2020 has been dominated by just one story – Covid-19. Very few people foresaw the significant disruption and distress the pandemic and the response to it would cause to all our lives. Economies have been hit hard, and while some businesses have thrived, many have stumbled, and some have sadly fallen.
As we look to 2021, it has never been more important for customers to have trust in the brands they interact with, for businesses to be agile in how they operate and communicate with their customers, and for companies to embrace intelligence by taking full advantage of the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Businesses that respond well to these changes will build better experiences for their employees, their customers, and all their stakeholders, and will be well placed to make the most of the economic recovery later in the year.
For these predictions, we asked our industry experts across SDL to provide insights into what they believe will be the prevailing trends during 2021. They looked specifically at how brands can adopt a closer and more trustworthy relationship with their stakeholders through the use of more agile technology and content that is deployed intelligently across any format to customers wherever they are in the world.
The trust trend
The truth is out there… and truth will matter even more than it did before the pandemic
2021 will continue to see a tide of disinformation, but efforts to combat it will increasingly be made by organizations and individuals alike. A skeptical public will be more wary and will examine claims with greater scrutiny. This will not just be limited to areas such as politics and health – brands too must be above board and beyond reproach in all that they do. Honesty really will be the best policy. Consumers will continue to move more of their life online, but beset with sophisticated scams and dodgy dealers, trust in who you are dealing with online will assume ever greater importance.
Rogue algorithms – clarity over the human-designed decision chain
The use of automation and AI will increase in 2021 as companies look to cut costs and be more efficient in how they operate. However, the pitfalls of the “rogue algorithm” and the decision-making process will draw increased scrutiny – as evidenced during 2020 with the UK school exam results and multiple examples where rogue algorithms have generated biased results. Consumers will increasingly demand to see greater transparency and justification of automated decision making to make sure it is fair and non-discriminatory. Technology helps – but it should not always be the sole authority and decision maker. In 2021, businesses must be transparent and prepared to provide answers about their algorithms.
Easy access for all
With companies more conscious than ever of their responsibilities to society, technology and AI will help drive greater accessibility in the digital world. Investments in AI make content and online shopping more open and available to all. But it is not exclusively focused on retailers. Healthcare accessibility is mandated by law and spans not just deafness, blindness and other physical impairments, but includes Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Any U.S. organizations that provide healthcare and receive federal funding (Medicare, Medicaid) must be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Increasing AI across accessibility channels will position a brand as a leader, enabling quicker-to-market processes to happen and faster regulatory compliance. As 2021 rolls on this is expected to grow significantly.
Agility will drive stability
Working effectively when working remotely
The shift to remote working will last. A swing back to more office work when offices are able to reopen is only to be expected, but workers have experienced too many positive changes to their work-life balance to go back to full-time office work. At the start of the pandemic, few companies were fully set up for working from home, with many stumbling their way through 2020. In 2021, it is time to put working remotely on a proper footing, with effective processes and technology in place to enable the workforce to work efficiently and effectively together – even when choosing to work apart.
Evolution not revolution
Being more adaptable in a digital world that is rapidly changing requires finding and deploying technology that gives you greater agility and is to a degree ‘future-proof’. But in 2021, organization-wide overhauls are less likely. In the middle of the worst recession in 300 years, no one has the time, budget or stomach for overhauling everything all at the same time. The focus in 2021 will be on smaller improvements that give the greatest returns in terms of scale, efficiency and intelligent customer engagement, and will be led from the front line, rather than those at the top. Changes will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Winging it won’t do
Companies that have deployed intelligent technology thoughtfully are thriving. Businesses have found that they cannot cling to the old order anymore – digital is no longer a “nice-to-have”. In 2021, intelligent technology will prove essential to businesses, allowing greater responsiveness to a constantly changing business landscape.
The year of intelligence
Talk to the heart – intelligence with empathy
Flat global marketing campaigns deliver flat results. For many businesses, if you are not engaging audiences around the world at an emotional level, your campaigns will always be pushing water uphill. 2021 will see a greater understanding of and respect for other cultures by businesses – but that respect must be genuine, must be authentic, otherwise the trust and engagement that brands work so hard to build will be undone. Transcreation – adapting content for different cultures – will assume a new significance and AI-powered machine translation will provide an intelligent solution that helps brands deliver more content and quicken the rollout of their global campaigns.
Making it personal
Personalization will move beyond just mere credentials, which feel fake and fool no one, to more genuine, more useful interactions that are valued by customers. Companies will move toward smarter contextualization, based on location and customer knowledge, in 2021. The companies that will come out ahead will have a single source of trusted content, delivered efficiently and intelligently, to a multitude of localized destination interaction points in whatever language and context are required.
5G rollout and faster fiber will see the Internet of Things become a reality and the demand for greater customer experiences explode. Intelligent content systems will become a necessity to meet the challenge of delivering all this content. Once again, trusted, intelligent content, deployed with agility, will provide a leadership platform for any brand, enabling businesses to do so much more with the same or less, and providing the best possible outcome for the consumer.