Top digital trends for 2018

As the baubles are stowed away atop the wardrobe for another year, and we wean ourselves off a diet that is 90% cheese and chocolate, we’re starting to get pretty excited about what might be in store for 2018, so read on to hear thoughts from a handful of our resident digital experts – Lawrence, Andrew, Claire and Phill.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) has made our list of predictions in 2017 (and come to think of it, 2016 too!), and it’s not going anywhere in 2018 either, having become surprisingly mainstream.

VR headsets for smartphones are now available in almost every high street shop, from Primark to PC World, but its popularity is perhaps highest within the gaming industry, which offers lots of competing products ranging from the Oculus Rift to Playstation’s own VR tech.

Lawrence Alexander, our Product Strategy Director, notes that outside of the quick-adopting gaming industry, brands in other sectors are a little hesitant to pick up on this technology, probably waiting for proof of concept from a competitor before they invest properly – could 2018 be that year?

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) – an interconnection via the Internet of devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data – is becoming much more common place, but the price point versus the use case remains a hurdle. Lawrence has found himself wondering who wants a Wi-Fi kettle when you still have to get up to put the tea-bag and milk in – and we don’t blame him!

This year we anticipate that we may start to see some targeted advertising for IoT, but it will largely still manifest itself in gifts for the ‘person who has everything’.

Artificial Intelligence

Much like VR, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has also infiltrated homes in the form of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa. Whilst we’re expecting yet more AI in the home next year, it’s good to think outside of the expected avalanche of Alexa devices and to focus more on the consumer and business data that drives AI for 2018.

Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Amazon are all now ‘AI first’, but the subtlety of their AI offering may surprise you. Phill Midwinter, our Technology Director, points out that the news you see, email campaigns you receive, display advertising on the web and your search results are all the selectively edited results of clever networks of AI systems.

What does this actually mean? Well, your data is regularly being mined (often anonymously and with no personal attributes) and collected for training AI systems. Data has become the backbone of all well-targeted campaigns, and it’s this data that further drives the ability and thus expansion of AI systems.

As a consumer, this new ground and the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – which comes into play in March 2018 – will mean that rights over personal data will be a key focus this year. As an agency, we’re already well into making sure our systems and those of our clients are doing the job to adequately protect personal data, as GDPR will restrict the type of data marketers can use.

In 2018 we can expect to see more AI know-how filtering down into smaller companies, however, take up may be slow. Phill expects a few early entrants to AI for business may find themselves dominating unfamiliar markets this year.

Programmatic tech for traditional channels

Whilst predicted to explode in 2017, no-one has quite got out of the blocks yet when it comes to programmatic TV, but we anticipate advancements at the back end of 2018. Our Digital Media Director, Claire Stanley, suggests that when the time comes, we will see TV being bought through platforms like DBM (DoubleClick Bid Manager) – which is traditionally used for managing online ad placements – meaning TV will play a much more significant role in talking to customers as we’ll be able to target databases in the same way that we put email lists into Facebook.

The race is also on to create a fully programmatic Out of Home (OOH) offering, with some media owners having already made a claim to the throne. In reality, programmatic buying and planning for OOH is still a way off and unlikely to be ready for the mass market for a while. However, with the ever-increasing move from paper and paste to digital sites and the involvement of neuroscience and technology/data, we will continue to see more and more developments across the industry over the next 12 months.

Digital media

Claire also expects video advertising to take a higher share of the media wallet overall next year, with many more video-first creative executions, rather than brands simply reusing TV ads online. Ads will become more sophisticated in themselves too, with the uptake of more shoppable and 360 videos.

Additionally, Google has developed its Universal App campaigns which self-optimise to the best performing media, from video to PPC. Digital media campaigns, especially in the major walled garden players such as Google or Facebook, will see more of these AI-driven buys becoming available.

On top of this, we can’t not mention the fact that Google will be launching its new, more sophisticated adblocker in 2018. Users will have more choice over settings and what they want to see or block, which will give an exponential boost to the efficiency of adblockers. Brands will need to be working harder to ensure their ads are relevant, timely and engaging.

The digital wallet

This was more popular than most expected in 2017, says Lawrence. Android Pay and Apple Pay has fast become a normal way to purchase goods on the high street, and has been adopted far more easily than Chip & Pin ever was!

We’re expecting to see this trend grow in 2018, so that more retailers allow people to pay with Google Wallet when they buy online. We also expect to see the features of Banking 2.0, like Monzo and Starling, to feature more heavily in Android and Apple native apps and in banks’ own apps too.

Dark social and messenger advertising

The rise of Dark Social (aka link sharing in private messaging apps, text and email) has been on the radar of Andrew Mook, our Creative Media & Content Director, for a while now, and he reckons that in 2018, we’ll see a big move towards Messenger advertising – especially as Facebook Messenger now has more active users than the main platform itself, and since Facebook bought WhatsApp it has increased its user base from 450 million to around a billion users!

The beauty of serving ads in messenger apps is the opportunity to continue the conversation. Some brands are already making great use of bots to inspire and assist users, so it could be a potent channel for targeting a generation that respond well to instant gratification.

But while marketers understand that most closed network sharing is huge for referral traffic and word of mouth advocacy, tracking these shares has proven to be tricky. Savvy sites are starting to offer the option for sharing via WhatsApp within their range of share buttons, all in the aim of quantifying these types of referrals. In 2018, we’d expect to see an increase in messenger ad formats and development of further measurement integrations as we start to monitor engagement in closed groups.

By the sounds of it, there will be lots going on in the digital world in 2018. If you fancy finding out more about anything we’ve mentioned, or just want to chat, you can tweet us @homeagencyuk or call on 0844 576 8976.