Exploring the digital trends of 2024
12 min read
I'm always very sceptical about trend predictions, so before we get into mine, permit me to set some caveats.
Balancing tech with the human touch
Yes, we are all aware that AI has sprinted from the fringes to the forefront, influencing everything from customer engagement to data analytics. It's already a cornerstone of digital, not just a trend, shaping our industry at an uncomfortable pace. But let's remember the human side of the equation. Evolving consumer behaviours and the broader economic environment continue to play pivotal roles in our strategising. Even with modest global growth on the horizon and a cooling in inflation rates, consumers are still watching their wallets closely. Brands that understand this, focusing on societal impact as much as profit margins, are the ones that will thrive.
Don't lose sight of your first principles
As designers and marketers of over 20 years, we've seen our fair share of fads come and go. Yet, as processes, job titles, tools, and tech rotate in and out of favour, some principles remain timeless.
So, as we face 2024, and AI dominates everything everywhere, let's not forget the importance of:
Solid research - Projects don't go wrong; they start wrong.
Knowing our users intimately,
and understanding the real problems that need solving. That means knowing why they need solving.
Also, remember that:
Visual design continues to be crucial; it's like a muscle that needs consistent exercise to stay sharp.
Embrace new technology, but don't let it replace the core skills you've honed. Remember, it’s about enhancing, not replacing.
So, stay focused, continually learn, and don't take my hype or anyone else's at face value. Do your own research.
Now, let's turn to what I 'tentatively' believe 2024 has in store for us:
We're getting Phygital
Here's a buzzword to chew on: 'Phygital'. I always love it when a new term starts gaining traction. Sounds like a gym routine for your phone, doesn't it? Phygital is all about the merging of physical and digital worlds until you can't tell where one ends and the other begins. It's reshaping everything – from how we shop to how we zone out in front of our screens.
In 2024, this trend is expected to significantly impact industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, and automotive. We're seeing stuff like digital twins in manufacturing that are so in sync with their physical counterparts that they are like a real-time ghost of the machinery. Remote monitoring and wearables in healthcare – a mini doctor on your wrist anyone? And cars? They're not just vehicles anymore; they're rolling entertainment and connectivity hubs.
The concept also represents a new frontier in retail and other sectors, offering an enhanced user experience that integrates the best of both physical and digital worlds. Sounds cool, but let's not forget the elephant in the room – data privacy and security. It's all good to have a foot in both worlds, but you don't want to leave your digital back door wide open, do you?
The human touch in an artificially intelligent world
2024 will not just be about technology's capabilities; it's about retaining our human essence in a digital landscape. The rise of AI has birthed a curious challenge: the increasing need to prove our humanity. This is where the concept of the Reverse Turing Test comes into play (sort of) – a twist on the classic Turing Test where the roles are reversed, and it's humans who need to demonstrate they are not machines.
In a world where AI can mimic human interactions, from customer service chatbots to AI-generated social media posts, distinguishing between human and machine becomes crucial. The implications are vast, ranging from security – ensuring it's a real person accessing sensitive information, to preserving the authenticity of human connections in digital spaces.
This need for verification touches on more profound questions about our relationship with technology. It's not just about proving we're flesh and bone; it's about showcasing the unique attributes that make us human – our creativity, empathy, and unpredictability. As digital spaces become more populated by AI, the value of human touchpoints in design, marketing, and communication becomes even more pronounced.
So, while we marvel at AI's advancements, let's remember the irreplaceable value of human perspective. It's not just about coexisting with AI; it's about defining what sets us apart and ensuring our digital world doesn't lose sight of the human element.
LinkedIn's evolution beyond the professional façade
LinkedIn has upped its game and recently surpassed a billion users! A long way from being just a digital CV drop anymore, it's become a bustling hub where real engagement is on the up – a proper unicorn in the social media paddock.
Folks are sprucing up their LinkedIn pages with more than job chatter – we're talking about life hacks, solid advice, mental health confabs, and leadership wisdom. It seems like we've all got a bit tired of the "save it for Facebook" mantra, and we're finally getting a glimpse of the real people behind the polished professional personas.
If you haven't already, give 'Creator Mode' a whirl on your LinkedIn. It's like giving your profile a bit of oomph and unlocking a treasure trove of nifty features.
Navigating the AI waters: Who's at the helm?
AI's popping up in our tools and services like mushrooms in the digital forest – from smarter chatbots to AI-driven design tools, it's revolutionising how we interact with technology and boosting our creative processes, from generating graphics to designing user interfaces, offering new tools for creativity and productivity.
Still, there's a lot of head-scratching around what it all means, how’s it going to change our lives, and who's supposed to be steering the company's AI ship.
From where I stand, marketing and brand experience teams have their ears closest to the ground. They're the ones who can get the AI ball rolling, tapping into what they've learned about customers to spot chances to boost what the business is already nailing.
A word of caution - Don't be too quick to judge AI's talents based on what it can do today. It's learning on the job and getting smarter by the minute. So, keep your AI strategy under regular review every few weeks or so, or you'll miss the boat.
Chatting with tech
Typing is so 2023. This year, we're going to be talking more to our devices. Voice search is becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it easier to go hands-free. The rise of voice-activated devices and enhancements in natural language processing make conversational interfaces more sophisticated, leading to more intuitive and hands-free digital interactions. I am particularly excited about this one!
