Brand marketing is in the midst of rapid innovation, which is both exciting and challenging to navigate. An evolving digital landscape requires marketers to continually analyze and plan for the future, while being nimble and agile enough to adjust quickly in an ever-changing environment. 2019 will be no exception.
I’ve identified three key trends that will be at the forefront of the digital experience evolution in the New Year. These experiences will change the way we interact with social media, websites, mobile apps, and smart devices, both personally and professionally, in the year to come.
1) Data-Informed Design
Designing digital experiences today is a delicate blend of art and science. Striking a balance between the two is tricky, and I don’t envy the designers who are tasked with harmonizing the pragmatic with the aesthetically pleasing. As we move toward a world in which everything is measurable, designers must seek out data and insights to inform their work.
Some effective forms of data collection include:
- Web, social and email analytics
- Click, heat and scroll maps
- Recorded user sessions
- Funnel analysis
- A/B testing and site optimization techniques
- User testing
- First click and five second tests
The avenues used to collect user insights are numerous. These tools are becoming more affordable and easier for marketers to implement, as illustrated by HotJar’s explosive growth. At CQL, we gather data and insights regularly through a variety of the techniques above to inform our experience design and strategy projects.
2) Bringing Humanity Back into Digital Experiences
This might seem to contradict the previous trend, but at the end of the day we’re designing experiences for people, not robots, and consumers increasingly want to connect with brands on a genuine, emotional, and human level. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant might not be as engaging if the voices on the other side of the devices felt cold and mechanical.
As digital experiences become more personal, they must also break out from the sea of similarity. When brands moved from desktop only to device responsive sites, a formulaic approach to scaling and stacking ensued. Marketing intelligence then enabled brands to optimize user experiences for conversion using the same design techniques. Today, businesses must look toward the next incarnation of their digital presence, which needs to connect with consumers and deliver a personalized experience.
Yeti, the lifestyle brand offering coolers, drinkware, and outdoor accessories, has designed a site that expertly elevates human experience without sacrificing performance. Visual storytelling through photography and dynamic language entice those seeking an active lifestyle. Images are original and brand-specific. Product information is augmented with action shots of the product being used ‘in the wild.’ Yeti does a fantastic job of building excitement for outdoor adventures and helping consumers imagine how Yeti products blend seamlessly into their life.
3) Redefining Search
Search technologies and experiences are entering a renaissance period. Text search has been the dominant approach to finding information for decades, but we are now entering an age where search is increasingly executed beyond the keyboard.
As consumers rapidly adopt connected cars, smart speakers, and other IoT devices, voice searches utilizing the digital assistants tied to these technologies are exploding. Some forecasts estimate voice search to make up 30-50% of all searches by 2020. Marketers must start considering how to optimize their experiences for voice search as natural language, digital assistant interactions and voice search results often differ from their text-only counterparts.
Visual search is another growing search trend marketers must plan for. Consumers may encounter a product of interest browsing social media feeds or find a work of art hanging on a restaurant wall that is perfect for their home. In these instances, visual search can power a shopping experience more efficiently than a text query.
Visual search tools from Google, Amazon, eBay and Snapchat are starting the shift how users find products and information. Google Lens, for example, now integrates visual search directly into the camera app, creating a new search touchpoint for users. Pinterest Lens enables searchers to “discover ideas inspired by anything you point your Pinterest camera at.” Just snap a picture and Pinterest will return remarkably-accurate pins of similar products or images. Pinterest has recently extended the Lens functionality to a Lens Your Look feature, which helps searchers find outfits inspired by something in their own wardrobe, including shoppable products from thousands of partners.
Voice and visual search will rapidly accelerate now that consumers are accustomed to adopting new technologies at an equally hurried pace. These growing search formats will require brands to create new content and metadata if they want to remain relevant.
Elevating digital experiences with data-informed, human-centered design and expanded search capabilities will help catapult brands in 2019 by delivering on rising customer expectations. While these shifts are an evolution, not a revolution, they can still make or break a business, in some industries, as adoption grows and new benchmarks are set. Either way, we’re entering an exciting moment in time as innovation surges at rapid pace.