deliver the best experiences at scale.
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