American Marketer


Ephemerality and micro-innovations to mark digital experience in 2014: Forrester

February 25, 2014


A new report by Forrester Research forecasts digital trends for the year ahead such as advanced user experiences will no longer be optional and tablet innovations will surge.

The "Digital Customer Experience" report breaks down the major digital trends that will sustain 2014 and then provides evidence to ground its predictions. 2014 will continue to widen the gulf between laggards and top performers and consumers will flock toward the better digital experience.

"I would say that one of the most significant rather than surprising findings is the growing importance of digital design and user experience skills going forward," said Joana Van Den Brink-Quintanilha, leader author of the report at Forrester, London.

"Companies that are serious about digital need to get serious about investing in design or face disruption," she said. "But the competition for this limited pool of talent will only intensify.

"Already start-ups are emerging trying to match disaffected design talent seeking to avoid corporate jobs to more nimble cool start ups. To lure the best talent, mainstream companies need to rethink their hierarchical organizations to support human-centered design and learn user experience methods."

Forrester conducted the North American Technographics Retail Survey, 2013 for consumer data in this report. The online survey fielded in April 2013 of 4,597 United States individuals ages 18 to 88.

The foundation

A number of disruptive trends emerged in 2013. First, an abundance of digital touchpoints arrived to help customers both online and offline.

"Mobile is going to have a huge impact on brands in 2014 because that's the best way to reach their customers," said Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee, San Francisco.

"Mobile is going to play a larger role in a brands direct to consumer and social strategies," he said.

"In addition, I expect that retailers will use mobile to bridge the physical and digital divide and to better connect with their customers."

For instance, Audi made the shift toward a virtual dealership that allows the brand to shrink space while maximizing possibilities (see story).

Audi City in Berlin

Tolerance for bungled Web sites and mobile sites lessened as high profile companies and figures were publicly berated for failed efforts.

Privacy concerns flared up as major retailers such as Neiman Marcus sustained massive data breaches (see story).

"Your customer is experiencing a mobile mind shift: the expectation that she can get what she wants in her immediate context and moments of need," Ms. Brink-Quintanilha said. "As a result, mobile is central to customer experience. People are interacting wherever they are.

"And as the digitization of people, places, and experiences brings the online and offline realms together, companies are waking up to the fact that they know much more about their customers online than they do offline," she said. To close this gap, companies are turning to the emerging field of location analytics.

"Location analytics brings the power of web analytics to the analog world, enabling firms to continuously capture location data on customers in physical venues at an unprecedented scale and focus."

Going ahead

Forrester argues that 2014 will be a year of major innovation.

Most prominently, brands everywhere will develop user-centric designs and experiences or face the consequences of a consumer exodus.

Givenchy menswear app

Micro-innovations to improve basic functions such as log in will become more common.

Ephemeral mobile experiences such as Snapchat and visual platforms such as Instagram will influence many emerging experiences.

"Some brands are experimenting with ephemeral services to promote products during a limited periods of time to specific customer segments, adding a sense of mystery and exclusivity to these offers," Ms. Brink-Quintanilha said. "We may see more brands experimenting with this in 2014.

"Brands will remain relevant but context is becoming increasingly important, particularly when it comes to mobile interactions," she said. "In fact, privacy is all about context. Provided that their immediate needs are addressed, consumers are willing to exchange information for value.

"Companies need to avoid building 'surprises' into their data collection/privacy practices, and give consumers choices for participating in their services."

Instagram's ecommerce potential is already transforming how brands approach the purchasing process (see story).

Applications will eschew the cram-everything-in tendency of recent years to achieve simpler interfaces.

Speech interfaces, touch screens and in-the-moment availability are other areas that will grow, according to Forrester.

The report also provides a bundle of recommendations and urges brands to "beg, borrow and steal design talent."

"The mobile trend is not slowing down anytime soon," said Andrew Higgins, digital strategist at Pixlee, San Francisco. "More and more, brands are having to optimize experiences for all screens, web, tablet, and mobile.

"It is imperative for brands not only to make experiences accessible to mobile, but also to understand the differences between mobile and other online portals," he said.

"Different content performs better from a PC, tablet, or mobile. Understanding how to best engage and convert customers from different devices is becoming a powerful way for brands to differentiate their marketing from competitors'."

Final Take
Joe McCarthy, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York