Top 5 Digital Trends 2021 from Appnovation’s VPs

Our VPs of Strategy, Experience, and Technology have locked in their predictions for 2021.

Below are the five trends they expect to shape the digital world in the next year.

1. Strategic implementation of technology

There are many life-changing tech capabilities on the horizon – AR/VR, AI, Web 3.0 – and all of these will be made even better by 5G. But if you don’t have a great e-commerce system or a personalization strategy, and your content’s just so-so, technology won’t fix that. In fact, it’s going to make it worse because all you’ll be doing is delivering a bad customer experience more quickly.

“Technology for technology’s sake never works,” says Allison Humphries, VP Strategy at Appnovation. “Are you going to solve a meaningful consumer need? If the answer’s ‘no,’ then why are you doing it?”

Before looking at new technology: 

  • Have a plan – digital transformation cannot happen in silos
    • IT, marketing, sales, and your business must be organizationally aligned to a common north star strategy and goals
    • Everyone must onboard new technology in the same way, at the same time
  • Optimize what you already have first
    • Ensure your personalization strategy is as good or better than your competitors’
    • Take inventory to make sure you’re using your data effectively
    • Evaluate your technologies and be blunt about what’s working and what isn’t
  • Listen to your gut – but make sure it’s informed
    • Data doesn’t eliminate the need for this intangible advantage
    • Use data in tandem with your instincts

2. The rise of employee experience

Companies with engaged employees outperform competitors by 147%, yet only 31% of employees say they feel engaged in their work. Maintaining employee engagement became much more complicated in 2020, as millions of workers shifted to working from home. 

“Boosting the employee experience is about more than just attraction and retention – it’s about ROI,” says Anton Morrison, VP Experience at Appnovation. “There are direct connections between how employees and customers experience a brand. How do we ensure your internal teams and external audiences have the same passion for your organization? When these match, it’s compelling and leads directly to a better customer experience.” 

3. Empathy wins

“It’s interesting when we talk about elevating customer experience as something that brings a brand to life, but some companies forget about the key aspect: how are they making their customers feel?” says Humphries.

Meeting consumers’ needs is undoubtedly part of a strategic customer experience, but, particularly in 2021, brands need to take action to back it up. For organizations that listen intently, are they doing something worthwhile with the information? “Brands need to meaningfully scrutinize every moment of engagement to make sure that interactions are delivering on the brand promise, are contextually relevant to both macro and micro needs, are actively helpful in those moments, and ultimately showing empathy throughout the customer journey,” says Humphries.

4. Ethical design moves beyond accessibility

In 2020, efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 fostered greater awareness of ethics and sustainability. As a society, we began thinking about our impact on the world through a broader ethical lens. 

In 2021, Morrison thinks this burgeoning awareness will transfer directly to businesses and be a core element of how they function in the coming years. “Just because we can build something doesn’t automatically mean we should. Are we creating something that, though well-intended, might cause harm? ” asks Morrison.

He believes the next step is ingraining ethical considerations into day-to-day methodologies. “To be truly forward-thinking, we have to treat ethics and sustainability with the same importance as overall viability and ROI-potential of new products. Along with figuring out if something will make money or enhance a brand, we need to start asking what its larger impact on the world will be,” concludes Morrison.

5. Headless content accelerates into the martech ecosystem

John Mozayani, VP Technology at Appnovation, says, “Customer experience is key to what we do. How we define those experiences is crucial to how a brand differentiates itself from competitors.”

Headless content will continue to unbundle the various facets of content management platforms so marketing teams can customize in new ways. They can then apply their content how they choose across a growing digital ecosystem of tools designed to give more control.

Fueled by modern approaches to web and mobile app development, platforms beyond content management will accelerate the development of API-first microservices to their broader services, including digital asset management, e-commerce, marketing automation, CRM, and analytics tools. This will create a new generation of experience innovation and orchestration tools and quantifiably measure the effectiveness of marketing messaging, campaigns, and channels. 

These trends are only the beginning. Watch this space for more on what 2021 might hold for us. 


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