Goodbye 2018. Goodbye to Yanny and Laurel, to horizontal Instagram feeds, to ‘data-breach apologies’ from Facebook (please), to Alexa’s creepy laugh, to the dark days of digital media rebates and to Donald Trump’s continued abuse of his caps lock key (PLEASE!).
It was a year full of digital missteps, symbolic of a more than a decade-long teething period as we adapt our lives and our marketing to continually changing technologies.
And with that goodbye comes a very grateful hello to 2019; the year of the tipping point. This year the industry will mature on multiple fronts and will tip over from frenzied hype to productive reality or in some cases, from unregulated to responsible.
Here are the dominant digital and technology trends that will influence marketing in 2019:
1. Hyped up technologies will go mainstream
At risk of sounding like a broken record, this really is the year that marketers and consumers will make sense of three major innovations that have been hanging around waiting for their moment. They are: artificial intelligence, augmented reality and voice.
Artificial Intelligence, in particular machine learning, reached peak hype in 2018 – we saw everything from the world’s first AI politician, SAM, to Miquela the fashion icon / Instagram influencer. Beyond these publicity-drivers however, AI began to enter our homes, our cars, our fridges and even our bodies. This year AI will start to feel as integrated in our lives as the internet. It will be a similarly invisible engine behind most of what we see and do and it will be something we come to expect, rather than something we’re surprised to see.
While augmented reality won’t achieve the same consumer uptake, it will become more than a marketing stunt. We’ve started to see brands like Ikea who have built entire customer experiences using augmented reality. Ikea’s ‘Place’ lets people see their home with Ikea furniture inside it before they buy. This is more than a one-off idea, this is essentially another owned channel along the purchase journey and one that will become a new norm for the home furniture category. This means every single brand should be identifying where augmented reality could enhance their customer experience or risk a competitor getting their first to reap the rewards.
Voice assistants are on a rapid ascent with markets such as India and China already seeing close to half the population of smartphone owners using voice to assist their daily lives. In Australia, almost a quarter of the population will be using voice to do their shopping by the end of the year. That makes 2019 the year that all brands need to adapt their channels and communications for natural language and sound recognition as a matter of digital hygiene.
2. Digital advertising will become impactful and efficient
We’ve been promised ‘creativity at scale’ for years but so far we’ve had to choose; it’s been a case of high impact or high reach. While there’s a fair way to go when it comes to accurate online measurement and programmatic transparency, we do have control over the way we use digital ad space creatively and it’s an area that we’ve fallen short as an industry until now. Finally, the industry has called time on ‘junk’ digital inventory and we’ll see an influx of more sophisticated ad formats that are less irritating and offer better creative opportunities for brands. Kargo’s scroll reactive ads are a good example as are Instagram’s story ads that are designed around the way people already interact with the app. If we all use them enough we might even kill off the banner ad for good.
3. Privacy will be used to create brand currency
Apple has set the tone for the year at CES with a giant, 13-floor billboard proclaiming where it stands on the hot-button issue of customer data.
This comes after yet another reported data breach from Facebook and a less forgiving response from marketers and consumers alike. While data security has been something marketers have cared about for years, it’s now hit the public agenda, opening up an opportunity for brands with strict data privacy rules to gain credibility.
With major changes in the way we treat customer data, the way we communicate with people in digital media and the way we use the most significant technological innovations of the past decade, 2019 is going to be an important one for all brands and all marketers.
Here’s to a great year!