The digital landscape never stands still. It's driven by powerful forces that shift and evolve worldwide, and with the accelerated pace of innovation it often feels like we're walking on quicksand. In this part of the world these leaps forward are set to be even greater than those experienced by the West over the last decade. Smart services, intelligent infrastructure, automation, connectivity and integration with the physical environment are already rapidly transforming consumer engagement.
Consumer behaviour is likewise changing fast. Shorter attention spans, hyperconnectivity, and rising expectations are spreading across a growing number of physical and digital touchpoints, pushing brands to create more value, smarter contextualisation and better content personalisation. We're at a moment in time where brands are experiencing unprecedented pressure to better understand people, their motivations and their unique state of mind.
With big tech developments on the horizon in 2018, the following seven previews offer a first look at a rapidly expanding digital world.
Messaging platforms have become the new second home screen for people across the five continents. WeChat, Messenger, WhatsApp and Line, are the new OS, providing text, voice, visual and transactional support on a single interface that everyone can understand and use everyday, everywhere.
Despite a slow (and somewhat flawed) start as brand platforms, conversational commerce provides a huge opportunity for brands to access a whole new level of data, and as a result, a deeper understanding of existing and potential customers. Successful executions so far include Dominos (food ordering and tracking), DoNotPay (automated legal advice), Sephora (consulting) and even Louis Vuitton (luxury inspiration).
Additionally, the advent of voice-enabled assistants, like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Clova in Japan, has opened up the potential of conversational services to a wide range of scenarios. These new interactions remove barriers to entry and friction, enabling brands to offer progressively smarter and more personalised experiences. Brands must be bold enough to evolve their digital services, take full advantage of this new ecosystem, capitalise on it to stay ahead of the curve, and own the relationship with their consumers.
Smaller cameras, social feeds, hyper connectivity and bottom-up storytelling are empowering people everywhere to become creators, and creativity is shared freely across the digital seas. This open canvas is driving a move from traditional media and content into micro-formats, led by social channels catering for our fast moving society. Platforms, tools, and technologies that enable people to create snappier content are a golden opportunity for brands that want to speak the same language as their audience. Long form films will always tell amazing stories, but the reality of a social-first mobile culture means that brands must invest in content made for where people are actually at, and for what they really care about.
There is a clear shift towards content and context. Consumers expect content to be timely, relevant, valuable and personal. Brands no longer have to depend on black-box, walled enterprise solutions; the digital landscape is flourishing with easy to integrate, flexible and customizable services that can be combined to build incredible powerful digital services across multiple touchpoints, at a speed never seen before.
The legacy systems that forced brands into bulky, slow and costly enterprise platforms are no longer up to scratch. In their place, leaner, data-driven and cloud-based content management platforms, along with API-driven, plugable services are on the rise, enabling companies willing to adapt to move faster, and providing them with creative and technical flexibility, and less commitment and risk. Innovative companies and startups are moving to technology as a service, providing cloud-based, scalable and secure intelligent modern platforms for brands to build upon.
Holistic experience design
With an evolving digital landscape, new human behaviours arise. The East is about to explode with the rise of holistic experience design, moving away from traditional media and screens, into exciting new ways of consuming, sharing and creating content through a whole new range of experiences. Experience Design is surely one of the next big leaps that will help the region take brand experiences and consumer behaviours to the next level.
Brands must embrace the constantly-changing digital ecosystem, and invest in platforms that allow holistic experiences to be developed. Siloed experiences that only work on one channel don’t cut it anymore, neither does traditional broadcast media. Brands need to quickly ramp up their holistic experience design talent pool or partner with companies that have a track record on experience design and systematic thinking to create experiences that adapt, serve and offer value to people across their journey to the myriad of digital touch points.
Despite the inflated buzz and confusion around cryptocurrencies, the underlying technology that powers distributed ledgers and smart contracts is bound to create a new ecosystem of hyper-distributed, secure services that effectively change the way that the Internet works. With increasing pressure on dismantling net neutrality, and the rise of blockchain based solutions, brands must experiment with the technology to find the best potential use that they could bring into their services ecosystem.
The Third Screen
As electric cars become the norm, and we start to see driverless cars in our cities, a new immersive space is evolving. In-car entertainment is poised to become the new third screen, where people will increasingly watch, connect and interact. With the benefit of a bigger screen on the go, more computer power and comfort, this emerging automotive space is bound to allow brands multiple new possibilities. Taking a closer look at the white space opportunities here is going to represent a new revenue stream for forward-thinking business drivers.
Connected spaces—the combination of hardware, sensors, IoT and software at the intersection of physical and digital—is finally empowering a new trend in retail. The shopping experience is set to depart from traditional transactional/customer service characteristics, and become a rich incarnation of stories and systems. Looking ahead, this is the perfect way for brands to combine inspiration and entertainment. There's already a new term for this future state—Retailtainment—and although buzzwords come and go, it's naming a reality that we will see come to life as traditional retail spaces grow and transform.
As we see 2018 unfold, the digital landscape in Japan and Asia Pacific is just ripe for companies to be bold, think forward, and experiment with new ways of creating valuable and memorable experiences through a new generation of digital services. It’s time to capitalise on technology, and get there faster.
|Anthony Baker is Asia-Pacific group technology director at R/GA, based in Tokyo.|