Amaze reveals ten predictions for digital innovation in 2017

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Digital marketing, technology and commerce consultancy, Amaze, reveals its top ten industry predictions for 2017. Its chief strategists and technologists set out how human behaviour will influence digital advancements in the year ahead and what this will mean for brands, especially in terms of cognitive computing and Artificial Intelligence (A.I).

1. Hyper personalisation is possible – but expect a backlash

Consumers have become sensitive about the data they give up and are demanding greater control over how it is used. As well as understanding the value of data they are increasingly wary of a dystopian future where everything is connected and personalised. People will be less willing to give away personal data for the benefit of brands and want personalisation where it counts - where it saves time, helps to make decisions or results in a quicker purchase. The value exchange, whereby consumers identify themselves in exchange for a clear benefit(s), has never been more critical - and brands that understand and leverage this effectively will gain a clear advantage over those that fail to do so.

2. The digital enterprise hub will be embraced

Businesses will look to consolidate their digital technical strategies in the year ahead and develop cohesive digital enterprise hubs. These will act as a control centre for an organisation's entire digital estate bringing together and managing all digital assets and placing the customer at the centre of the digital ecosystem. This will take businesses beyond traditional content management and commerce solutions bringing together data, intelligence, content, functionality and back office functions as more capability is added for the consumer.

3. The echo chamber will open up

The world was largely stunned by Brexit in the UK and Trump's victory in the US Presidential election because many people were only exposed to one viewpoint in their online worlds in the run up to these significant events. This has highlighted a growing reliance on social media as a first port of call for news and views and shows the powerful role that filters play in deciding what people see with no competing opinion on offer. Expect to see changes in social media's acknowledgement that it is a news outlet as well as a growing appetite for unfiltered information and opinion from a greater number of online outlets.

4. Here to help, anywhere and everywhere: digital assistants will take centre stage

The role of messaging platforms, including Facebook Messenger and Skype, as aids to brands that want to be ready and waiting to help with their customers' every need will grow. The rise in AI powered assistants will start to add real value, with brands combining live and virtual help to the extent that customers will not be able to perceive the difference. Purchases will become as simple as asking for help, telling an assistant what is wanted and giving payment details. Consumers won't have to find help on a website – it will be there already, waiting for them across all touchpoints.

5. Seeing is believing when it comes to AR

We're currently at the tipping point of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) becoming mainstream. Expect VR to continue to provide a new way to experience the fantastic, mainly in terms of entertainment with AR increasing its role in bringing content, services and interactions to customers in the physical world for commercial use. The very nature of AR, overlaying the real world with digital content, is a more impactful way to interact with a customer in a physical space and show them a wide range of products. Consumers will be able to see anything they want, from any source, with sales consultants presenting the product to them there and then without it being in the room.

6. Make it my way: the growing value of customisation

Whilst personalisation will start to become a less valuable customer proposition, customisation will become more so. The idea that a consumer can simply and easily customise anything will become the expectation, not the exception. Combined with the increasing role of AI driven customer care, this will allow brands to serve customers anywhere and find or create for them the perfect item. Rapid prototyping tools, including 3D printers, will continue to advance and will move from the factory and the home into the retail space.

7. Talk to me: voice recognition and the connected home becomes mainstream

As the connected home becomes mainstream consumers will start "talking" to their home environment and telling it what they want. As AI driven services and voice recognition become ever more sophisticated and embedded into the operating systems of connected devices around our home people will begin to interact with devices through voice alone. For brands, this means thinking about how they can integrate services that offer real utility with in-home devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. This moves beyond traditional 'advertising' and necessitates a deep, and ongoing, appreciation of consumer behaviours and expectations within a domestic setting.

8. The Year of the bots

With 40% of millennials preferring self-service, user-ship of messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Viber and Telegram now in the billions and VC investment in bot start-ups at an all-time high the role of autonomous software will be big in 2017. Taking human intervention out of the equation and introducing automation will make more of the basic interactions people take for granted with retailers, businesses and other service providers quicker, simpler and more effective leading to fewer complaints and less time wasted. For businesses large and small this represents both a threat and an opportunity – the simplest, most effortless experiences will gain consumer traction – and the intelligent use of bots will be a key determinant in bringing this speed and simplicity to business-consumer interaction. However, the use of bots is not right for every brand and the smart ones will realise this and use them accordingly.

9. Promotions will get smarter

As a result of bot-driven machine learning and AI, more sophisticated and personalised offers will be developed. Deals will guarantee multiple delivery and payment options supported by real-time data and will take into account loyalty and rewards and data related to physical locations by tracking where a consumer has been and predicting where they are likely to be. Consumers and brands alike need to prepare for deeper, more contextual disruptions at every point in life. On phones, on smart TV, through social notifications and for the opted in, through individual or group messaging on the basis of recent conversations. Groups discussing fashion, holidays or films who make a conscious decision to opt-in could receive automated deals and content direct from advertisers served through DSP's on the basis of AI.

10. Permission will be King

With deeper, more contextual marketing predicted at every point in life, on a phone, through a smart TV or via social notifications, data sharing agreements will need to become more transparent and permission will be more sought after. Consumers will demand control over how they are targeted and the right to know if they are talking to a real person or not. A kill switch must be offered for those who want less or want out.

Alex Comyn, Chief Strategy Officer at Amaze comments: "Innovation is becoming a way of life for brands as the pace of digital advancements speeds up. Brands are beginning to understand how quickly the world is changing around them and that questioning business models to harness new technology and respond to changing human behaviour is the only way forward.

"Agencies, such as Amaze, have evolved to help facilitate this transformation and increasingly we are becoming the critical friend who can challenge conventional thinking in business and help come up with and sell in solutions that will enable organisations to thrive as digital moves on."

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