Digital trends for 2019 – Getting back to fundamentals
2018 was a tough year for the Internet. We witnessed the explosion of emerging technology such as AI and AR. Meanwhile, established brands such as Facebook dealt with data breaches and faltered before Congress. So, what can we expect from the world of technology in 2019? I predict a return to fundamentals. A chance to make the most of all that technology offers by establishing strategic groundwork for everything to follow. With that in mind, here are some trends to keep in mind as we head into next year:
Content is not king. Technology can function as the vessel of great content, but it will not make up for having nothing to say. Quite the opposite, it’s content that keeps the experience fresh and us coming back for more.
Content for content’s sake isn’t the solution most companies are solving for. For most, content is a tool to deliver on the needs of the audience. It can provide necessary context to help focus business development.
Even in the B2B space, companies are reaching across different platforms to connect with key audiences. For example, as opposed to highlighting their washing machines or refrigerators, GE’s content delivers on “Imagination at work” by focusing on wind-turbines, jet engines, and other incredible pieces of equipment that many people never get the opportunity to see. But the key is then having flexibility in their content creation to deliver what’s right on which platform. Awe-inspiring photos on Instagram, short videos on Snapchat. All of it tells a cohesive GE story, just in a slightly different way.
Creating content with a purpose will help maximize impact for your potential audience.
It’ll be about trust, not just privacy. With every website asking for cookie permission and a new data breach breaking with every news cycle, privacy has become the buzzword of the year.
Fundamental to privacy is consumer trust, which is eroding. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, only 48 percent of the general population in the U.S. trusts businesses, down from 58 percent the year before. A study by Adweek found that a lack of trust costs global brands $2.5 trillion per year.
The most trusted companies use digital experiences to deliver on their brand promise in a clear and meaningful manner. For example, CVS, which was named the Most Trusted Pharmacy in 2018 by Reader's Digest, delivers on its commitment to “help people on their path to better health” by taking cigarettes out of stores and simplifying prescription refills on its app.
Users come back front and center. Over the years design has become incredibly accessible. Open-source and template designs have made following and applying trends easier than ever to do. Video backgrounds, AR, VR – it’s all just a “How do I…” Google search away. It’s easy, it’s cost-effective, but taking a template approach with even lasting trends is not going to deliver in a meaningful and lasting way.
Technology should inform, not dictate an experience. According to research from Sitel group, 70 percent of consumers still prefer to interact with a human representative rather than a chatbot. Moving to a robot communicates something about who you are. For example, a number of McDonalds have been rolling out automatic cashiers. No longer do you wait in line to place an order for a Big Mac with a person behind a register. Instead the entire transaction from order to payment happens at a kiosk. What this communicates is the prioritization of efficiency. No chit-chat, no human error in your order (at least from McDonald’s side). This is all about getting you in and out with burger in hand. It’s a pivot from the “fun for the family” experience delivered not even a decade ago with the inclusion of play areas and table service. While nothing about the core elements of the brand has changed – still red and yellow, still golden arches, still Ronald McDonald – the experience changes your perception of the brand without ever saying a word.
As a north star for navigating new opportunities, successful brands in 2019 will find the sweet spot of what users want and what your brand can deliver.
Brand-led will win over branded. Sound similar, but are incredibly different approaches – with one being more post-production (branded) and the other more foundational (brand-led).
Branded means leading with best practices and UX trends. For example, Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta are all owned by the same parent group (Gap Inc) but are very different brands. Banana Republic is more refined, while Gap is all about inclusivity. Yet moving between Bananareublic.com and Gap.com, the only things that change are the colors, fonts, logos and images. The actual experience is consistent.
Brand-led, however, reaches further by delivering on the brand through every aspect of the experience. A brand’s values and positioning are translated into a customized and personalized experience that communicates who you are and what you stand for. Nike’s mission “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world” comes through beyond the swoosh. Every experience has a certain intensity. Photography is dramatic. Lighting is energizing. Music is positive. Technology is unique.
According to research, it takes 50 milliseconds for a user to decide whether to stay or go from a website. Translated, in less than a second they are going to make about the brand whos site it is. As a result, even for the most tablestakes elements, how they are prioritized and executed matters when it comes to communicating the right perspective.
Ultimately, there’s an opportunity in 2019 to go back to basics. A time to prepare that all the right pieces are in place to continue to move forward for what’s to come.
By Jenna Isken, Senior Experience and Brand Strategist at Siegel + Gale