Experts on the top ten digital trends to watch

To help you plan for the year ahead, we’ve talked with experts and read through all of the trends lists for you. Here’s the top ten trends worth keeping an eye on.

Digital isn’t just the new normal — it’s the new everything

The events of 2020 accelerated the pivot to digital first for both businesses and consumers. Remote work, virtual conferences, contactless pickup, telehealth, online education and new ways for brands to engage with customers are here to stay. Companies are building digital competency and adopting new technologies that will continue to accelerate their progress along the digital continuum. Expect to see more companies investing in cloud infrastructure and headless tech to deliver better digital products and seamless experiences across the customer journey.

Consumers want relevant and valuable digital experiences

In 2020, brands had to sideline marketing plans to focus on the immediate needs of consumers whose lives were disrupted by the pandemic. Responding to a desperate need for information early in the pandemic, GoodRX, an American healthcare company, spun up a coronavirus hub and a telehealth marketplace within weeks. Zoom made headlines as they struggled with a customer base that changed almost overnight — children and families trying to connect with school, work and each other, uncovered challenges the video communications company hadn’t faced with enterprise customers. 

This shift to a customer-centric approach led to more relevant content focused on current events and digital products and experiences that addressed customer needs and delivered real value. Expect more emphasis on using digital to provide lasting value versus one-off entertainment.

We’ll see a new level of personalized experiences

Companies that enable customers to control their experience and use data to surface the most relevant information are setting the bar for personalization. Customers will expect less gimmicky personalization and more meaningful use of their data to provide recommendations, set preferences and anticipate their needs. They’ve become accustomed to choices: Do you want delivery, curbside or in-store? Will you take classes in person or remotely? Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous virtual events?

An illustration of two conversation bubbles.

Brands are leaning into live interactions to engage consumers

Instagram Stories, YouTube Livestream, Facebook Live and synchronous virtual events are growing increasingly popular. These live interactions offer more meaningful engagement than videos and asynchronous virtual events. Live streaming has been on the uptick for years, but with people stuck at home we saw new players in the space. Churches, museums, authors and artists turned to live events as a way to stay connected with their communities. Businesses offered live shopping events, Q+As and tutorials for people new to gardening, baking, home decor, coding and more. Many of these events had a few hiccups, but that only served to humanize brands that were learning new technology right along with the rest of us. Expect to see brands building more comfort and competency with live content. 

Brands will craft more authentic voices

Your customers speak their minds, swear and use emojis to express themselves. Parents connect with the bestseller Go the F– to Sleep because Adam Mansbach is speaking their language. The right emoji can help you nail the art of the simple apology and a great story can launch a business — the media is buzzing about RUBIES transgender swimwear because a dad created it for his daughter ❤️.

Marketers are using less formal language and more edgy copy to differentiate brands in a noisy market and create an authentic brand voice. Strong brand identities resonate with users and foster loyalty, but will also challenge marketers as they navigate a volatile political environment in which consumers expect brands to stand up for their values and mission. 

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AI and other sophisticated tools will become more accessible

Quantum computing, 5G internet speeds and more access to AI, recommendation engines and other tech will accelerate innovation in smaller businesses. This in turn will drive digital leaders to seek new ways to differentiate themselves.

We’ll see more practical applications of AR/VR technology

AR/VR is still on the periphery, but moving from gaming to more practical applications. These include virtual showrooms, apps that let you try on makeup and clothing, and the use of AR to enhance existing processes and experiences.

API integration and microservices will accelerate innovation

As companies seek to adopt new technologies faster, they are finding that all-in-one solutions fall short and building from scratch is no longer feasible. To gain digital capabilities faster, companies are turning to API-first platforms, like Contentful, that enable them to build custom stacks from composable microservices. We take this one step further with our App Framework, which makes it easier for non-technical users to pull together their preferred tools and deliver new digital experiences. 

There will be a renewed focus on cybersecurity

As companies embrace distributed workforces and more diverse technologies, IT teams will be focused on API security, Zero Trust Security and other tools to ensure networks are secure.

Ilustration of a multi colored eye

Expect more scrutiny around consumer privacy

On the consumer side, people are trading privacy for personalization and convenience. While not top of mind now, companies should expect more scrutiny around how personal information is used and managed.

Visit our digital forecast hub or download the white paper for more digital trends and advice from industry experts on how you can position yourself and your company for success.

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