Will it be the end of the World Wide Web?

In a thought provoking article, NESTA is predicting that 2017 will be the year we see countries around the world pull the plug on the open, global internet and create their own independent networks - spelling the end of the World Wide Web as we know it. Hard to believe this could happen but as we seem to be moving towards closing ranks, this is a plausible reality. We’ve become dependent on the internet for almost everything we do, threats to the network’s integrity could have devastating effects. But as domestic and geopolitical tensions continue to rise, governments will find it increasingly hard to function amidst a constant barrage of uncontrollable information and the threat of cyber attacks, making them grow more wary of the internet’s influence.

Take the Great Firewall of China. Though China hasn’t built an entirely separate infrastructure, its internet looks entirely different from what we are used to - with content heavily censored and many platforms and websites completely banned. In recent weeks, news has emerged that Moscow has been working with Beijing to implement something similar in Russia. Could Trump move in the same direction, followed by other nations?

Will we finally see a shift from 'mobile strategy' to 'engagement 'strategy'

Hopefully. Mobile is actually a dated term now (if you are a digital geek like me). Mobile devices are simply an essential vehicle through which the customer experience takes place - a tool. We need to start creating engagement strategies - not mobile strategies so we would certainly like to see a shift in 2017 to thinking about engagement. Dave Faupel at IBM is spot on when he says that businesses that are creating beautiful mobile experiences that aren’t tied to their online systems, offline messaging, branding, trade shows and more are throwing money into the wind. While considering how a customer experiences your brand on a mobile device is essential, it’s not the only experience to consider. Every channel should know about interactions taking place in other channels — customers expect that. Remember: You’re one brand to a customer, not 12 channels.

Will there be more mobile apps or less mobile apps?

Good question. There will probably be more, but really there should be less. Why? The average smartphone owner typically only uses three apps frequently. Today, there are more than 1.5 million apps in the iOS App Store, and even more on Google Play. The volume of apps and revenue created by them continues to grow, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Mobile customer behaviour is changing. Unlike the early days of the app store, when users might download more than 10 apps a month, today’s users average a much lower number of downloads – zero in fact. Instead, users are shifting to “core apps.” In fact, roughly 80% of app usage is spent within a user’s top three apps.

So what does this mean? Well, you should think about how you can deliver truly relevant and meaningful experiences so you’re one of those three. Or don't bother at all. Marketers should start by looking for where their customers spend most of their time. Since messaging apps, browsers and social media are almost always among the core apps, they are a natural place to begin.

Will virtual reality and augmented reality finally go mainstream?

Quit a few of you will have heard the term ‘virtual reality’ (VR), but for those who are not particularly tech-minded it essentially means a computer-created simulation of reality that you can interact with in an immersive way. For a long time, this was expensive to develop, which restricted it to highly expensive games or big budget movies, but now the costs are falling and it is moving into the mainstream. The main area that it is moving into is the gaming industry, via VR games for mobile and VR specific console games. TechDigest use the following great example of how VR will be used...we are likely to see casino games such as poker where VR could immerse you in the glitz and glamour of top Las Vegas casinos to you within your own home. So in 2017 we are likely to see VR take off and go mainstream in gaming and maybe we will see some other industries starting to experiment with it - for example, the tourism industry who can transport you to a destination and experience it ahead of actually booking it.

Machine learning. Say hello to the 'bot'.

If you think marketing has come a long way in the last five years, then you haven't seen nothing yet! Marketers are starting to use machine learning and artificial intelligence for marketing decisions, targeting, creative and conversion optimization. I attending a great presentation at the Chartered Institute of Marketing Digital Conference in London this year and I was introduced to Watson. This was not a person - it is a machine. Watson is an artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language. Technologies like IBM’s Watson cognitive marketing tools will potentially help marketers deliver more relevant content and offers at the right time than humans alone ever could. Exciting (and nervous) times. Don't worry - a machine will not take over from a person. It will assist.

Will BIG data start to become 'meaningful'?

We think so, yes. But only if you are actually collecting and understanding it. Data has the power to be used in previously unseen ways to deepen customer connections and fuel strategic growth. Once collected, we need to be creative with it. This means tapping into the information you possess, accessing data available outside of your organisation and being aware of the data that’s coming. This is not just a job for the IT expert - everyone within your organisation needs to extract customer and marketplace insights - and use them.

Fragmented views of customer data across organisations won't help you. This has been a big problem for a number of organisations. The biggest challenge is that some of the most revealing data about critical human insights is in unstructured forms such as images, natural language and video - and many people do not know how to use and interpret this 'data'. This “dark data” has traditionally been out of reach, with 88% of all available data dark to most organisations. In response, we will see the evolution of 'cognitive technologies' - data of all types from practically all sources — structured and unstructured — which can be correlated and analyzed, creating unique insights into emotion, attitude and tone – elements that can bring you closer to your audience. This is quite exciting to use as researchers , as well as marketers as we find the most value from behavioural insights.

Will we finally be able to buy from a brand without going through to their website?

Yes. Very likely. And this is very exciting for those in e-commerce. I have been talking about the end of websites with my clients for some time... that day may come sooner rather than later. Take email - a very successful channel to engage. If you get it right, email is the pretty pictures and relevant content designed to get someone to your website where the purchase happens (sometimes). Email is the perfect door opener, but it turns out not everyone buys when they click through. Site doesn't load, payment gateways, distraction and so on. What if you could sell directly from within an HTML email? That would change the mobile shopping experience, right? Well, it turns out you can employ radio buttons and tab values supported in CSS to inject a mind-boggling bunch of dynamic content into the body of an HTML email. It requires some super-strong email coding work – and the ability to populate some seriously dynamic content based on each individual recipient – but it enables some amazing opportunities. It isn't perfect - but it will bump up your conversion if you get in right. Oh, before I forget. This isn't just for businesses and brands who can sell something. Imagine using this for GP appointments, getting people to sign up to a smoking quit kit or HIV test. Start with people and their customer journey and the strategy is the same whether you are profit making or non-profit making.

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