Check out this keynote from Rabbit, announcing the launch of their R1 device, its incredible (if it works)
Extended reality (XR) immersion (The groundhog trend)
Virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) tech continue to blend digital elements into our physical worlds (thats right, Phygital worlds), offering more immersive experiences in entertainment, education, and even remote work. AR is no longer just a gaming gimmick. It's in shopping, education, and even some cheeky marketing campaigns. Online shopping is primed for getting a glow-up with immersive experiences. Think virtual try-ons, interactive showrooms, and gamified shopping experiences.
It's about enriching the real world with a digital layer, offering new avenues for interaction and engagement.
Personalisation at scale
Brands are getting more and more savvy with data. And with the firepower of AI, they're crafting personalised experiences that make us feel like they truly get us. Artificial intelligence is getting even more adept at offering personalised experiences, from content curation to customer service, making interactions more relevant and engaging.
But, while AI offers efficiency, understanding and catering to the emotional and complex aspects of consumer interactions is where the human touch is irreplaceable. Brands that master this blend of technological efficiency and human empathy are the ones that truly excel in crafting memorable and positive customer experiences.
Sustainability in digital
Green is the new black in digital. Companies are waking up, integrating eco-savvy tech and sustainable design, and revamping operations to be as energy-efficient as possible. It's not just ticking boxes for environmental credentials or because NET ZERO is peeking over the horizon – it's smart business, plain and simple.
Customers are increasingly wielding their wallets like environmental weapons, backing brands that mirror their green and social philosophies. PWC’s most recent pulse survey indicates that 70% of punters are ready to cough up more for sustainably produced goods.
Despite our collective consumer sloth, nobody's keen on knowingly bankrolling businesses that give Mother Nature the cold shoulder. They're voting green with their green, so it's time to roll up your sleeves and get auditing. Dive deep into your product or service's life cycle, sniff out the not-so-green bits, and sort them out. And then confidently shout about it.
5G expansion at last
Networks continue to fall short of their promise to deliver new value-added services that exploit 5G’s additional bandwidth. The rollout of 5G and improvements in connectivity were hindered by poor economics in 2023 but are accelerating into 2024, hopefully leading to faster, more reliable internet services enabling the more robust digital experiences and innovations discussed elsewhere in this article.
Blockchain's new horizons beyond cryptocurrency
Blockchain is growing up and is moving out of its Bitcoin bedroom into a much bigger house.
The potential of blockchain to change how we live and work is being increasingly recognised, and it is being explored for a wide range of uses beyond cryptocurrency, branching out into areas like security, supply chain management, and even voting systems.
Identification records: Blockchain is increasingly used for secure identification records, enhancing privacy and security.
Supply chains: Blockchain enhances supply chain transparency and traceability, reducing the risk of counterfeit products and ensuring food safety.
Healthcare: Blockchain technology has the potential to transform the healthcare industry by improving data management, enhancing research capabilities, and ensuring the security of sensitive medical records.
Real estate: Blockchain is being tested for recording land and real estate transactions, aiming to enhance efficiency and transparency in the registration process.
So, while everyone's been busy watching Bitcoin's rollercoaster ride, blockchain's been quietly plotting its world domination in other areas. It's still not just a one-trick pony; it has the potential to be more like a Swiss Army knife for the digital age.
While still in the early stages, quantum computing is gaining traction in the wings, promising to solve complex problems that current technologies can't even get close to, impacting fields like medicine, logistics, and beyond. But it's way out of my comfort zone, so that's all I'll say for now until I understand it better.
One thing I am looking forward to, though, is better weather forecasting apparently!
Wading through the legal swamp
Let's talk legal stuff – it's a yawn, but we can't ignore it. The tech world in 2024 looks like it will be gift-wrapped in legal red tape. There's a whole array of headaches bubbling up, from big tech being slapped with antitrust lawsuits to governments scrambling to figure out how to regulate AI without tripping over their own feet.
Big guns like Facebook, Adobe and OpenAI are all in the spotlight, not just for their latest updates. We're seeing more antitrust lawsuits than you can shake a stick at, along with a good old-fashioned tussle over merger and antitrust laws.
2023 was about panic around robots taking over jobs. 2024 will be about the law trying to keep up with the robots. Employment laws are doing the tango with AI advancements. We're entering an era where 'robotics relationships' need legal definitions. It sounds like sci-fi, but it's our new reality.
So as we’re all playing excitedly with these new toys. The legal eagles are still figuring out how to apply old-school IP laws to this brave new world. It's a minefield of patents, copyrights, trademarks, and the dreaded trade secrets. Unlike patents, copyrights, and trademarks, trade secrets are not protected by registration. Their protection comes from the secrecy itself. This makes them uniquely challenging to safeguard, especially in an environment where information flows freely and rapidly.
So, companies need to be on their toes. It's not just about innovating anymore; it's about ensuring you don't get tangled in legal webs while at it. Stay sharp, folks, and maybe keep a lawyer on speed dial.
That's a wrap
So there you have it: the digital runway of 2024 is being shaped by practicality, sustainability, and a good dose of digital enchantment, all with a healthy pinch of salt.😁
I'll just be happy if we exit the year with smarter, not just shinier, tools that enhance our capability to deliver more immersive, efficient, and personalised brand experiences.