The last decade brought immeasurable change in the way we interact with the digital world. This will certainly continue into the 2020s, but we’ll be even less aware of it as the lines between physical and online spaces become more blurred.
2020 will see huge changes, from new technology to dramatic alterations to the law. What should your business be aware of, and how can you prepare yourself for the year ahead?
We look at some of the areas that will shape the year in Digital.
With 5G beginning its UK-wide rollout in earnest this year, we’ll begin to see a fraction of its capabilities.
The impact will be huge. Improved connectivity will have an obvious impact on consumer lives through improved data collection, streaming, video communications and greater personalisation. It will also allow enormous strides to be taken in technologies such as autonomous vehicles, agriculture monitoring, AI, remote healthcare and augmented reality.
The real fascination will be in areas where we cannot yet comprehend. Just as 4G brought about entirely new industries in mobile food delivery, dating, streaming services and the travel and transport gig economy, 5G will create entirely new sectors we cannot yet comprehend.
With this will come inevitable disruption. Businesses must be prepared for technology that will shape the next decade.
Will increased data help improve your efficiency? Can you create (legally compliant) PR stories from your data? Have you stress-tested the impact 5G will have on your business, your employees and your competitors? Have you communicated this to your customers?
An ever-more connected world, with almost infinite data points, will produce unprecedented amounts of audience information. We are used to being targeted with adverts and videos based on our online browsing habits, and the next step will see greater predictive targeting, hyper-local targeting or real-time ads based on personal data.
Supermarkets could serve in-store AR ads for your preferred brands, based on data shared between your fridge and a shopping app. Real-time footfall amongst different demographics can be tracked to inform shop layout. “Parallel reality” has already shown that you can display personalised information to multiple individuals, simultaneously, on the same screen. These innovations are already reality, and they all point in one direction; “make it relevant to me.”
The most popular new social networks have been focused around niche interest in gaming, music or video, and Mark Zuckerberg has spoken at length about his wish to place Community Groups for peer-created interests “at the heart of the experience as much as your friends and family are.”
As the content we’re shown is more tailored to our interests, we start to tune out ads and videos that are not. Personalised content is not just the way forward, it’s the only way forward.
Organisations need to make sure that they fully understand who is using their services, and that they are giving those audiences the care, attention and interaction that they need.
A series of scandals and negative news stories have eroded some of the trust we have in technology companies. The use and sharing of personal data, proliferation of fake news, issues over political advertising and transparency over targeting have raised questions around online marketing and campaigning.
The ramifications of these stories are likely to be debated between the companies and the international courts in the coming years, but marketers have a role to play in demystifying the process and rebuilding trust. Audience profiling shouldn’t be a dark art, targeted ads shouldn’t necessarily be feared, and analytics need to be understood by everyone for what they are – and what they’re not.
Building trust takes time and effort, and an ability to resist quick fixes. Transparency, honesty and the ability to clearly and concisely communicate– and compete with shrinking attention spans – are often at odds with each other, but each is vital.
A significant amount of digital activity is driven by short-termism. This is understandable in a relatively new medium. Campaigns which generate huge ROIs or quickly turn around public perception are possible, but they are the exception rather than the norm. Social media may fuel our need for instant gratification, but it needs resisted if we’re to create anything more meaningful, and the era of instant analytics should not lead to a demand for instant results.
We need to constantly ask ourselves “what is the point”? There may be validation in viral content, video views or engagements, but are they helping us achieve tangible objectives. Did the video that was seen by three million people make any impact on sales?
There will be greater scepticism about digital metrics in 2020. There have already been questions raised and apologies made by some platforms over their lack of consistency on numbers and reporting. This isn’t going to die down, and there will only be greater scrutiny on What It All Means.
True success cannot be quantified quickly. Businesses must have clarity of purpose, conviction in what they’re doing, and the right tools in place to assess their effectiveness. Whatever qualifies as success in the short term needs to make a positive impact on that purpose.
Greater regulation is coming, across the web.
In a bid to stay ahead of impending changes to the law, and show some self-regulation, some of the larger social media companies have taken a stand, which has included banning political advertising and banning deep-fake videos.
Law-makers are likely to push for further action, particularly in personal data use, hate-speech and online bullying and on the status of social networks as content hosts or content creators.
Arguably the most significant piece of legislation could be the EU’s Digital Services Act. Due for review at the end of 2020, the proposal would hand far greater responsibility to digital platforms for the content they host and places the emphasis of responsibility on networks to self-police. Based on existing legislation in Germany and France, platforms will be required to take down any content hosted on their network that falls under a number of categories, including hate-speech, homophobia, copyrighted materials, the promotion of terrorist activity and content harmful to children.
The legislation also proposes the establishment of a centralised regulation body for digital ads, either under the umbrella of the EU or a network of national regulators.
There will also be the impact of Brexit. At the time of writing, the UK will be leaving the EU ahead of the Digital Services Act’s discussion. We cannot foresee whether the UK will adopt a similar piece of legislation. Current discussion seems to suggest the UK is likely to stay within existing GDPR rules but could opt-out on the EU Copyright Directive, data-privacy measures or social media regulation. However, a white paper from April 2019 suggests a relatively similar approach to tackling illegal content is likely.
The Californian Consumer Privacy Act is also likely to become law in 2020, with similar legislation expected to follow across the US and in China. While that won’t have a direct effect on the UK, it will force the world’s biggest tech companies to evaluate how they are using and storing data. That will have an impact on almost every digital platform.
If you are using digital avenues to interact with potential customers through paid advertising, marketing materials or even on a community management level, you need to be aware of changes to the law. Expert consultants can help you stay ahead of the impending regulation.
A tightening of the law may mean we have less audience data to analyse for targeting. That places even more emphasis on what we do best – the power of great creative ideas.
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