The old adage goes that prediction is a fool's game, but this has done little to dissuade Accenture from releasing its annual Fjord Trends report, which aims to predict disruptive digital trends, for the last ten years.
2017 was no different, and the company is again playing the prediction game, this time identifying eight trends businesses should be wary of over the next 12 months.
Here's a rundown of what the report has identified as worth paying as the year progresses.
1. Ephemeral Stories
The answer in 2017 will not be for brands to create more content, but rather to find ways for consumers to express themselves. With interfaces such as Snapchat stories generating billions of views every day, the denizens of the world have shown a willingness to share and consume their own stories. The report advises brands pull back on the notion that they should be storytellers and focus on "brand drama" and providing experiences that allow for the facilitation of stories. For this to work, brands will need to take a backseat and allow consumers to interact with the brand. However, here's to hoping that local brands don't play a role in the facilitation of a few new Snapchat urban legends:
2. Shiny API People
The Fjord report suggests that in 2017 businesses will need to rewire from within to become more people-centric. They will achieve this by breaking down the silos within organisations, and ensuring that the customer experience is seamless through every touchpoint. And as this breakdown of silos happens, discrete roles such as chief digital officer will start to disappear. Alongside this structural change, Accenture also anticipates the mentality of workers to shift to one based on innovation. An example of a company already embracing this philosophy is Netflix, which fosters an innovative culture by giving workers sufficient freedom to be creative while at work.
3. Blurred Reality
In 2016, AR and VR moved into the mainstream through Pokemon Go and other apps, and the report predicts that a new abbreviation will hit the scene in 2017 with the arrival of MR (multiple reality). In much the same way that marketers have been talking about multichannel and omnichannel campaigns for years, the prediction here is that marketers will move away from siloed virtual campaigns and look to better integrate them into a single experience for the user. A good, early example of this would be Magic Leap, which introduces digital elements into the real world.
4. World on Wheels
As cars become more connected, brands will see this as a new media channel with a host of interesting opportunities. The report predicts that in coming years, car ownership might start to decline as consumers become more comfortable with ride-sharing and rental apps. What this means is that more hands will shift from the steering wheel to the phone, adding to the media minutes marketers have at their disposal. What's more is that it's only a matter of time before self-driving cars end up on the road, creating a media opportunity ripe for the picking.
5. Home Without Boundaries
Connected homes were a major talking point in 2016, and these conversations will mature over the next 12 months. So far, the focus has been on the ability of a mobile phone to control everything within a home, but as the conversation evolves it will place emphasis on how to optimise the home through a series of connected devices. As homeowners gain better control of how much they're spending on things like energy consumption, this will have major ramifications for energy companies, retailers and appliance developers.
6. Hourglass Brands
At one end of the spectrum sit huge, platform brands (think Google) that offer virtually everything, while at the other are specialist brands with a unique focus and clear purpose (Lewis Road Creamery). According to the report, brands don't want to be stuck in between these two spaces. As the market continues to evolve, the platform brands will continue to grow, squeezing the middle, while the specialists become the best at what they do. Unless brands in the middle evolve, they're going to find a sense of constriction setting in.
7. Me, Myself and AI
The report stopped short of overhyping artificially intelligent chatbots but did say that the technology would accelerate quickly over the next 12 months. The technology is already pretty good at rational decision-making, with software like Kensho taking the place of financial traders, but the next step will be toward creating empathetic responses from chatbots. Already, Empath and Cogito offer technologies that analyse voice intonation to interpret the emotional state of the user. In fact, the report predicts that by 2020 humans will be having more conversations with chatbots than with their partners.
8. Unintended Consequences
Interestingly, this prediction already came to fruition earlier this year when the public turned on Uber when the company decided to drop surcharges in the middle of an airport strike against Donald Trump's ban on immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The point is that modern consumers carry enormous power in their pockets. They no longer have to rely on journalists to spread their causes or make their voices heard. Social platforms give them the freedom to speak their minds whenever they want. And according to the report, their voices are only going to get louder in 2017. This, when combined with growing concerns regarding data security, will lead to numerous unintended consequences for brands as the year rolls on.
- Click here to see the full report.