Prediction 1: UX design will become more influential in marketing.
UX design has solidified as a profession in its own right: the attention to providing delightful experiences, together with the spread of many good examples across the industry, means that today most companies are aware of the importance of incorporating it into their products. For many brands, consumer loyalty comes from providing a great user experience rather than the marketing promises that they may make.
Knowing the needs of your users greatly helps in building a product that will become a success in a shorter amount of time. A good experience right from the start means that the product can easily advertise itself, instead of “build it and they will come”. A good example of this is Slack, the team messaging app, thanks to it being easy to try out and with good customer support.
We expect UX design to be more influential especially in defining the role of content across digital channels. Slack has used non-traditional marketing channels, such as podcasts, which are popular in the tech world, to great effect. This reveals the need to understand who the product or service is targeted at, which is something that UX deals with every day: it should not only be easy to use, but also be aware of who it is being delivered to, and in what context.
Prediction 2: Winning brands will be the ones that have everything connected.
For the most part, we tend use different devices depending on where we are and what we’re doing – a desktop or laptop at work, a tablet at home, and a smartwatch when out and about. This means that brands need to be constantly aware of how they are presenting themselves across different devices and channels. As bigger brands quickly adapt to this, they will set the example, so users naturally expect to see this everywhere. Moreover, a seamless experience across devices and channels creates familiarity and reassurance, and, when executed well, can be an extremely effective way to advertise the brand via social media and other online channels to the user base.
As more people engage with brands online, especially young consumers, it’s important that brands maintain an online presence which matches their identity. They also need to be aware of Internet behaviors and trends in order to avoid “Twitter storms”, which can have a very negative impact very quickly. This happened recently when Amazon customers took to social media to complain about the online retailer’s lack of decent offers during July 2015’s Prime Day celebration.
Prediction 3: Data-driven content will be responsible for building personal experience websites.
In 2016, we expect to see websites focusing more on providing customised content, which not only creates more engagement but also a more personal user experience. The challenge with tailoring content to users is how to deliver it to them without asking for anything in return. We know that in the online world people want direct access to everything without having to fill in anything, so we can take their browsing habits to inform these decisions. For example, Netflix recommends similar films or shows based on those previously watched, and Facebook shows relevant stories after an article link has been clicked.
In the same vein, editorial websites will adapt to the user’s behaviour and serve recommended articles based on previous views and browsing history. On e-commerce websites, product search results will be more accurate. This kind of predictive behaviour gets better over time: the more people consumer content, the more relevant the content is. But of course it’s important to provide a great experience to begin with.
Prediction 4: The battle over ‘branded space’ will continue.
There is no longer such a thing as unbranded space. Users are trying to claim back some of their digital environment with ad blockers. The industry’s response is to find ways to ban or block ad blockers. The eventual outcome is that users become completely blind to ads that aren’t referred to them by someone.
Following the release of Apple’s iOS9, which allows ad blocking plugins, it will be interesting to see in what new ways brands will seek to engage with users over ad space. It could mean a bigger shift towards in-app ads, which ad blockers can’t reach.
Another interesting dilemma is that facing independent content creators, such as YouTubers. Popular and successful YouTubers often have dedicated followers who are also tech-savvy, and likely to use ad blockers, which has a negative hamper on the creator’s ad revenue. Some fans have started to become aware of this and, because they want to support the creators, they have started to uninstall ad blockers while at the same time still disliking the ads. For bigger platforms and creators, ad revenue is not their main source of income, but for those with a smaller audience, it is much needed.
Prediction 5: The battle of apps vs. services.
There are fewer and fewer breakout apps in the mobile world that are exclusively a software product (other than games). The biggest successes now are apps that act as the front end of a service, such as Uber, AirBNB, Oscar and TransferWise. Their success is easy to see, and they have become a popular alternative to many pre-existing physical services. These apps provide a way of looking at ‘traditional’ (or real world) services which don’t work as well as they should do with a critical eye. But problems remain: some of these new crowdsourcing apps are still surrounded by legal and ethical issues.
In 2016, we believe that there won’t be any breakout apps on the mobile market that are purely a software product. There will not be another Paper 53, Snapchat, Instagram, Evernote or Tinder without a wider service attached, that in some way relates back to the physical world.