The customer trends that should shape every marketing tech investment in 2016

The slick, well-rehearsed presentations at CES can be enough to convince the most conventional of marketers that tech alone is the solution to all their problems; it’s not and just to prove it The Drum has outlined the five consumer trends every marketer should consider before investing in technology.

Connected living

Will 2016 be the year of the smart home? Probably not but it will be the year when marketers start to understand how people want to be treated by brands amid the ubiquity of a connected world. From Samsung’s grocery ordering smart fridge to Disney’s secret AI, Netflix’s mood-based targeting to Amazon’s virtual assistant, this year’s CES showed how the success of the internet of things is predicated on the tech removing pain points from people’s daily lives.

MasterCard’s digital boss Sherri Haymond summed it up succinctly when she said: “We understand that consumers don’t wake up and say ‘I have to make a payment today’ they say ‘I need to get a cup of coffee or I need to make sure that I can get on the train and pay for it. It’s about what’s driving consumer journeys before and after the payment.”

Natural interfaces

Companies are increasingly selling solutions rather than devices and in order to do that properly it needs to have an intuitive design. Voice-control, gesture activation and natural language interfaces were prominent features of many CES launches, a clear sign that people are becoming comfortable with interacting with machines in a more natural way. What’s more is that there are already signs that the big players are converging their interfaces around a set of standard design principles, meaning that people should be able to switch seamlessly between the different systems.

“The reality is that there’s going to be an arms race between the big four against a converged set of features because if they divert too much from a design standpoint then people won’t tolerate it,” said Joel Espelien, senior analyst at The Diffusion Group. The same can also be said for those dominate interfaces in those markets where English isn’t the first language like China’s Wechat and India’s Tata Communications.

Over the top content

The spread of cord cutting in homes is giving rise to people using broadcasters more for the bandwidth rather than the content. Netflix’s move into nearly every market this month spotlights the prosperity that paradigm can offer, while ESPN’s hemorrhaging audience showed its perils. “2015 was the year we went from appointment TV to Netflix and chill,” opined Intel’s vice president of its corporate strategy office Genevieve Bell. “It’s been fascinating to see how content producing are adapting to a world where people want the entire story all at once.”

That insatiable appetite for content was also touched on during YouTube’s keynote at CES, where chief business officer Robert Kyncl cited Cisco research that video will top 90 per cent of global internet traffic by 2019 – a full year ahead of his prediction. While 20th Century Fox’s resident futurist Ted Schilowitz said it was looking to strike strategic partnerships, particularly with VR experts, in response to how people want to experience films in light of the myrid of ways they can now access premium content.

Wireless bandwidth

“About eight years ago the cost of digital delivery and the cost of postal delivery crossed and there’s been no looking back,” said Netflix’s content boss Ted Sarandos at CES, highlighting its somewhat symbiotic relationship with wireless bandwidth. Netflix has been able to piggyback off the spread of wireless broadband to many markets at a time when many mobile operators are trying to tap into shift in consumption habits with disruptive plays of their own.

Whether it was O2’s smart home platform for the UK at CES or Verizon’s deal with Ericsson in anticipation of more connected devices, it was clear that this year will see many mobile operators deviate from their traditional models. But this is dependant on the arrival of 5G wireless, which is being developed with the Internet of Things in mind.

Chetan Sharma, chief executive at Chetan Sharma Consulting, explained: “The marketing answer is that 5G will come in the next two years; the technical answer is that the standards won’t be done by until 2018 and the final parts in 2019, right in time for the 2020 Olympics."

Sensing and processing

Cloud services like file storage were out in force at the tech conference, spurred by the fact that they are the backbone for how content is being rerouted to people worldwide. Cisco made a number of announcements in a bid to woo broadcasters and media companies as it look to put itself at the fore of cloud innovation. Interestingly, the cloud is seen as the driving force behind many of the advancements in the health and fitness space, with IT vendor trumpeting new advancements for users to measure readings like blood pressure that can be uploaded to a platform for medical professionals to asses.

It’s not the sexiest thing for marketers to consider but a robust cloud platform could be the difference between having a connected strategy that wins long-term investment in the boardroom in 2016.