As we settle into 2016, Discerning Digital MD Richard Lucas rounds off January with a look at how all those digital and technology predictions translate into clear advice for the year ahead.

"At the beginning of each year, we’re inundated with articles giving us business, technology and marketing predictions for the year ahead. While they can be useful, it’s difficult not to become snowblind in a blizzard of similar articles.

"To that end, I thought I would present some expert digital predictions for 2016 and beyond, with some insight into what these practically mean for you.

Digital Transformation in 2016 - and Beyond

"IT research specialist IDC Research has published their outlook for 2016 with an unsurprisingly general consensus that digital innovation is set to continue growing in 2016, showing no sign of levelling off. Some specific predictions caught my attention:

1. ‘By the End of 2017, Two-Thirds of the CEOs of Global 2000 Enterprises Will Have Placed Digital Transformation at the Heart of Their Corporate Strategy’
"This represents a significant shift of priority for digital, and the right path to take, in my view. Digital cannot, and will not, work as a bolt-on or separate division from the rest of your business.

"To remain competitive over the next five years, digital must form part of your core business plan.

2. ‘By 2020, More Than 30% of IT Vendors Will Not Exist as We Know Them Today, Requiring Realignment of Preferred Vendor Relationships’
"This prediction really brings home to me the breathtaking pace of innovation and the ease with which technology relationships you rely upon can disappear, as companies are acquired or even fail, in an ever-changing partner landscape.

"The key learning here is to stay close to your IT and infrastructure needs and investigate any planned investment, to ensure you could change providers if necessary, with the minimum risk and disruption.

The digital customer experience

3. ‘Agile Customization of Experiences Becomes a Priority’
"Top research firm Altimeter predicts that advanced digital businesses will make further strides this year in pulling dynamic data from real time social and website interactions to deliver customised experiences.

"This requires careful integration of your CRM, marketing and website activities but the benefits are clear - a personalised experience for your customers, on the platform of their choice.

4. ‘The Consolidated “Back-Bone” MarTech Platform’
"Creating personalised customer experiences is difficult without the right infrastructure. Another of Altimeter’s predictions centres on the likely consolidation of marketing platforms.

"Marketing technology is a crowded room, but a number of players claim to offer fully integrated digital marketing services, bringing social media, email, content publishing and analytics together.

"These services can coordinate your digital marketing but also help you create smooth customer experiences with sales and customer service pulled in.

"There’s a rich landscape of martech providers, so explore each, keeping a unified customer service across any of your touchpoint, digital or otherwise, as the primary goal.

5. ‘By Year-End 2018, Customer Digital Assistants Will Recognise Individuals by Face and Voice Across Channels and Partners’
"As I’m a proponent of the thinking that any digital transformation should be led with customer needs at heart, my final top prediction comes from Gartner.

"This level of customer experience will only become more important as the buying process becomes increasingly-digitised, even in-store retail.

"Gartner predicts this interaction will feel human, with the ability to speak, listen and respond, creating a smooth two-way interaction.

"This type of development indicates how sophisticated online interactions between you and your customer can be, and what the future benchmarks of digital customer experience are.

2016 - the Race for Digital Innovation Continues

"What these predictions have in common is their urgency, with timelines of between two and five years.

"Of course, it’s important to remember these are predictions and that no one can make futureproof forecasts - the only certainty with digital is its disruptive and surprising nature - but thinking ahead with your digital strategy is the greatest protection you can give your business.

(This article was originally published on Manchester Digital).

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