It's always an entertaining activity to predict the digital trends for the year ahead, especially when tech moves so quickly that not even the all-knowing AI overlords can get it right every time. That said, our Luminary leaders have the fortune of working with industry giants and alongside an incredible line-up of partners, so we banded together in earnest to have a frank discussion about 2024. By extrapolating what we know to be true, and interrogating evidence we are seeing to suggest new trends and directions, we have put together our 2024 predictions for the digital industry.
With the phasing out of third-party cookies, brands will need to be smarter in the methods they use to get to know their customers. As it becomes more difficult to track individuals while they browse across the web, we’ll see an increased reliance on experimentation tools (like Optimizely’s Web Experimentation) being used to glean insights into customer preferences. As the economy shifts, brands are going to have to work harder for the consumer dollar, meaning that they are going to need to implement even more relevant and personalised messaging.
While personalisation is nothing new in the digital space, the rise of privacy regulations and the erosion of tracking capabilities across third-party sites is making it more challenging for brands to tailor their messaging. This will put the emphasis squarely on collecting information through your own digital channels. Experimentation – along with providing genuine value in exchange for information – will play an important role in facilitating that.
AI is here to stay, that much is clear. Many of us in digital have already started using AI tools to enhance our productivity, help solve problems, improve the quality of our output, or simply to save time with mundane, simple, or repetitive tasks. And I'm not just talking about LLMs such as ChatGPT or Bard. Developers are commonly using Github Copilot for AI-powered pair programming, team members (especially those who speak English as a second language) are using Grammarly for professional communication, busy managers are letting AI PAs such as Motion or Reclaim schedule their days, content managers are generating high quality images from text prompts, and our designers are even experimenting with AI-assisted generation of high-fidelity wireframes and code.
In 2024, with the rapid expansion of AI-powered assistants available in almost every aspect of digital life, using these tools will no longer be a secret weapon in the arsenal of the most tech-savvy digital natives, but will quickly become the standard. Whether they're individual tools such as chatbots, code or image generators, workplace-wide productivity enhancements such as Atlassian Intelligence, Google Duet AI, Microsoft 365 Copilot, or new features baked directly into the many tools such as your CRM, CMS, or Digital Experience Platform (DXP), almost every part of *every* role in digital will be enhanced by AI assistance in some way.
The robots aren't coming to take our jobs (yet!), but in 2024 they are coming for everyone who is ready. It's going to be up to us humans to use our expertise in utilising them, and make us superhumanly effective in our roles.
Over the past year, we’ve seen a rise in demand for more efficient and sustainable CMSs and DXPs – a trend that we expect to continue to gather steam over the coming year. Clients are increasingly transitioning away from cumbersome legacy platforms, frustrated by the substantial investment of time and money required to upgrade them. Rather than having to give their website a complete (and expensive) overhaul every few years, organisations are opting for subscription-based SaaS platforms that allow them to pay a month-to-month fee and implement gradual and continuous improvements while putting more energy into CX-focused activities.
The shift towards more sustainable digital investment is also being fueled by platform vendors, who are investing big dollars into future-proofing their products to further enable the subscription-based SaaS commercial model. This has resulted in product acquisitions from the likes of Optimizely, Acquia and others, and complete rebuilds or new product direction from the likes of Kentico and Sitecore. For those vendors who aren’t completely SaaS, they are offering to take on the upgrade role themselves to ease the burden on customers and agencies.
This is all in support of a more sustainable and customer-driven approach to digital investment and continuous improvement.
By now, most marketers will at least have dabbled in AI, if not adopted it as a third hand in their day-to-day work. Uptake of ChatGPT skyrocketed in 2023, and will continue to explode in 2024 – but at the same time, mass production of AI-generated content has meant that consumers are getting more savvy at sniffing it out. And that’s where the opportunity will lie for smart marketers in the coming year. There is a fine line between using AI to perform the groundwork of what we do and using it to actually do our jobs. Brands that nail that balance will be the ones that come out on top.
With cost-of-living increases putting pressure on marketing budgets, there will be a temptation to lean towards auto-magical generation of content, potentially leading to robotic and formulaic outputs. Putting the human element back into the picture will come from a combination of knowing when to AI and when not to AI, and sharpening our prompting prowess. With the right inputs, you can train ChatGPT to ‘learn’ your brand personality. Being intentional and specific about where you guide AI to pull information from – and the voice you instruct it to adopt – will allow your brand to show up as itself, rather than as a homogenised regurgitation of internet soup. And then the challenge will be deciding whether the result has hit the mark, or whether it’s time to head back to the drawing board.
