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With 2019 behind us, it’s helpful to think through some of the trends we’ve been tracking and how we believe they will impact technology and its users over the course of 2020. In some cases, these predictions influence our own bets from a product strategy and technology perspective. In other cases, it’s the pace of innovation itself motivating the call-out. Hey, we like to geek out about technology, too!
In that spirit, here are four predictions for tech-enabled brands in 2020:
Consumers Demand More Content
Content is king is a universally applicable concept. Consider that 83% of surveyed buyers voted product images and photos the most important driver in making a product decision. Now consider that, in 2016, buyers expected at least three images per product in order to make an informed purchase decision. Today, they expect up to eight images and two videos per product. That one of our customers—a large travel startup—imports over 100,000 images a day is evidence enough to demonstrate that Content is King. Without this valuable product context, buyers will go elsewhere to get their product questions answered in order to eventually make a product purchase. Without the right content readily available, a digital business has no chance of keeping its doors open.
In 2020, we predict that the number and variety of content formats will increase exponentially, with augmented reality (AR) formats, in particular, becoming part of the norm. We are beginning to see this across our own customer base as well, with the percentage of images overall giving way to far more video and innovative formats, like augmented reality-infused images. On that latter point—from eyewear companies to beauty brands to home furnishing giants like Ikea—AI-powered augmented reality experiences are already helping customers better visualize how a specific product will look when placed in their home or when worn with their current wardrobes. In 2020, we expect that several major players, particularly the more established brands, will move past the gimmick phase for augmented reality, and position AR-led product buying experiences front-and-center in order to attract their target buyers in an increasingly competitive retail market.
One Platform for Any Content Type
Over the last few years, slowly but surely, the lines dividing DAMs, PIMs, WCMs - and virtually all other content management focused platforms - have been blurring. Some of this is out of necessity and an increasingly collaborative and cross-functional workforce that demands having different types of assets (e.g., marketing assets and product assets) in the same system. But some of it is also due to key innovations in AI. Today, AI can organize and search across various forms of unstructured data types, all within the same system. For example, the e-commerce marketer is often responsible for optimizing product images and descriptions across online channels, requiring data pulls from multiple teams and systems like a DAM, PIM, and WCM. AI can automatically pull this information from these systems in mere seconds, eliminating the need for any individual DAM or PIM that typically handles only one content type.
We believe that this trend will pick up steam and that, over the course of 2020, the first general-purpose content platforms will emerge. Having a DAM and a PIM and a WCM for each organization to manage its own unique content types will be a thing of the past. Across our own customer base, we are already seeing the average customer start with four content platforms, and eventually move to two as our own Data Intelligence Platform takes on the work of other applications in their ecosystem. With AI powering the automation, we believe brands will be able to further simplify their tech stack by leveraging just one platform to manage all of their content data. In 2020, we’ll see a big shift from content data lakes to content data platforms and we don’t believe these offerings will come from any of the major cloud providers.
Year of the Citizen Developer
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) leaders like Blue Prism, UiPath, and Automation Anywhere took down significant rounds in 2019 to help fuel their rapid growth. However, in spite of the millions pouring into RPA startups and companies, the future trajectory of AI seems to be trending toward developments on Low Code platforms instead. Experts at Gartner believe that Low Code platforms will quickly take market share from RPA with 50% and 80% of RPA projects going to Low Code-powered initiatives by 2021 and 2022, respectively. Efforts by Google and Microsoft seem to suggest the same.
What does this all mean? Against the backdrop of helping consumer products companies accelerate AI adoption, we see 2020 as the year for Low Code much like 2019 was the year for RPA. On the back of Low Code technologies, Citizen Developers will be able to implement innovative data management technologies to automate their content-heavy workflows. This, in turn, will do wonders for bottom-line growth and directly enable the survival of smaller direct-to-consumer brands. But even with 2020 as the year of Low Code, we should expect some hiccups. For example, the user experience will still be atrocious. We should expect that many vendors in this space will use the 2020 cycle to improve Low Code and make it truly usable for the Citizen Developer.
Privacy is the New Normal
With both the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) now in effect, consumers have greater control over how their personal online data is being handled by businesses. Though consumers win out with increased privacy, online brands looking to continue their personalization efforts with targeted marketing are experiencing significant challenges with the shortage of essential granular customer data. Though advances in machine learning models have improved ad targeting in the past decade, that itself cannot make up for the lack of personal information. Absent personal data, brands will be shooting in the dark, relatively speaking.
Given these data constraints, we believe that brands will place an even greater emphasis on experimentation, coming up with creative ways to target and engage with consumers and influence how they search and buy online. For example, advertisers will test multiple ad creative, copy, and format combinations, but at breakneck speeds and in greater volume in order to find new but equally effective ways to market to consumers in a privacy-laden landscape. We also anticipate that brands will recalibrate their campaigns, focusing on audiences versus individuals and keywords versus hyper-personalized personas, in order to balance their targeting efforts. Ultimately, this will give rise to an explosion of both unstructured and structured data. In 2020, we expect that this increased volume of content and complexity means brands will continue to struggle with managing all of their data and with optimizing content for the end consumer.
2020 is just a few weeks old and we are excited to see how the trends above—and many others—will steer the broader technology landscape. But, if we know one thing, it’s that whatever happens, it won’t be boring!