Five trends to prepare for in 2017

As the dust settles following the world’s largest consumer tech show, CES, brands and consumers will be mulling over what prospects the latest gadgetry might hold. While some may find the latest tech developments exciting, others are concerned by the increasingly connected world. To help us make sense of the varying attitudes towards new and emerging technology, I, along with our Future’s team, set about uncovering the truth of how these technologies are viewed by the everyday consumer. 

By using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, as well as social and search analysis, below we’ve pinpointed five key trends, outlining how they are set to impact companies and consumers in 2017. 

1. Reality check

With their origins dating back to NASA space projects, flight simulators and early gaming experiences, the proposition of using AR and VR for marketing purposes might have initially seemed farfetched.  However, this technology is being used more and more by companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and Thomas Cook and we are still only scratching the surface of its full potential. 

Many consumers view these technologies as unchartered territory. For VR, there are some apparent barriers such as lack of trial, the cost of headsets and the current underwhelming user experience. Although there is interest, most consumers surveyed are holding out on VR until costs come down and until they are more convinced about its relevance.  Many are struggling to visualise what both VR and AR could be used for outside of gaming.  In fact, 43 per cent of people surveyed believe that current VR and AR experiences are a bit of a gimmick. 

However, with many large digital players investing and Goldman Sachs predicting that VR and AR will grow to be an $80 billion market by 2025, things are far more upbeat than they seem.  With more people being exposed, affordable hardware on the horizon and better content being created, a transformation is imminently on the cards. Once consumers are made aware of real-life applications, opinions will naturally change, creating huge opportunities for brands to engage with customers.  To work effectively, brands must first identify what content will resonate most with customers and then create a VR, MR or AR experience to fit, not vice versa.   

2. Tunnel vision

Whether we like it or not, our view of the world is becoming ever more personalised through digital – be it news or how we shop. More of what we like, less of what we don’t. According to our research, nearly half of all consumers (49 per cent) agree that this level of personalisation doesn’t encourage us to think for ourselves, with a further 48 per cent believing that it doesn’t provide a balanced view of information. More damagingly, nearly one in four (37 per cent) people agree that it worsens divisions within society. 

So how do brands find the right balance? Good social listening and community management are key and brands will need to think about who and what platforms people trust. Understanding the consumer journey across different ecosystems and devices will also be key in creating positive brand experiences.   

3. Hassle free

Taking a look at many product launches at CES this year – from Sevenhugs smart remote to Lenovo’s Smart Assistant - it’s clear to see that there are an increasing amount of new technologies that are invented to take the hassle out of everyday life. 

Smart meters are managing energy usage, coffee machines are automatically ordering fresh supplies and virtual assistants are alerting us to problems before our commute to work.  Our research shows that while half of respondents said that they welcome any technology that makes life easier, 55 per cent said they don’t trust technology companies to make decisions for them. 

Consumers still want to remain in the driving seat. 62 per cent of consumers said that they didn’t want to give up control of their life to technology.  With this in mind, brands will need to not only communicate the benefits of convenience, but also be mindful of the emotional issues of giving up control may cause.  Good user interface design will also be key.  

4. Connected me

Without doubt, the future is all about more intuitive interaction with the web via the human body. We saw many examples of this at CES and indeed Amazon Echo did steal the show somewhat.  While this trend is currently being led by voice, hearables and biometrics we are also seeing the development of implantables, embeddables and ingestibles.   

The latter technologies will initially feel quite alien and invasive for lots of people and provoke strong opinion. Predictably almost two thirds of people were not comfortable with the idea.  Biometric identification and voice interaction were much more familiar concepts which people could envisage more use of in the future.  45 per cent of people can envisage a time where we rely heavily on voice activated services, although influenced by their current experiences with voice assistants such as Siri, half (50 per cent) were skeptical about how good voice interaction can actually be. 

Of all of these forms of interaction, voice has perhaps the most profound implications for brands.  It will be best suited to task-focused activities and will have a big impact around the consumer journey, favouring repeat purchase making it much harder for new or smaller brands to break in.  

5. Digital dieting 

Mindset and behaviours around technology are changing.  As we succumb to using ever more technology in our lives, we are becoming increasingly concerned about the impact this is having. Research by British psychologists suggests young adults (those aged 18 to 35) spend on average as much as five hours a day glued to their smartphone. As a result, we’re rethinking and adjusting our use of technology – putting ourselves on a digital diet.  

The majority of people we surveyed (75 per cent) believe technology has a positive impact on their lives, but absolutely everyone had concerns around things like online privacy, bullying, reduced attention spans and diminishing social skills. Nearly half (49 per cent) of consumers think we should regulate how much technology we use and depend on and many are taking small steps to address these areas of concern, such as only buying a certain amount of data, switching off at certain times of day or reducing their time spent on social media. 

With technology permeating even more areas of our life and the pace of change happening at an exponential rate, there is a real need to find the right balance of technology in our lives, a fact that 76 per cent of people agreed with. For brands, this means avoiding the temptation of barraging people with too much information or relying upon them being constantly connected in order to build genuine brand attachment.

Jeremy Pounder, Futures Director, Mindshare
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa