As our 23-year-old agency heads into 2023, we take a pause to reflect on the year that was. There was the rise of AI, the fall of Twitter and just enough Google Core Updates to keep things interesting. Though despite any turbulence in the digital landscape, our Luminary leaders have remained steadfast in their commitment to making digital bright and the human experience brighter.
With our teams continuing to grow across SEO, UX, design and development, our Luminary leaders discuss what trend forecasts we can expect from 2023 and what areas may serve your business to invest in.
In my role, I am fortunate enough to speak to many CMOs, CIOs, digital marketing managers and digital leads. Over the past 6-12 months I’ve heard an ever-increasing focus on optimising digital spends and improving overall performance from a digital perspective. It’s less about digital transformation (with most of our clients being either well into that phase, or through it) and more about digital optimisation.
We’re seeing a big focus on backing strategies for optimisation with better data and tangible insights from good research. The importance of gathering rich customer feedback and using that to drive tactical digital activities seems to have hit home with the majority of marketers and digital professionals.
From a technology perspective, this focus on optimisation is resulting in organisations refining their marketing technology stacks. Throwing away the costly, traditional behemoths and embracing a more composable approach in line with micro-services architecture principles. In other words, best-of-breed over all-in-one. Integration toolsets are continuing to improve to allow this composable approach to happen with less headaches, and we’re seeing artificial intelligence (AI) finally being put to good use in marketing technology products to support digital marketers to do their jobs better, faster, and more easily.
I see the digital industry moving towards a more sustainable approach to technology with this focus on optimisation. Constraints, creativity and clarity of purpose lead to innovation, and I’m excited about what the industry can do as a whole over the next 12 months and into the future.
I believe 2023 is going to be big for the democratisation and proliferation of AI-driven technology for marketers. We’ve all seen the creepy but amazing image generators such as DALL-E-2, and incredibly convincing long-form text generators such as GPT-3. On the back of a strong push in digital toward cloud-native, API-first micro-services, and headless CMS (MACH), we’ll see these sorts of AI services being integrated tightly into people’s digital toolkits and having a very real impact on their day-to-day lives.
This doesn’t mean Skynet and Judgement Day are right around the corner of course, or even that our jobs are under threat from digital marketer robots! Just like spelling and grammar checkers helped improve the quality of our output years ago, and more recently Digital Experience Platforms helped us provide a better end-to-end customer experience across multiple digital channels, these tools are going to immediately automate repetitive or low-value processes, and empower us to do more, at higher quality, with our limited time. For the time being at least, they’re still going to need clever humans to use them, and lots of them!
In 2023, we will see more developers use tools such as GitHub Copilot to auto complete their code. Similar to predictive AI email composition features which can autocomplete phrases like “Looking forward to hearing back from you”, AI programming tools such as GitHub Copilot will allow developers to use suggested methods, boilerplate code, whole unit tests, and even complex algorithms. This will not replace the developer in 2023, but will hopefully make them faster and allow them to write better quality code. But there are privacy and ownership concerns that may bubble up next year for using open source software as the basis for these AI generated code assistants.
Zapier and IFTTT brought the power of automation to the hands of people with little or no programming experience. Marketers were able to create complex workflows which previously required developers to write code. Low-code/no-code tools such as Zapier, Microsoft Power Apps and Azure Logic Apps will proliferate in the marketer's toolbox in 2023 enabling them to do more with minimal technical knowledge. This will then allow developers to focus their time and effort on complex problems which cannot be achieved with low-code/no-code tools.
Content first: Over the past two years, we’ve seen an increasing reliance on our teams to support clients with content delivery. In many ways the execution of content has lent heavily on UX to support external copywriter and client content authors. We’ve seen many benefits to starting the content journey earlier than before and see content design becoming more integral to discovery, including draft content being tightly coupled with early concept design and testing.
More like a product, less like a project: Due to the time constrained nature of a project mindset, many powerful insights, ideas and processes are being left behind in favour of broad delivery requirements. We need to work with clients to bring focus to our projects in the early stages, so that we may deliver earlier on a narrower and more impactful set of UX deliverables. This will allow us to continue to deliver in a more meaningful way, rather than all at once, saving budget for continuous improvement.
