Richard Dixon

2018 – Digital gets the Human Touch?

Digital technologies and trends move so fast that predicting some of the key trends can be a real challenge – even just for the year ahead. This year we believe the changes we will see will transform how we communicate. Impacting the way we access content, interact with each other and protect our personal data. In sum, the trends for 2018 can be themed under digital getting the human touch.

Finding our voice

Tech companies have invested billions in voice technologies, and 2018 is when user behaviour will change. Driven by voice assistants from all the major players on mobile devices and in the home, voice search is set to rise dramatically. Already in 2016 google voice searches were 35 times more than in 2008. By 2020 50% of all searches will be via voice according to ComScore. And 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020 according to MediaPost. This is a dramatic change in how users will interact with content.

Visualising our needs

Adding to the mix is the rise of visual search. Although this concept has been around for a few years, now the technology is catching up. Visual search is the ability of users to find items through imagery. Looking to see where you can buy a light fitting? Take a picture and get the search engine to locate where it is sold. Although in its infancy by comparison, the announcement by Bing of visual search and ‘Lens’ by Pinterest, this is a hot area set to grow.

Talking the same language

People and computers have always struggled to communicate – we speak different languages for a start! So we developed a ‘user interface’ which allowed us to translate the user needs in a way that surfaced the right content to them. Now with the advances in Artificial Intelligence, we are seeing the rise of conversational user interfaces – through chatbots on websites or a full voice conversation. Done right, this can be a much quicker and smother experience for users and will transform how websites work in the future. Gartner predict that this year 20% of all business content will actually be authored by machines! So 2018 will see this become mainstream.

Developing our personal social skills

The whole concept of social media originally was to enable people to connect with their friends and associates and engage in common interests and news. Since then of course it has exploded beyond any expectations. However, with this has come real challenges. First there is Fake News – by which we mean bots and programmes creating and promoting content, that isn’t from real people, to shift public opinion and sentiment. Second there is the overuse of ‘Influencers’ which increasingly means B grade celebrities up for sale to endorse any old product for a quick buck. Third there is real public concern over the social media platforms willingness to intervene in the content that is published. All this has led to a dramatic drop intrust in social media channels – and a trend all platforms will address in 2018. Content will need to become more authentic, more relevant and more personal. Influencer marketing will focus on the genuine, and promoted content from businesses and brands and media will be less prominent (as already announced by Facebook). So brands will have to become much better at creating genuine authentic content, and leveraging user generated content.

Taking control of our personal security

2017 was full of news about security of personal information with a wave of security breaches of big brands. Combined with the threats of rogue states or individuals on our IT infrastructure and social platforms, both governments and individuals are increasingly concerned about personal data protection and privacy. In May companies will have to have met the GDPR regulations, so 2018 will see personal privacy and digital security as hot topics throughout the year.

2018 is set to be an exciting year for those involved in all aspects of digital!