Wider web development trends in 2018 that could be worth keeping an eye on.
E-commerce is dying.
OK, that’s a little over dramatic, but the old notion of build a website, do a little marketing and they will come, convert and you can cash in, is over. Think about the structure of the web as most consumers see it. Search results are dominated by a handful of the big players and the vast majority of buying transactions are taking place within their sites. The wise online retailer might do as well to ensure they have a highly visible profile with a site like Amazon and benefit from a smaller percentage of the greater number of sales that take place there.
And especially for retailers who aren’t just competing on price, capturing the attention of the consumer is key. But in the increasingly tightly regulated (by Google) world of Google search results, standing out from the crowd is not encouraged. Google wants high ranking websites to adhere to strict and very specific guidelines if they want to be benefit from maximum visibility, meaning that the vast majority of popular sites are starting to look increasingly similar.
There’s a reason why consumers are heading back to bricks and mortar stores for more exciting experiences. And with even Amazon investing in physical shops now, this has to be a trend to take notice of. It doesn’t mean the end of websites, but it’s time to think of cleverer ways to incorporate the app and website journey into a much wider consumer experience that encompasses digital and physical.
Not very long ago the cardinal sin of good and user friendly web design was a random auto-playing video with the volume turned up. The majority of people preferred to make the choice to read or view, and everybody has a good example of the person in a quiet office or at a meeting who suddenly entertained the room with a burst of something irrelevant, or even inappropriate.
Mobile and increased headphone use on the move rather than reliance on low quality PC or laptop speakers has made a difference, but it can still still be a major source of contention for many web users. In addition, unlike film, TV and radio; digital development very often works on the basis of technology first, design second and audio a very poor third. Many developers and agencies don’t have the in-house skills to create quality sound, and it’s generally a very low priority in web development budgets. But your audience are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and when they’re wearing a pair of headphone that cost more than a week’s wages, there’s nowhere for cheap audio and cheesy stock music to hide.
The advent of voice activated search also means it might be time to take a listen to your company branding. Customers are saying your name out loud and so is Alexa. Could you benefit from a sonic logo? Sound is the future of search, it’s time to get prepared.
The Next Billion.
Of course this isn’t a new trend by any means, but mobile now accounts for half of all web page views, and this figure is much higher in the so-called emerging markets in South America, Asia and Africa, where internet connectivity levels are lower than in the US and Europe, and the majority of internet usage is via smartphone.
Large players like Facebook and Google are already making sure that they’re optimised for truly global reach, and this fast expanding market has been dubbed ‘The Next Billion” by Google. Android leads the way here and they have a best practice development resource to help developers target these new markets.
This market isn’t using the latest and most expensive handset. So don’t assume if it looks and feels slick on your top of the range iPhone that that’s going to be good enough. Think how your app looks and feels on a low res screen with limited memory. For many mobile developers used to increasingly short periods of legacy maintenance, this feels counter intuitive, but if you want to achieve true global reach it’s critical to take into account, and a really exciting test of the designer and developers’ skills. Limited connectivity also means apps need to be as offline friendly as possible and low battery life means the less power you’re sucking up from users, the better.
AI and Chatbots.
Companies might have spent the last few years ensuring a fully branded presence across all social media channels but 2018 could be the year that start to see the limitations of social as a platform for brands and consumers to ‘engage’. The trouble is, that when discounts, promotions and special offers are not on view, the vast majority of consumers prefer to use social media for the good old-fashioned business of complaining. Check out any large brand’s social media and the majority of interactions with the public that aren’t competition entries will be complaints. More savvy brands will have two different social media handles, with complaints directed to a ‘service’ or ‘support’ channel which helps to keep the social shop window shinier.
This has led to the consumer service / complaints side of the business edging toward AI, chatbots and automated real-time messaging for fast and standard responses to regular customer queries and complaints, both on social media and websites, as customers used to fast or even instant answers on social demand equivalent service on websites. The days of filling in a web contact form and waiting a few days for the reply are over. Important to note here – despite what people who sell marketing services may predict, the chatbot of the next year or two will not be the future of AI, merely a limited instant messaging service that eventually offers the option of a phone call when things get complicated. But if consumers expect them on websites, they’ll need to be there.