In 2024, Composable Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) will gain momentum within the CMS (Content Management System) space. Vendors will focus on expanding their range of third-party integrations rather than consolidating what they have. Marketers and customers are asking for more and so vendors want to allow them to use the best-of-breed products in their DXP. While all-in-one DXP suites will have their place, we will see more clients moving towards a composable DXP architecture in 2024. If you are looking to rebuild or re-platform in the future, this buzzword should become a reality for you.
AI and Generative AI in the CMS/DXP space is also something vendors are working on and customers will be asking for in 2024. For example, marketers and content editors want AI help to create content variants for personalisation and AI smarts to serve personalised content to end users. End-users want to reach their end goals quicker and expect a seamless experience that can be driven by AI. So DXP vendors are working on these and other AI-driven features to support marketers and content editors. 2024 will see a swathe of these features released and you will be the judge as to which ones are useful.
2024 will mark the beginning of new versions of the internet we know today. Brands must begin to adapt to users' appetite for faster and more advanced technology and platforms.
Here are some trends and changes to be aware of:
- Virtual and Augmented Reality will start to take away screen time from mobile. Industries like gaming, healthcare, education, and many remote companies will begin to trial immersive and interactive experiences. While it will be in its infancy, expect breakout apps and use cases from Apple and Meta.
- Voice and Natural Language search will also grow rapidly: Voice-activated devices and technologies will continue to advance, impacting how users interact with digital platforms and services. Ensuring content is properly categorised and structured will matter.
Here's what brands can be doing:
- Streamlining content to be searchable and accessible. In 2024 businesses will lean into ensuring they have a content strategy as a north star, to ensure users find the right, engaging content to support the customer's decision-making across all platforms. Developing a robust content strategy and governance plan can create amazing efficiencies for marketing teams, saving both time and money. Content is a vital component of any digital strategy, and in 2024 it will matter more than ever.
- Advanced analytics to improve marketers' decision-making. With the full launch of GA4 analytics now fully integrated across the board. Marketers, strategists and analysts can tap into the potential it can surface, such as enhanced cross-platform tracking, enhanced data privacy and seamless integration with advertising and search.
- Personalisation. Implement personalisation strategies that leverage data to tailor the visitor's experience and behaviour. Providing a more personal experience means you can show each visitor products or services they're actually into, based on what they've looked at before. As AI usage moves to the mainstream, customers will expect websites to operate at a similar level.
Bridging the gap between design and development and releasing products as soon as possible will be a key focus for 2023. How might we design directly into code, or how might we code without designs? Design systems have matured over the past few years, especially with the emergence of design tokens, becoming consistent and required to be scalable across various digital channels. Teams evolving their traditional workflows, recognising the need to get to market as quickly as possible and iterating upon each release instead of lengthy timelines is fast becoming routine.
Agile has largely enabled this fast-moving way of working since its adoption, but teams are now finding ways to design directly into code and in some cases negating the need for all features and components to be designed at all. Tools such as Framer, Webflow and Plasmic enable teams to design interfaces directly into pre-built codebases and component libraries. That principle of designing directly into code has been explored at Luminary and other agencies to increase efficiencies and reduce repetitive tasks.
AI-generated search experience (or SGE) is and will continue to be one of the biggest changes to SEO we’ve ever seen. Generative AI simply means content/assets that are created by artificial intelligence, and Google has been experimenting with using AI to generate search results all year, with Bing already rolling out its generative AI experience to the public. We've also written about SGE earlier in the year.
In organic search, a notable way we’ll see AI in practice will be in a new form of featured snippet – that is, content that appears in ‘position zero’, above traditional search results, that aims to answer a query directly on the search engine results page (SERP). The current featured snippet includes paragraphs, listicles, videos and/or images usually from a single source, with the source linked directly below the snippet for easy click-through. It provides a single experience for each query.
The upcoming featured snippet will see AI generate a snippet that is an aggregate of multiple sources, with sources cited and linked off to the side. The experience and layout can evolve based on how the user interacts, e.g. by asking follow-up questions, clicking related links, etc.
It appears that easily answered search queries (FAQs, definitions, etc) will be most affected by AI, whereas the less impacted queries will be those seeking more complex answers (financial, health, government, legal, etc). Lean into your role as a deep subject matter expert. So rather than targeting many different ‘head terms’ (short keyword phrases with high search volumes) with a high level of content, go deep on a smaller set of niche topics that are highly relevant to your business and your customers with ‘long tail’ keywords.
In addition to standard keyword research, we recommend UX research to understand what your customers are interested in, what information they need, in exactly what language and terminology they’ll search, and what they want to do with that information.
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