Embedding research into Agile delivery: More and more we are seeing a need for stronger research documentation in Agile delivery teams. Remote ways of working, now strongly established, have left a gap in implicit knowledge sharing. We’ve found that Research Ops products are not appropriate in an agency setting, restricting our preferred process. So, we are trialling new ways to maintain our process, while documenting outcomes within our delivery of Agile ceremonies and tooling.
2023 will see the rise of visual content. With attention spans waning and users gravitating towards more visually based social apps, the strategic importance of having plenty of high quality images online is more important than ever. The perfect image can speak a thousand words.
Another strong theme will be sustainability, and there’s no doubt that there has been a rise in consciousness around sustainability, environmental protection and responsible consumerism. Digitally, this translates to conveying these plans in an easy to digest way and modelling any e-commerce systems in a thoughtful and sustainable manner.
Personalisation is not a new trend, but it is certainly becoming more of a user expectation when it comes to online experiences. Segmented and tailored content that aligns with users' interests will see brands maintain their presence on consumers' radars.
The pandemic focused many companies' attention on their customers' online shopping experience, as online shopping exploded. As societies have reopened, retail sales have regained much of their custom. The path to purchase will be a mixture of online and in-store research. Customer expectations of digital experiences have increased, with many now being used to getting what they want through a digital channel. Getting what they want does not necessarily mean that they want to be able to purchase it online, they may simply want to know if it is in stock.
Supply chain issues have made customers wary and they are now interested in real time information of either in-store stock or genuine expected delivery times. This is prevalent in both retail and increasingly in B2B environments as those customers have spent two years at home seeking the right supplies for their business. In 2023, the focus for companies will be on improving each digital interaction with customers, suppliers and candidates. Companies that are easy to do business with will win attention as they reduce the friction for users in being able to solve their problem or get the information they need.
Marketers will have greater access to funding as organisations adopt a digital-first mindset and strategy that will focus on putting the customer first. The investment in improving the experience for customers will see an overhaul of internal processes that reduce friction and the replacement of legacy software with best-of-breed micro-services that improve one function at a time. Organisations with a digital-first customer experience strategy will see improved SEO rankings, higher satisfaction ratings and overall increased online and in-store conversions of customers to raving fans. For all this to happen, team members across your organisation need to become Customer Experience (CX) Champions!
Visual search is the process of searching by image, e.g. submitting a photo of a jacket to search engines to find retailers that sell it. In May 2022, Google reported 8 billion Google Lens searches now take place each month, up 2.5x from last year, suggesting visual search will become a more common way of searching for information next year.
As the shift to headless CMS continues, SEO for headless will mature through better upfront requirements gathering, ensuring solutions meet the needs of marketing, content and SEO managers. (Learn more: Is Headless Good or Bad for SEO?)
Zeroing in on intent will become much more sophisticated in 2023. Search engines use AI to understand the nuances of how people search. Do they want an answer to a question? Are they ready to purchase? In 2023, it will become more common for marketers to map SEO keywords to the different stages in the path to purchase based on keyword intent and define content/SEO strategies to service users at various stages.
Accessibility is no longer an afterthought. Last year we began to see a shift in the broader mindset of our clients when it came to designing experiences for all. ‘Being accessible’ is becoming less of a box to tick and more of a prerequisite when defining how content needs to be consumed and interacted with. As our awareness of different societal issues matures, our application of designing for neurodivergent individuals, users with physical and cognitive disabilities and users with visual or auditory impairments will also.
2023 is going to be a big year for development-first design and the emergence of design apps that bridge the gap between design and development teams. How might we design an experience directly into the browser? Applications such as Plasmic are beginning to position themselves as a faster, more scalable way of delivering digital experiences, shifting the focus onto designing with robust code and away from engineering custom components. At Luminary, we have already begun to define new workflows within our own systems that create efficiencies across our design and development teams.
The way and frequency in which we measure RODI (Return On Design Investment) might be an interesting metric in 2023 and allow desicion-makers to understand the value of investing in design. Design is far more than making things nice to look at. Making design decisions based on user research and data, delivering assets in a scalable, reusable Design System and working with content teams to create personalised experiences all add significant value to the investment made by our clients. How we measure this and clearly point to the areas of improvement will support organisations wanting to invest in design and build their businesses.
Luminary is excited to welcome a new year, working with new and existing clients on projects across our many digital services. If digital transformation or optimisation are among your goals in the new year, our Luminary leaders are ready to speak with you.
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