Gimmick or game changer? Digital trend predictions for 2016

Damian Blackden: 'the rise of digital assistants [like Siri] paves the way for a new kind of optimisation'
Damian Blackden: 'the rise of digital assistants [like Siri] paves the way for a new kind of optimisation'

Maxus Global's chief strategy officer predicts the digital trends emerging from the Consumer Electronics Show that will make an immediate impact.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opens today, an irresistible opportunity for tech fans like myself to ogle and drool over the gadgets of tomorrow.

With such a dazzling array of shiny products and prototypes on display, our industry has a tendency to over predict the technologies that will become essential parts of the marketing toolkit within 12 months. We all know, however, that mass adoption and uptake takes time – sometimes a really long time.

With that in mind, here is a (hopefully) realistic run down of five digital trends that will have an impact on consumer behaviour this year.

Sensors, sensors everywhere

Marketers have been talking about the Internet of Things for some time now, however the cost and size of the sensors that will inform it are rapidly decreasing. As a result, we can expect further rafts of new connected products that talk to each other in some way or another.

We’ll also start seeing more companies that will help us tap into and network things we already own, such as our cars or even furniture. A key watch out as connected devices become more widespread is security: manufacturers will need to ensure these devices don’t become back doors for identity theft or fraud. 

Virtual reality moves closer to becoming actual reality

Although VR is not set to go mainstream in 2016, or even 2017, there’s sufficient energy behind the various technologies that we can anticipate a great deal more interest and resultant coverage of the field next year. Microsoft’s HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus initiatives are beginning to show us what in-home and in-store experiences could look and feel like in the near future.

Beacons bridge the gap between mobile marketing and physical retail

Many retailers, as well as sports stadiums and other public places, are in the process of being carpet bombed with beacons. Whilst there are many privacy and integration challenges to navigate, we expect increased beacon distribution to significantly accelerate the process of retailers being able to close the current gap between digital marketing and the in-store environment.

Planet of the apps gains momentum

2016 looks to be a breakthrough year for app adoption (over HTML5) for business owners, driven largely by an increase in app indexing by the search engines. Just last year, Google updated its algorithm to benefit companies with mobile optimized sites, but its new mobile app indexing delivers an even bigger ranking and visibility advantage to companies with an app. When combined with the improved functionality of apps versus mobile sites, we can expect even more apps from the companies we love and frequent the most.

Please talk to my assistant

Digital assistants like Siri, Cortana, Alexa (and soon IBM’s Watson) are making our lives easier by the minute, and often access traditional search engines to find information for us. While search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising work within mobile and desktop settings, there is little precedent within this new voice-based frontier. Excitingly, the rise of digital assistants paves the way for a new kind of optimisation. The key to businesses excelling in this new format is to ensure that their information is easily accessible to these assistants, rather than trying to funnel people to their own sites. 

In conclusion, the year ahead looks set to be an exciting one, with sufficient investment, interest and innovation giving certain emerging technologies a much-needed boost. As ever, the winners will be those that harness technology’s potential to add genuine value to consumers’ lives. 

Damian Blackden is the chief strategy officer at Maxus Global

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