The Internet’s evolution from a PC connectivity feature to a force that helps consumers run and shape their lives has opened up new targeting possibilities for brands in 2016.
How many? According to Interbrand and digital marketing agency Ready Set Rocket, marketers can tap seven major trends to grow their brands this year. All of them revolve around the upheaval currently being wrought by a pervasive Internet.
“Generally the overarching thread is a shift in the Internet away from a dedicated slice of time through a dedicated device to becoming this fabric that overlaid over everyday life,” said Gareth Price, technical director at Ready Set Rocket, in an interview with CMO.com. That shift has happened over the past few years as consumers now spend more time on their mobile devices than on desktop, and the first Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smart washing machines and smart thermostats are hitting the market.
Assessing the landscape, the two agencies offered the following seven trends that marketers can use to their advantage in 2016:
1. Hybrid Living Reaches Mainstream America
The first trend is that this type of uncontained Internet is becoming mainstream. Within a short time, Interbrand and Ready Set Rocket foresee that consumers will begin to develop and warm to “smart spaces” that recognize them and create immersive environments that are very specific to that consumer’s needs and wants.
The Nest thermostat is a step in this direction, according to Price. Nest knows when you’re in the room and lights up when it recognizes you. That’s why Nest is “definitely an example of slowly starting to move toward spaces that are aware of your presence in them,” Price said. A truly smart appliance would know that you’re on the way or arriving and make changes based on that. For brands, the opportunity is to become part of these smart spaces.
2. Sixth Sense
As the Nest example illustrates, it’s not enough for devices to meet consumers’ needs in the present moment. Instead, the opportunity is to anticipate those needs. A very timely example is Amazon’s Dash Replenishment-powered devices, which hit the market this week. Those devices, including Brother printers and a GE washing machine, order replacement supplies (ink and detergent, respectively) before you run low.
Beyond that, Price said technology that empathizes with consumers is also a growing trend. “Right now we’re seeing that with notifications,” he said. Instead, your phone might be more sparing with the notifications and only alert you when it runs across something that is likely to interest you.
3. Elastic Technology
The transition from desktop to mobile was just the beginning. In the near future, consumers will access devices from a multitude of devices. For brands, the opportunity is to create a customized method of interacting with each individual consumer. Price said brick-and-mortar retailers, in particular, have fallen down at providing the kind of seamless multichannel fulfillment that consumers are craving. Ideally, a consumer would receive an offer on her phone from a retailer, then visit the store and be able to tap an in-store touch screen to summon the item. “So the transaction is fully end-to-end,” Price said.
4. Little Big Brands
How do you keep pace with digital disruption if you’re a huge, established player? Partner with a nimble startup. Paola Norambuena, Interbrand’s chief content officer, said that the relationship is symbiotic. “We’re finding that brands are having to borrow from each other,” she said. A good recent example of this is General Motors’ decision to partner with Lyft to create self-driving cars.
5. The New Tribalism
As traditional cultural institutions have faded, consumers have moved to the Internet to create their own communities based on affinity, not geography or demographics. We’ve seen how movements like Occupy Wall Street can start seemingly overnight. Norambuena said brands have the same opportunity. In particular, GoPro has created a community around its videos of extreme sports, and the biotech firm 23andMe has launched a platform for self discovery.
6. Complete Customization
As Price explained, customization can be an overwhelming task for consumers. While some mavens will want to delve deep and design their own products and experiences, “the majority just want to make a decision and press a button,” he said. In other cases, customization is not so much about designing an experience as it minimizing pain and risk. That’s the idea behind a partnership last year between IBM’s Watson and pharma chain CVS. By accessing health records and pharmacy information, CVS and Watson can help employees work with primary care physicians to provide customized recommendations to deal with chronic diseases.
7. The Privacy Exchange
In 2016, most consumers are well aware of the value of their data and how marketers plan to use it. That puts the onus on brands to make sure there’s a fair value exchange, Price said. “Brands need to focus on asking for only the data they need to perform an action,” he said. “If they want information, they’re going to have to provide something valuable.”