An “expanding range of ever more powerful, faster connected and better specified digital devices” – that’s the reality faced by publishers.
The quote comes from the introduction to Deloitte’s Consumer Review: Digital Predictions 2016 report, out this week, which focuses on six key digital trends for 2016, and the ways they are likely to impact the consumer business sector.
“In recent years, the growth of social media and the advance of mobile payment technologies has changed the way that many consumers select and pay for products and services,” says Nigel Wexley from Deloitte in the report’s introduction.
Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at Deloitte and author of the report, says: “A wave of new technologies is revolutionising the way people are engaging with consumer businesses.
“Consumer industries have to be flexible to rapidly changing consumer behaviour. Rising ownership of smartphones and tablet devices, faster connectivity speeds and increasing engagement with brands on social media are the main driving forces behind the UK consumer market’s digital revolution.”
Cognitive technology, virtual reality, connectivity, touch payments, mobile first and photo-sharing are all part of this year’s report. We look at the six trends, and how publishers might respond to them.
Deloitte expects companies to adopt a number of cognitive technologies this year, including machine learning, natural language processing and speech recognition, all of which could have a place in publishing, particularly in the educational sector.
But the technology isn’t just linked to products, with Deloitte saying the use of cognitive technologies will “enhance the emotional connection between consumers and brands” and make purchasing processes more convenient.
Publishers no doubt see virtual reality as key to the gaming industry, but the technology “has much potential when it comes to giving a remote consumer a detailed idea of what a physical space or product looks like”, says the report. So what if you could give readers a virtual reality tour of Narnia, or bring intricate book covers to life?
But there remain obstacles to virtual reality that may put customers off, says Deloitte, including the expense, the size of headsets, and the fact they only work with powerful PCs many consumers may not have access too, so it is perhaps not the first priority for publishers.
Gigabit-per-second internet connections are expected to grow to 10m by the end of this year, a tenfold increase on 2015.
This kind of high-speed internet means websites will load quicker, meaning they can carry richer content – the world will open up for publishers to have more than just jacket images and synopses on their websites.
Consumers, says Deloitte, “will expect an overall richer experience online, and web designers will be able to make use of more imaginative aspects of content, including interactive elements or games”.
Deloitte cites Amazon X-Ray as a service which could expand because Gigabit internet. X-Ray is the Amazon’s reference tool that readers and viewers can use on tablets and mobile devices, and while watching TV or films on Amazon Prime Instant.
At the moment, it is used to provide viewers of TV shows and films on Amazon Prime Instant (its video-on-demand service) with information about actors in the shows or the background music being played, but does not currently connect to the internet for this information (it’s stored in pre-loaded files). In the future, Deloitte expects X-Ray to use an internet connection, providing information such as the dress a character is wearing.
And who’s to say it stops at film and TV? If you’re reading the e-book of Jeffrey Toobin's The People V. OJ Simpson, as a reference could Amazon connect you to videos of the trial?
Paying by touch isn’t new, but Deloitte expects to see an increase of 150% in people adopting touch-based payment services to make mobile purchases, rising to 50m global users.
The majority of touch-based payment services are currently designed for apps. Deloitte says retailers may need to develop easier ways to pay on mobile-optimised websites. Could touch payments be key to helping bricks-and-mortar retailers make online work for them?
Mobile will continue to play a crucial role in the lives of consumers, but that doesn’t mean PCs should be forgotten about.
Deloitte predicts those aged 18-24 will be “the most pro-PC age group this year”, and that businesses should design web-based services with PCs and mobiles in mind.
Research by Deloitte suggests 2.5 trillion images will be shared or stored online in 2016, up 15% on last year, “meaning that web communications will become even more visual and important for brands”.
Deloitte says: “The growth of image-sharing could help consumer businesses use the social media environment as another commercial opportunity, as networking sites begin to offer ‘Buy’ buttons and other functions.”
Publishers will need to make sure their brands – whether that’s imprints, houses, authors or characters – have strong visual identities. But, warns Deloitte, “brands will need to tread carefully, crafting images which feel authentic, are a cause of interest, and are of a high quality”.