Artificial Intelligence. Augmented Reality. Robotics. Automation. Internet of Things. Blockchain. These are only a few of the innovations emerged during the last decade that are creating boundless opportunities for businesses and individuals. When strategically utilised, the World Economic Forum predicts that these technologies could generate more than $100 trillion of global economic value in the next decade.
In this exciting phase of innovation, technology seems more powerful and ubiquitous than ever, reaching a deep understanding of people, the objects they use, the places they go, their activities and relationships. At the same time, individuals’ experience with technology has extended to a multitude of devices and has become so natural and multi-sensory that it is hard to picture life without it. Everything is smart, optimised, automated.
In 2020, however, what will make the difference for companies is the consideration they will have for technology’s effect on people and the spaces they inhabit. And only responsible and transparent organisations will be able to navigate the ethical questions that those technologies will ask society to answer. Through their breadth of knowledge and expertise, those organisations will be the ones creating meaningful and relevant customer experiences, supported by technological advancements. Amid the turmoil of the digital transformation, human touchpoints will take centre stage again.
In a world of endless online entertainment options, live events continue to drive attendance and be seen as an asset by organisations. As technology advances and customer behaviours evolve, however, so do events.
This past year, the event industry has witnessed the rise of the event experience. Many traditional formats like conferences and trade shows have transitioned to multisensory live activation strategies. In 2020, attendees will bring a new wave of increased expectations to events. The keywords for this transition will be audience empowerment, deeper immersion, and better knowledge exchange.
In practice, it will be impossible to satisfy those expectations without relying on technology and automation. Consumers have grown too accustomed to the benefits they bring to their daily lives – think voice assistants, personalised streaming recommendations, automatic savings apps and more. The technology-enabled ‘magic’ that these innovations bring will be demanded at real-life experiences too. Starting from next year, attendees will demand events that blend the precision and efficiency of digital tools with the human touch of an in-person experience.
What’s more, with the winds of deglobalisation blowing from East to West, real-life events answer to a heightened need for connection that individuals are finding harder to maintain in their social circle. Scientific research highlights the link between connections, sense of community and happiness levels. In 2020, people will embrace shared real-life experiences that help battle social alienation and promote social wellbeing.
In line with this re-found interest for the human touch, we have seen increased investment in live events as part of organisations’ audience-activation strategies. Due to this centrality, event professionals have been asked to deliver on those premises through a new set of skills. This is why in 2020 we will witness a definite shift in the role of the event planner – from executioner in charge of logistics to strategic designer of experiences. Elevating traditional business events like meetings and conferences will be crucial in providing ROI. As part of this shift, event organisers are expected to be data-driven professionals who know how to leverage technology and deliver attendee-centric experiences. The main challenge for planners? Applying design-thinking and an audience-oriented mindset to always show progression, change, and attendee engagement.
You want to discover more about our services? Discover our services
In the last decade, the word ‘personalisation’ has taken on a whole new meaning. From online data-fuelled personalisation to smart objects that adapt in response to the user’s needs, we are now entering a new phase. In 2020, consumers will expect products and experiences that constantly change along with them. It will be difficult to identify a perfect formula. Perfection will mean evolving as customers evolve.
Technological innovations mean that consumers are now asking for more personalisation in their communication with brands, even away from digital marketing channels and into events. For this reason, personal relevance will be seen as an essential component of the event design. To deliver deeply customised, purposeful experiences, designers will need to consider the whole person, professionally and personally, understanding his preferences and personal value structure, rather than only satisfaction levels. Event organisers who won’t use collected data to deliver convenient and relevant experiences will fail to answer to the needs of event-goers.
Taking data into consideration is central to the growth of the event industry. As data get commodified and their value for companies increases though, so does consumers’ alertness of how their personal data are used.
Consumers will interrogate themselves on the benefits innovation bring and the privacy invasion they threaten. In response, they will start asking for more protection and be more selective in their digital behaviours. Reluctant in giving up the data-driven benefits they’re now enjoying, in the future consumers will take agency and decide which brands are deserving of their trust. Amid fake news, deepfakes, data breaches and unregulated use of data, transparency and integrity will gain more importance in their eyes. Given the responsibility this entails and their pivotal role in society, only companies that prove to consumers they can be trusted with their behavioural, contextual and emotional data will become their true partners.
Brands are now omnipresent in consumers lives, interacting with them via social media, virtual assistants, shared online worlds and more. The explosion of these new channels has brought new expectations to the fore – of what brands should be and should stand for. In this cacophony of branded messages, consumers have fine-tuned their ability to understand which brands are authentic and operate on a value structure and those that are just faking it. if they want to remain relevant with their target audiences, brands will need to take a stand on pressing issues and strive to make a difference. Think of Patagonia, donating $10 million dollars of tax cuts to environmental groups, or Nike, partnering with Colin Kaepernick - a controversial football player who spoke out against racial inequality in the sports industry - with the campaign “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”.
Ultimately, consumers will seek brands whose message isn’t just ‘this is good for you’, but ‘this is good for the world’. Individuals were used to looking to governments and institutions to answer to society’s most urgent needs – now, consumers are realising the impact and power of companies.
There is no denying that consumerism has taken a toll on our planet, our societies, and on individuals. Often times, it can look like brands are enabling this kind of unbridled consumerism, offering fast products at low prices. Now, a rising number of consumers are starting to reimagine old attitudes – and will turn to brands to help establish a new form of sustainable consumerism. In 2020, less harmful offerings will not be enough; consumers will insist on more radical solutions. The question will no longer be ‘why don’t you apply sustainability?’, but ‘how can you not?’.
The bar will rise much higher in the event industry too. Next year, event strategists will have to face the fact that sustainability is much more than a trend – and that they cannot stop at the basics. Less unnecessary flying and more virtual meetings, recyclable or digital signage, recyclable exhibition booths, vegetarian catering, investment in low carbon initiatives. In order to meet attendees’ expectations, event strategists will need to go full-on green solutions. Failing to respect attendees’ requests will mean exposing an event to the considerable risk of disappointment and outspoken criticism.