2016 is now upon us, and for those of us in the research business, it’s a chance to pool our collective knowledge and lay out what we think will be the most important areas of focus in the new year. From the minds of Altimeter analysts Charlene Li, Susan Etlinger, Ed Terpening and Omar Akhtar, here are Altimeter’s top trends for 2016:
Agile customization of experiences becomes a priority
Advanced digital organizations will use data to drive customized experiences based not only on static transaction profiles, but on dynamic data from real time social engagement, website activity and even their social graph activity. This will require deep integration of CRM, marketing automation, content publishing, and social engagement platforms, tied together with world-class analytics. Omni-channel brands like Sephora will lead the charge, having digitized almost all aspects of the experience, including the physical retail store.
Digital governance becomes a necessity
While terribly mundane, many organizations will reach a breaking point in 2016 where the morass known as digital/social/mobile will require a wholesale review of how they work with each other and across the enterprise. Central to this effort will be the rationalization of the digital C-Suite, identifying the roles and digital responsibilities of the CEO, COO, CMO, CIO, and the need for new positions like the Chief Digital Officer and Chief Experience Officer.
Social goes paid
Despite the hope that social platforms represented a new humanization of brands and companies, most marketers will treat Facebook and Twitter like the great paid channels that they have evolved into. With ever-evolving and maturing targeting opportunities, “social” will become another piece of the bought media decision, with the traditional social engagement moving squarely into service. That will leave the social media team searching for a new purpose, potentially moving into employee engagement and brand support via community engagement.
Rising Digital Ecosystem Complexity
Where once social media was the disruptor, organizations today are faced with an increasingly complex digital ecosystem in which social plays just a part:
Evolving Hybrid Org Models
As far back as 2005, organizations have been evolving their org structures to meet the needs of an integrated, holistic social business (e.g., Centralized vs. Hub & Spoke, etc.). Especially as social crosses more business functions and silos than ever, having a deliberate org structure—supported by a governance plan—is increasingly important, yet we continue to see companies struggle to create an effective Hub & Spoke structure that both gives autonomy to spokes and yet keeps strategy and social data aligned.
As evidenced by the flat growth of centralized, shared social hub teams, more autonomy is moving out to business functions like Sales, HR and geographies. As this spread occurs, we continue to see misalignment of strategy, data, tools and governance. In 2016, the value and role of the social hub will be an open question for many brands: what is the right balance between orchestrated and silo’d social? Does the social team belong in emerging digital teams, which are less focused on IT infrastructure and e-commerce, but rather pursuing new digital business models?
Paid Social Advertising and Social Sales Forces
Brands’ increased reliance on social ads to reach consumers as well as social commerce (“buy buttons”) and social sales force enablement will impact strategy and budget allocation. Will brands shift resources from engaging consumers through community management to paid social for reach? Will the rise of Employee Advocacy increase reach and reduce social ad spend? If that happens, how will social platforms like Facebook respond? Will social ads be managed by digital advertising teams with a more tactical, e-commerce focus or will brand teams continue their use of social at the top of the sales/marketing funnel?
Ethical data use and privacy will emerge as brand issues
We saw a lot of stories this year related to the explosion of digital information, multiple data breaches, pending legislation related to biometric and location data, and of course the news that the European Court of Justice had invalidated the “safe harbor” data transfer pact between the U.S. and the European Union. The law continues to struggle to keep up with user expectations, but my hope is that the conversation will become more productive. I will be looking at topics such as differential privacy and vendor relationship management—in which the individual, not the company, is at the center.
We will start to see analytics for the visual web
2015 was the year of the selfie stick, Caitlyn Jenner’s groundbreaking Vanity Fair cover and Jon Hamm’s final, enigmatic smile on Mad Men, but it was also the year that a single, heartbreaking image of Alan (Aylan) Kurdi, a Syrian child of Kurdish origin, reached 20 million screens around the world, poignantly conveying the impact of the refugee crisis in a way that words could never do.
Also this year, Flickr faced complaints about its auto-tagging algorithm, which mistakenly tagged photos of concentration camps as “jungle gym” and “sport,” raising the issue of how algorithms for visual content draw inferences, and what impact that may have on institutions and individuals.
As we move into 2016, it’s clear that we need mechanisms to better understand the impact and resonance of visual content on the web, and in fact companies such as Oracle, Crimson Hexagon, Tracx, Synthesio have partnered with emerging visual analytics companies such as Ditto and Piqora to that end. This is just a first step toward a discipline of interpreting and responding to the visual web; as brands, organizations and as human beings.
