Our digital trend predictions for 2017

As we prepare to head into 2017, we’ve put our heads together to decide what digital-related business trends we think we’re going to see emerge over the next 12 months – here’s our rundown:

1. Everyone’s going to want an intelligent personal assistant

The first of the technology trends we’ll see come into the mainstream are voice assistants. In the home, the use of digital assistants such as Amazon Echo (and the Alexa voice system), Google Home and Apple’s Siri – which make our interaction with the digital world and online services easier –will grow exponentially.

Though the technology’s been around for a while, it works better now, and is more affordable.

Plus people will also expect brands to have a stronger audio presence in 2017 – and it’s an exciting space for businesses.

2. Chatbots bed in

Chatbots have been a hot topic at Code for some time now; they were one of our trends to watch in 2016.

With Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Google all introducing bots to help with bookings and customer service, the Telegraph even says that bots have overtaken apps as the primary way we communicate with our phones.

For businesses, Chatbots lend themselves well to supporting customer service – increasing assistance and digital chat around the clock, speeding up response times, meeting consumer expectations and freeing up staff for more complex enquiries.

Culturally there is greater acceptance too; we’re now comfortable talking to a bot. A warning to businesses around this, though: in a quest to make business efficiencies, don’t lose sight of the need for human interaction as well. We’ve already seen some backlash from consumers in some cases and it’s important not to damage brand reputation in the process of trying to streamline operations.

3. AI (Artificial Intelligence), specifically machine learning

And so the third theme, related to both these trends, is a general increase in Artificial Intelligence and more specifically machine learning. This can range from predictive analytics and website design to product pricing and predictive customer service.

At a recent web summit, Affectiva’s Rana Kilouby talked about how AI is understanding emotion, while demonstrating technology that recognises changing facial expressions and reflects them as emojis. The technology has been used to test emotional reactions to adverts and games before they go live – there’s a similar ethos behind how and why we user test our products here at Code.

4. The Internet of Things becomes even more connected

The IoT and wearables isn’t a new trend – but expect businesses to leverage the power of the billions of sensors and connected devices to new levels in 2017. The opportunity for brands is to enhance product experience in this space, rather than just marketing capabilities. There are products that lend themselves to the IoT, which is where we predict we will see most success.

5. More brands capitalising on the VR and AR explosion

With this movement, gamification will enter business strategy and AR ads will enter our everyday lives. Pokémon Go showed us that consumers are ready for more immersive experiences and the major VR headset suppliers as well as Google Spotlight stories are also driving this technology into the mainstream.

Within the business world, we can expect to see storytelling and experiences via VR/AR; useful VR will take off most. We’re already seeing motor manufacturers offering test drives and hotels creating a 360-degree immersive experience, as two great examples. Brands with physical stores are also likely to experiment with VR and AR more in 2017.

But while consumer awareness of VR and AR is relatively high, and there will be experimentation, consumer polls are showing that we’re not ready for it to be completely mainstream yet and prices still need to come down.

A key point for brands looking to jump on the bandwagon of any tech trend is to make sure that it is an opportunity to add value to customers. With so many ways to engage with users and gain data, a word of caution: don’t do it for doing its sake and make sure everything is being tested and measured.