When the same sentiment ripples throughout different talks at conferences, you know it’s an emerging trend that everyone is noticing. This year, that recurring theme was that it finally feels like we no longer have to convince people how important digital is. Instead, we can start talking about maximising opportunities and educating people of best practice without having to first sell them on the idea.

It’s great to see digital finally being considered a necessity and to see companies starting to move in the right direction to cement a solid digital presence that integrates it with all of their other activity.

We heard from tech giants like Google, Spotify, Outbrain and Plexure but also kiwi companies talking about their experience with implementing digital in-house, and how perceptions are changing within some of the biggest local companies. Spending a day listening to people talk in depth about their specialities in the industry, there was a lot to learn. I thought I would share my 5 biggest outtakes from the conference:

AR is set to get big in 2017

The introduction of virtual reality (VR) and VR headsets has been well used in 2016, but Augmented Reality (AR) is set to overtake its popularity in 2017. Since Snapchat filters (which have almost become a necessity for any selfie) and the release of Pokemon Go, AR has showed that it is a rapidly developing space, and incredibly popular. Unlike VR, AR mixes and combines the real world with the virtual, adding that extra level of interactivity that VR couldn’t. There’s no doubt that it’s set to get big next year. So far there is talk of Apple making it a built-in feature of their camera on future iPhones, and I’m sure other brands are testing and playing with it too.

Having data is sweet, but using it is better

Lots of companies track data, but few are using this data effectively to deliver better and more insightful experiences to their customers. It’s not enough now to just have the data, its how you use it that makes the difference. Data drives insights, and insights are indispensable for smart brands to map out and tailor optimal user journeys for their customers. Most customers just want help – they want the easiest customer journey possible. Knowing what kind of help they want and how they want it without them having to ask them means you’re using your data well. Take for example Uber, who have access to millions of different people’s common travel routes. They have recently announced that they are starting a new service that recommends restaurants to Uber customer, driven by the data they have on that customer.

Digital should be end to end not here and there

A lot of digital journeys start at the point of search, and the absence of a strong presence in search means handing over control to third party aggregators. Instead, to ensure a fluent customer journey online, a brand needs to have full ownership from end to end. Without this, customer journeys are disrupted and you’re essentially handing your customer off to someone else and hoping they will find their way back eventually. Similarly, there was a lot of emphasis of extending digital beyond conversion when a customer has followed a digital pathway. Why stop giving a customer a digital experience once they have taken the action you want them to. For example, there are now hotels owning digital from the point of search, to online booking, online check-in, using your phone for room access and temperature or TV control.

Typing is out, voice commands are in

Currently 20% of all queries are voice activated and thats set to rise to 50% in 2020. Considering I only ever use Siri when I’m driving to get directions, I was surprised that the figure was this high. Younger millennials account for the majority of these voice activated searches – they’ve grown up talking to machines and are continually learning the right language to get the outcome they desire. Plus with all the developments in artificial learning and machine learning, voice-activated commands will only continue to improve. Currently, the majority of voice-activated commands happen on mobile, but Apple have already introduced Siri to its computers. So if you’re someone who has no shame chatting to your devices, you’ll be in the growing group helping voice commands overtake typing.

The Kiwi mobile user is still a little hesitant

Mobile usage is growing and growing, with a prediction that 75% of all internet searches in 2017 will be on mobile. That said, New Zealanders are still hesitant to buy products using their phone. Instead, the majority use their mobile as a research tool (73%), and a lesser amount use it for inspiration (33%). When it gets to purchasing, only 16% convert through mobile. As expected, the statistic of mobile conversions skews upwards when you segment millennials, so it will be interesting to see whether people grow to use their phone more, or whether they continue purchasing in-store or on a computer. The strong mobile research reinforces the need for a mobile-optimised site, but tracking this trend will really help inform future path to purchase planning.

So those were my five biggest outtakes from the conference, condensed into a few small paragraphs. Finally I thought I would leave you with a stat that I found amusing. A survey found that 53% of people would rather lose their sense of smell then give up their technology. Whilst I’m often a little skeptical of research like this, it really highlighted how technology has become a really integral part of many people’s lives. That said, I think I’ll opt to keep my sense of smell!

What were your thoughts on ad:tech Auckland? What stuck out the most to you?

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