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PHOTO: Zan Ilic

I wouldn’t be bold enough to bet on which device you’re using to read this article. Nor the browser. I couldn’t begin to confidently guess the referral source for you to click into it, whether from CMSWire's home page or newsletter, organic search, social media or a peer referral.

I would be willing to bet you’re reading it at home, though.

Now more than ever, it’s important to consider how our consumption habits have changed, and what your business needs to do to adapt to the trends the pandemic accelerated. 

Five tech trends strike me as particularly relevant moving forward, some tied to evolving consumer behavior and preferences, and some the result of technological innovations rapidly entering the mainstream.

Let’s dig in and explore why each of these technologies are becoming cornerstones to digital business, and experiences, today.

1. Video Is Just Getting Started

While images remain the bedrock for engaging audiences online, video continues to be an even bigger driver of high-value conversions. Videos establish a personal connection to your brand by telling richer stories and build trust. They offer maximum information in a short time and build strong connections and trust with your user.

Moving forward, video concepts will increasingly include virtual and augmented reality elements that create even more immersive experiences. These aren’t just fun, quirky concepts to attract curious customers. They are video-based experiences that can serve as the product itself, or inspire users to take revenue-generating actions, such as shoppable videos loaded with promotions for items in your ecommerce store.

Of course, videos don’t need to be a full-length feature film or require expensive VR equipment to have an impact. Micro-videos, such as 360-degree product views for ecommerce products or short highlight clips make it easy for users to quickly and completely interact with your brand’s most important messages and develop a long-term relationship with your business.

2. Microbrowsers and the Power of Peer Referrals

Sometimes the biggest impact can come from behaviors you can’t see. Specifically, peer-to-peer social conversations, so-called “dark social” conversations taking place between acquaintances on Slack or WhatsApp, often result in users sharing URLs with incredibly high conversion rates.

This channel is often undervalued because analytics engines treat it as direct or referral traffic from social platforms. What’s more, far too many brands fail to ensure that their URLs unfurl with images attached, or better yet, a micro-video preview.

While some platforms such as iMessage work hard to surface data to present to microbrowsers, not all systems do. As part of your brand consistency efforts, ensure that your content appears completely and accurately across all chat and messaging apps, as well as the long tail of other screens like handheld game devices.

The combination of high conversion potential, poor analytics and lack of attention in this area by most brands presents an incredible opportunity for the companies that move to optimize this early.

Related Article: Customer Experience Needs Empathy Now More Than Ever

3. UGC Amplifies the Brand

In the same line of thinking, user generated content (UGC) is still an underappreciated brand asset. No matter how good your branded content may be, it can only go so far in telling your story. Potential users trust existing users to speak the truth, and this is especially true with younger generations. According to our recent consumer survey on UGC, 78% of millennials rely on UGC when making purchase decisions. It provides the most authentic and trustworthy way to consume information about a business. Text-based reviews that only live on a product or service page won’t cut it moving forward; more than half of Americans say photos are the most helpful when they are researching purchases.

Successful brands can’t just let their user submitted content live on one channel either. Just like with their branded content, they must review it for quality and brand consistency, organize it, understand the optimal context for using it, and deploy it strategically across all of their channels.

Related Article: How to Mitigate the Risks of User Generated Content

4. AI Simplifies and Accelerates

The reason brands can manage all of the work to manage all of this visual content at scale is because of new innovations on the technology front, namely, artificial intelligence (AI). 

Until AI arrived, it would have been nearly impossible to organize and manage all these branded and user-generated assets and their associated data effectively. It was hard for teams — especially in remote, distributed work environments — to coordinate the lifecycle of each asset for each application or operate independently to manage a campaign without technical developer or design skills. And even then, it was hard to move at the speed of the customer to deliver great content in real-time on every channel.

AI changed that by offering faster, more accurate, and context-specific content optimization and delivery. Organizations that deploy AI with capabilities such as auto-tagging, auto-subject detection and auto-cropping will be able to get optimized content in front of their users at every interaction. 

This means their teams can focus on their core competencies and build out strategies for deploying next-gen video and UGC capabilities rather than only executing on the campaigns they already designed.

Related Article: The Uncomfortable Truth About DAM

5. Headless Architectures Deliver the Best of Both Worlds

The final piece of the puzzle from a technical perspective is that many organizations run their operations on an all-in-one platform for every part of the business. These platforms have rigid structures and capabilities, requiring an exchange of control for the promise of simplicity.

But headless best of breed applications are emerging that make it possible for users to integrate best of breed vendors into their platform. By decoupling each platform application from the core, users are able to deploy new solutions that serve their needs.

For example, CMS platforms don’t offer the advanced visual media management capabilities of a DAM platform. Now, with a headless CMS and DAM, organizations no longer need to build out APIs to enjoy the benefits of both. They regain the control and flexibility they need to develop and execute the best user experience and customer engagement strategy for their brand, unencumbered by the limitations of their platform vendor.

Conclusion

Business happens everywhere your customers are. In 2020, they were more online than ever, and innovation kept pace to help companies deliver great experiences. Meanwhile, the technical and operational barriers to creating incredible online experiences keeps getting smaller, and the capabilities available to your brand continues to expand. Now more than ever, there is a tremendous opportunity to differentiate your brand online and reach your customers with content they’ll appreciate and enjoy.