NEWS16 June 2017

Five tech and cultural trends to watch

Innovations News Privacy Technology Trends UK

At yesterday’s MRS Media Research Summit, Sophie Harding, research and insight director at Mindshare, shared five trends that will affect consumers, brands and media behaviour over the coming years.

VR headsets mother and daughter_Crop

  • Reality check

With virtual, mixed and augmented reality starting to come through, this is a technology that really has the ability to transform what we do on an everyday basis. However, there are barriers with the main issues being accessibility and affordability. Hive for instance remains expensive and most consumers haven’t even heard of it, never mind tried it.

The physical experience of the VR headsets have put some people off, complaining that they feel weird and too enclosed. So augmented reality may grow faster than virtual – people often don’t even realise that the smartphone based apps they are using are augmented reality.

Men will drive the future of this tech in short-term. The degree with which it’ll take off depends on a number of factors – how beneficial it is; what content will most resonate with customers – maybe utility to make people’s lives easier; and what will people want to talk about and share?

  • Hassle free

The increasing need for convenience means there is significant room for tech that helps with this from AI to data analytics. It is developing fast, think Google Photos, automated responses and the Internet of Things (IoT) space – where it has been about platforms that tie together the IoT devices.

Then there is the area of programmatic commerce such as automatic reordering. First there was Amazon Dash (to help you reorder items) and now Amazon Dash replenishment service which allows connected devise to order goods. Data and privacy issues in this area are a trade-off between convenience and control. For brands, research into their specific area is necessary to understand what data people are willing to give.

People find it more appealing in low risk areas such as turning on the heating remotely. They are less keen on high risk, for example one that Mindshare researched was an algorithm to help you choose what to wear that day, which wasn’t popular. It found that male millennials didn’t mind automatic reordering whereas women wanted more control.

There are some profound implication for marketers – will it be machines making brand choices in the future rather than humans; will it make it more difficult for new brands to break in?

  • Connected me

There are a growing number of ways to connect to the internet that do not involve a screen such as voice activation. Voice interaction is getting more reliable e.g. Alexia, Google Home and now Apple is launching the HomePod.

In the next five to 10 years we’ll see implantables and embeddables – perhaps chips, connected tattoos, digital pills, connected contact lens.

Adoption rate for voice is growing but they don’t tend to be used regularly yet. And in the UK, people are culturally more ill-at-east speaking in public which may be a barrier to take-up.

Neuroscience research into brain activity when using voice compared with text tasks showed that the brain has to work much harder for text-based tasks. So ease of use of voice will help it take-off.

And for marketers, when people have to speak a name out loud they have more of a connection to the brand name.

But how will it change brand communications when there is nothing to look at?  Amazon now releasing the Echo Show which includes a small screen. What should your brand sound like – should it be male or female, old or young, have a regional accent? It brings a whole new meaning to tone of voice.

  •  Tunnel vision

This is about more personalised information and has come to the fore recently with the US elections and Brexit; suddenly we’re talking about filter bubbles, echo chambers and fake news. But what about the information in the retail space? It’s the same algorithms filtering.

So as marketers, how closely are you monitoring what’s being said about your brand? Who are the trusted sources of the future going to be as people are less trusting of government and media brands; they increasingly trust recommendations from other people. How will tunnel vision impact on brand discovery – will your brand be found?

  • Digital dieting

People are reassessing how technology is meant to be making their lives easier. Before 1990 we had no internet and now we are checking our smartphones 200 times a day, multi screening and our attention spans are decreasing. Combined with this people are getting more concerned about privacy, social interaction skills falling, etc.

But what people are prepared to do is more complex. Mindshare’s research pointed to digital detoxing being an urban myth. What is more likely is that people make little changes here and there, and not consistently. So for example they unplug for an hour in the evening, or they turn off notifications, coming off social media platforms for periods of time, opting for a dumb phone (just text and call) but maybe in addition to their smartphone! And people are using tech to manage tech with things like mindfulness apps.

So how balanced are your communications platforms? How can you help people achieve that in their lives – get them outdoors and doing things? A lot of the behaviours in this trend vary with the different audiences, for example when parents are worried about their children’s screen habits, or men being more likely to come off social media than women.