Voice-activated “home assistants” are becoming increasingly popular. STOCK PHOTO

Voice-activated “home assistants” are becoming increasingly popular. STOCK PHOTO

Column: It’s Your Business – What’s trending for 2019?

Joe Smith

Special to The Record

The internet has dramatically changed the way we market and communicate. It is therefore not surprising that for the most part, it will influence what is trending.

That word – influence – has been around for a few years now and it is becoming more of a factor when people are making buying decisions. More specifically, the trend is to incorporate influencers, especially the micro or average consumer kind, as a key component of a marketing strategy. In fact, studies have shown that 80 per cent of consumers are more than likely to act on recommendations made from people they know.

Another trend yet again related to the world of new technology is the use of voice to do searches on the internet or simply turn on the lights in the living room. Smart speakers, while making great strides, will become even more important in people’s daily lives. One study reported that 65 per cent of people who use a voice controlled device wouldn’t go back to living without one.

Along similar lines, chatbots are on the rise. With the expectation that businesses should be open 24/7, companies are finding that a good chatbot program can help answer common questions and most importantly solve customers’ issues without having to put them on hold until a representative can deal with them.

The dominance the digital world is playing in the area of communication is once again highlighted by the increased use of video. There are predictions out there by experts that more than 80 per cent of web content will be video based. Youtube right now is second only to Google in terms of global traffic.

And if regular video is not enough, one of the fastest moving technologies is VR/AR or virtual and augmented reality. While mostly associated with gaming, some companies are experimenting with it to enhance customer experiences. One tech company, for example, used AR to walk their clients through a trade show. Others have used virtual product walkthroughs to provide a new and creative way of giving customers a virtual hands-on experience.

While all this new technology may be exciting and cutting-edge, there is one element of every strategy and campaign that cannot be ignored. And that is creativity. In order to capture the consumers’ attention it is essential to be able to relate to them and engage them in the narrative of your story and in a manner they understand and is relevant to their needs.

Along with good storytelling, you must use compelling graphics whether static or moving to grab their attention. Some reports indicate social media posts get three times more engagement if they use a photo and those with video can potentially generate twice as much as that.

If you have not looked into any of these trends now would be a good time to do it. When you consider that IBM introduced the first speech recognition tool in 1961 … it could only recognize 16 words … it was only in 2012 that Apple introduced Siri and just look how far and fast we have come in those few short years.

Joe Smith is a communications consultant and an accomplished fine artist. He can be reached via email at joesmith@shaw.ca

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