There are a million digital trends happening. The ones that really matter in 2017 are driven by two unique forces. Simplification and experience.
Ensuring simplicity is the hardest thing to do digitally and it continues to drive innovation. Meanwhile continued adaption of social media and the content that powers it fuels a renewed desire for experience over ownership.
Making It Simple
Yes, digital in 2017 means robots can drive cars, translate text and win at chess, so it’s no surprise that artificial intelligence is something that marketers are thinking about as they look for more ways to sell stuff better.
The opportunity here is driven by the simple fact that people want to buy stuff more easily, and brands want to help them do just that. Bots offer up the possibility of enabling brands to ensure a better and more consistent customer purchasing experience which is now being dubbed, “Conversational Commerce” by Uber’s Chris Messina.
All people have to do is ask for what they need. Instead of searching, FAQ’s, and navigational menus, customers can be guided to the information they need in a quicker, simpler, and more human (irony alert!) way. 1-800-Flowers has a dialogue-based commerce experience within Facebook Messenger that represents the company’s many brands and sites without shoppers having to do anything but ask. So this could mean an improved customer experience, unlimited scalability, and improved customer intelligence.
Now there is a bit of an elephant in the room. It can be tiring to type into your smartphone to re-up on your kitty litter. There has to be a better way. And there is! Amazon Echo and its baby sister Echo Dot were best-selling products this past holiday season, using voice assistant Alexa to make shopping at home easier than clicks. Alexa is an open technology, so any product can connect to it, and countless new gadgets showcased at this month’s CES announced plans to take advantage of this. Should you stop Facebook promotion and go all in on Alexa? Probably not.
Experience Over Ownership
Research shows that a hit of endorphins from making a purchase is far shorter than it is for an event that creates an ongoing Facebook engagement. This is because humans place far greater value on engagements with friends because these 100 likes add to our ongoing legacy for our individual brands.
Social media has turned experiences from one-on-one moments to moments that give us social equity and far greater than any purchase. This impacts almost every sector with a new focus on living in the moment rather than having the North American ideal of the big house, two cars and a white picket fence.
Smart brands are learning how to tap into this trend. No longer content to simply upend the global hotel industry, AirBnB is upping the ante through its Experience Host program where the company states that one can “Create unique experiences around your city, and earn extra money by bringing others along.” Sounds pretty cool to me, and I’m not even a millennial (Just missed it by a couple of months or so).
The catch is that sometimes we still need material things to enable these experiences. Not to worry, there are services that take care of that for us now. Enter LA-based startup Joymode. Need everything to host a movie night in your backyard, or embark on that once-every-5-years glamping trip? No problem. Joymode has it covered. Get everything you need for your own perfectly Instagramable curated experiences.
Understanding this shift towards experiences is a key success factor for 2017, and agencies and marketers would be wise to understand how this creates new opportunities.
Putting Experiences Into Action
The shift towards experiences bodes well for marketers to continue to experiment with VR, AR and Mixed reality. These technologies are ushering in the democratization of experiences, enabling anyone with access to a VR headset to experience pretty much anything that can be thought up. Now that VR headsets are available by several major manufacturers we can expect to see more brands jumping on the bandwagon.
Of course, the downside of this is we can pretty much count on 2017 also being the year of the “Did-that-really-need-to-be-in-VR” VR experiences. Anyone remember Flash circa 2005?
Another experience that marketers may want to challenge in the new year is that of the branded mobile app. Yes, it’s true that demand for apps is at an all-time high, and that there are more people carrying more devices, and using them more often for more things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to figure out a cross-platform, multi-app strategy for your brand.
In fact, on average, people use only 27 apps per month. According to Nielsen that figure has been holding steady for the last few years. Nielson also released that the top 8 most used mobile apps of 2016 are all owned by Facebook or Google. Next down the list, there’s a couple of apps published by Amazon and Apple. So there’s not exactly a lot of room for membership, in what has shaped up to be a very exclusive club.
Beyond the domination of smartphone’s home screen by a few key giant players, key trends like the rise of bots will also contribute to less apps being used. While there are still times when an app is apropos, it makes sense to seriously scrutinize whether there is a need for a native mobile experience.
I don’t hold a candle to Nostradamus, nor do I have a crystal ball, but even aging digital marketers, like a clock, are right two times a day. When we step back to understand these advances in technology and shifts in cultural norms and their impact on consumer behaviors, we can avoid the trappings of just looking for the next bright and shiny object.
Like the great hockey-poet, Wayne Gretzky once said, you have to “skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
Digital remains the arena to find those wide-open green spaces and opportunities for experiences and simplicity.