2017: Predicting the Increasingly Unpredictable
Making predictions is a precarious business. The improbable is increasingly the probable, whether Leicester City F.C, the Cubs, Trump or Brexit. Thankfully digital has always been somewhat predictable; you simply can’t keep an old digital trend down. They just keep coming back with new names, upgraded technology and refreshed mojo. So without further ado, here’s my forecast for 2017.
Implicit Signals: With the notable exception of the USC/LA Times, virtually every poll in the USA inaccurately predicted a Clinton victory. Even statistical wunderkind Nate Silver gave Trump a 30% chance of victory. Coupled with Brexit, there’s a growing unease in the industry that similar misleading conclusions may be occurring in marketing research. To be sure the supposed stigma of publically supporting Trump is not the same as acknowledging that a KitKat advertisement influenced you. However, the increasing anomalies in what people say and actually do has led to some deep soul searching amongst the research community. The result is a greater interest in implicit data sources, e.g., searches and actual online behavior that may be truer reflections and proxy indicators of what people are really thinking and doing.
From Clicks to Conversations: Audio will be back in the headlines, but with a twist: it won’t be just podcasts and music streaming. 55% of US Millennials use voice search every day, and not just on Google but increasingly in the home with Amazon’s Alexa and in the car with Apple’s Siri. And it isn’t just the USA. Baidu reports a threefold increase in voice search over the last 18 months. Audio recognition technology is also improving. The latest iteration of Google’s DeepMind voice technology is 50% better than today’s standards, so it will recognize everything from Welsh to West Flemish. 2017 will be the year that brands tackle voice search, buying and optimizing for a much more natural set of keywords and questions. Furthermore, marketers will also start thinking about what voice they need to layer into their apps and owned assets. As usual pizza is leading the way: Domino’s Pizza has given its app a voice called Dom so consumers can go from clicks to conversations.
Gamification v2.0: Inspired by Pokémon Go, AI and the adaptive creative possibilities with AR and VR, marketers will revisit the world of gaming. Several brands have already jumped on the bandwagon: both Under Armour and Gatorade recently launched immersive games on Snapchat, while KFC launched a Pokémon Go type AR game in China that offered virtual coupons for every virtual cat caught. VR, which has been hindered by a low installed base of devices, is about to be boosted by Sony’s 40 million PS4 consoles and VR headsets. Facebook is supposedly exploring instant games within Messenger not to mention Oculus, and Google is putting significant resources behind its Daydream VR platform. So sufficient scale will finally exist to justify the creative and media investment in VR and AR immersive experiences, with gaming the primary vehicle for the moment.
The Year of the Rooster: Alibaba’s stunning success with China’s Double 11 or Singles’ Day led to over $18bn in sales within 24 hours (while not an exact comparison, Amazon did $37bn in three months). Other markets are taking notice and are now adopting Singles’ Day (or its spirit) in an effort to generate more sales before the holiday season takes full swing. In the US, online orders by Chinese-Americans were up by over 800%, with Michael Kors, Bloomingdales and QVC offering domestic Single’s Day promotions. Could 2017 be the year that Singles’ Day starts becoming a universal shopping holiday? At a minimum, most will closely look at how to replicate the Singles’ Day phenomena and its online tactics for Black Friday and other local shopping-centric holidays.
Back to the Browser: Struggling with getting their apps downloaded and used, marketers appear to be exploring the browser once again. Patagonia recently retired its app and replaced it with Google’s Progressive Web Apps technology. So unless you are lucky enough to be one of the 48 apps installed on a phone, or the 8 used daily, a solid browser-based experience may be the solution if built to shapeshift based on different screens. Furthermore, with AI, search, bots and notifications increasingly extracting and managing the information flow outside the app itself, it may no longer be as critical to get an expensive app built, promoted, downloaded and used. It may be more realistic and useful for some brands to push that brand content into the digital slipstream.
Top To Top: Verizon’s new AOL/Yahoo Empire will present a credible scaled alternative to the Google/Facebook duopoly (72% share of online advertising outside of China). Twitter, which is quickly becoming the new Yahoo, will find a buyer, perhaps Alibaba or Tencent that will explore expansion opportunities outside Asia. Apple will get its mojo back on the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. Snap’s IPO will be big. Amazon will make a real run at Google’s search share. Online news sites will continue to gain in popularity in the wake of Trump and FalseStoryGate. Spotify, Pandora, iHeart and others will benefit from online radio and music finally going through the same great migration from old to new that print and TV have gone through in the