You could say that after this year, only a fool would attempt to predict anything about the future. But, foolhardy or not, we can look at the direction of travel of the biggest drivers of change and make some inferences from that. After all, as Bill Gates once said – with a respectful nod toward Isaac Asimov – we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years but underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.
So, looking into the future of online and offline experiences, one of the biggest drivers of change will be artificial intelligence. The impact of this technology will grow as it achieves increasing improvements in capability, along with a corresponding reduction in processing power. It will unlock all manner of marketing tools and consumer behaviour – from instant translation to seamless voice control. It will also allow deep, some will argue, intrusive, understanding and prediction of people’s behaviour, down to an individual level.
Elsewhere, our online experiences will benefit from 5G technology. The combination of this network with cloud computing, will mean we have the speed and processing power of a supercomputer together with all the world’s data, easily accessible on people’s mobile devices. This will revolutionise brands’ abilities to create personalised, contextual services and experiences, alongside interactive content, especially across sports, music, tech and entertainment.
If augmented reality has had limited uptake to date, this 5G and cloud combo could see the value of AR improve considerably, and, with it, people’s acceptance and use of AR. Expect to see AR finally tip over into the mainstream.
People now familiar with customising Zoom backgrounds and Snap filters will expect AR to be more focused on useful problems; for example, directions, instructions and product guidance overlaid on the real world, and not just screen-based. Apple’s stratospheric push into earphones should see a corresponding rise in audio-based AR too, and no doubt the next version of Pokémon Go will still be epic.
As well as advanced technology impacting experiences, they may also be affected by significant social change. Might we see a post-pandemic “roaring Twenties”, with a new decade of experimentation, hedonism and sensory indulgence all aided and abetted by the speed and immersion possible with the leaps in technology outlined above? It feels that there will be an inevitable reaction to this extended period of restriction, at least among those with the means.
If we are indulging on the one hand, we may be abstaining on the other. All pointers indicate that climate and social-economic concerns will continue at pace, perhaps gaining new momentum when the immediate diversion of this health crisis is over.
In the experiences space, that will see the trend away from products and ownership – and toward services and subscriptions – continue. Expect to see the role of experience experts within companies become more critical as business success will be closely tied with creating and achieving the best experiences.
Overall, the next 10 years will see experiential marketing better able to personalise at scale, as the reach of digital is combined with deep sensory engagement.
This will help secure experiential marketing as a central business requirement, a key differentiator for product companies and a core pillar of customer engagement.