Virtual reality (VR)
Once confined only to 80s movies and children’s TV show Knightmare, VR is suddenly upon us. Up until now the VR devices available have been mostly mobile compatible holders like Google Cardboard, but next year there are some very anticipated dedicated VR headsets being released, such as the Oculus Rift and Sony’s PlayStation VR. The New York Times gave away 1.3m Google Cardboard headsets to its print subscribers in November to “simulate richly immersive scenes from across the globe.” Right now, it might be seen as a bit of a gimmick for brands but soon it could become (as mobile and video have) an important place for consumer interaction.
Augmented reality (AR)
No, you didn’t just read the same thing twice; completely deserving of its own place on this list is augmented reality. Currently more prevalent than VR, some people argue that AR will be more useful to consumers and is therefore more likely to become a mainstream product. Google is investing very heavily in the secretive startup AR Magic Leap, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is set to launch next year.
AR overlays information into your real world view. You’ve probably seen those live translation apps or a map route overlaid onto a road through your phone’s camera. The great thing about AR for brands is that it works really well with traditional media. Outdoor and print ads can use AR to pull up all sorts of additional information and interactive elements that would otherwise be impossible to incorporate into a standard ad.
Earlier in the year the Acumen Report revealed that 13-24s were watching more digital video than TV; this didn’t really surprise anyone but it’s nice to be able to prove these things in an argument. Another interesting stat from the report was that this age group is nearly watching as much subscription video (such as Amazon Prime) as it is free content (YouTube, social media). Companies have caught on to this and a whole host of streaming services to rival the mainstays were launched this year. New streaming services will continue popping up throughout 2016 but they will begin to focus in certain areas such as ultra-high definition or specialised genres.
Original, quality content
One advantage of producing your own content is being able to control the audience that it is distributed to. Netflix has announced it will be doubling its original programming from 16 to 31 shows. Expect more brands to get into this in 2016, and not just video content. Big brands will look to outsource all types of content creation and use white label websites to retain control over how and to whom the content is distributed. The golden rule is to be sure that it works across devices. Research from Adobe revealed that nearly 8 in 10 of consumers would stop engaging with content if it did not display well on their device.
Mobile live streaming
Two apps launched this year which brought mobile live streaming quite a lot of attention. Twitter-owned Periscope has over 10m users and was named iPhone app of the year by Apple; and Meerkat raised $14m dollars in funding. Recently Facebook announced it will start testing live streaming in the US for iPhone users. A new icon will enable users to pick their audience and to start streaming right from their profile, with the video also being saved for later viewing. Whether this more targeted form of video streaming will be taken up by the mainstream remains to be seen, but for the vloggers who want to reach a mass audience it probably won’t change much.
Ad personalisation is obviously not new and it’s still far from 100% accurate. Most of us will have experienced an erroneous recommendation from an online retailer for something we bought as a gift. Yet some brands have progressed large scale ad personalisation during 2015. The Lexus ‘Beyond Utility 1000 to 1’ campaign showed us what campaigns of the future might look like. Each of the thousand executions was slightly different depending on the viewer’s interests, and the engagement metrics were suitably impressive. Next year expect to see brands experimenting more with this type of multi creative approach which can be specifically targeted to different audience groups.
Alongside ads being more personal, look out for them arriving at more helpful times too. As insight and data into the time people are doing things becomes more detailed, so does the ability to reach someone at the right moment. Research like the IPA’s TouchPoints and Google Trends give detailed insights into the workings of consumer’s day to day lives. For example, there tends to be a second late night peak for the search “pizza delivery”, something a savvy pizza brand could use to its advantage.
The launch of Twitter Moments complete with ‘Promoted Moments’ shows how reaching consumers at the right time will become more prevalent for brands during 2016.
Of course ad blocking had to feature in a media rundown. 2015 has been filled with coverage about ad blocking and user interest has risen strongly over the last few years. Latest numbers from the IAB show that 18% of online British adults are currently using ad blocking software, and that they are more likely to be young men. Yet 1 in 2 ad blocker users would be less likely to block ads if the ads didn’t interfere with what they were doing, and the majority would rather have ads than pay to access content. So in 2016 look out for publishers and content creators testing ways to curtail the ad blocking challenge. This could be through a number of schemes like user membership, content restriction, ad personalisation or even ethical ad blocking.
The rise in companies like Uber and Airbnb have had the unusual consequence of the consumers being on the end of reviews too. Although, eBay started a similar process a fair few years ago it has become far more common for the user of a service to be rated as well as the provider. nVision reports that 53% of GB consumers would be happy to be rated by a company whose services they have used. It’s about building trust in a digital world where security and privacy are more of a concern than ever. The Guardian’s recently conducted Influential Brands research highlighted the importance of trust as a key driver for building an influential brand.
Drones, batteries and robots (Crowd sourced trends)
Finally, we asked the Guardian Crowd (the Guardian’s reader panel) what new type of technology or media they thought would make an impact in 2016. A Wordle of the respondents answers is above. Wearables, smartwatches and the continued evolution of the mobile were the most common opinions and also topics we discussed in last year’s trends blog.
Virtual reality, the commercial use of drones and 3D printing represented newer tech which some think will make an impact next year. Other areas of speculation included improvements to battery technologies, electric cars and robots.
Here’s looking forward to all of them next year…except the robots!
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010.