With artificial Intelligence, the future is becoming more evenly distributed*
In 2015 the Internet of Things hit the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” on the Gartner Hype Cycle, with autonomous vehicles and neurobusiness (!) not far behind. Just this week, investors such as Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel and Elon Musk pledged millions of dollars toward an OpenAI research center, which will “focus on improving digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole.” in 2016, AI and algorithms will enter the mainstream of business conversations as we grapple with the implications of automating thought and decision-making. On a related note, I fully expect “algorithm” to be word of the year in 2016.
* Thanks and apologies to William Gibson.
The consolidated “back-bone” MarTech platform
We’ve been seeing Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle and IBM battle it out in the “marketing cloud wars” where each company claims to offer the entire range of digital marketing solutions in one integrated platform. While no company can claim to offer all the solutions, let alone complete integration between them, each vendor has made a lot of progress, to the point where it now makes sense for most companies to consolidate all their digital marketing operations in one “marketing cloud” and integrate the missing functionalities into it. Aside from giving brands a chance to coordinate all their marketing activities on a single platform, it also sets the stage for unifying the customer experience across sales, service and marketing. For more details on this concept, check out our report on The Customer Experience Cloud.
Predictive Intelligence for Content
Technology vendors have created some extremely sophisticated tools to collect customer data from disparate sources and make them accessible to content strategists. In theory, this should allow content creators to create even more engaging, personalized content since they know now what their customers look like and how they engage with branded content. However, evaluating data is a job for data scientists not content creators, and they’re in short supply. As a result, analytics programs must be able to offer some element of prediction that applies to branded content. Whether it’s thought leadership, social media posts or product offers, analytics will be able to offer not just performance numbers on different types of content, but also what creators can do to boost their chances of engagement.
IoT will power post-purchase marketing efforts
For most marketers, their job ends once the customer makes the purchase. But with the rise of the Internet of Things, there is an opportunity to engage with customers long after they’ve exited the checkout counter. Sensors attached to physical products can send the manufacturer information about how the items are being used, whether they need repairs or upgrades or if they can be automatically re-ordered. While this is especially useful for high-tech appliances such as washers, fridges or cars, it can even be applied to ordinary products such as a bottle of booze. A company called Thin Film recently partnered with Johnny Walker Blue Label to create a “smart bottle” which can tracks the in-store movement of the item, its consumption, and send recommendations and tips to the customer via mobile. And that’s only one of the many ways we’ll be able to reshape customer engagement via the Internet of Things. We’ll be tracking all the others throughout the year.
The new areas of focus for Altimeter’s research team in the New Year.
A look at why it is imperative for the IoT industry to invest in, collaborate, and innovate specifically around security and privacy, not just broader IoT verticals.
It’s less about the hardware and more about the interoperability of content, services, use cases, communications across devices.
The implications of connected devices communicating at every moment.
How every company should evaluate itself against consumer privacy concerns.
A new survey by Altimeter Group reveals just how concerned consumers are about connected devices accessing and utilizing their personal data.
How to start crafting optimal customer experiences in the Internet of Things.
The three key benefits sensors can offer retailers for using IoT to drive loyalty.
The impact of IBM’s partnership with the Weather Company and its mammoth investment in IoT.
A look at the growth of Beacon devices and their impact on consumers.
Five definitive use cases illustrating how companies can use sensors to enhance customer experience.
Why won’t Apple focus on the actual use cases for Apple Watch instead of how it looks?
The reasons you need to attend Internet of Things World.
How companies can use the Internet of Things to create experiences that benefit both the brand and its customers.
The implications of the Internet of Things is so much more than the immediate value of a shiny gadget that connects to the Internet.
A look at what we give up and gain when we allow our lives to be turned into sources for data.
Successful IoT strategies the consumer product world can learn from B2B enteprises.
Microsoft’s cool new gadget could be a powerful tool in the hands of a business.
CES 2015 showed that companies are building too many devices, and not focusing enough on the the value they can provide through connectivity.
There is an elephant in the room when it comes to the Internet of Things. There is a critical element inherent to just about any IoT application that hardly ever sees the light of day in industry coverage of the topic.
For most of digital marketing’s relatively short history, personalization has been the ne plus ultra of sophisticated marketing.
As part of our open research process, I would like to extend an invite for your input, feedback, case examples, or any other insights you’d like to contribute to our upcoming research around the Internet of Things.
Your refrigerator has a message for you — and no, it’s not that you need more orange juice– it’s an ad for belly fat pills. Thanks, Refrigerator. This post was originally posted on Wearable World News. The original can be found here.
At the most basic level, the Internet of Things (IoT) is connectivity between people, processes and things. While this is as vast as it sounds — spanning all industries, the enterprise, and consumers — one of the central-most challenges facing…