January 12, 2018

Technology trends to consider in your insight planning for 2018

By Paul Laughlin

technology trendsRegular readers of this blog will know that we don’t usually focus on technology trends. One of the insights this blog is sharing is the importance of the human elements of customer insight & analytics. Leadership skills, softer skills, CPD and human context all matter hugely, to customer insight generating value for organisations.

However, at this time of year, with so much material being shared on technology trends & futurology, it is hard to ignore.

What is more, it is an element that should be considered in your goal setting for 2018. As suggested, in our post on specific goals for customer insight leaders, the potential of new technology has to be considered.

So, amongst all the material being shared & all the potential technologies, which should you consider?

In this post I will share a number of blog posts that struck me as useful, because I believe the maturing of that technology impacts customer insight. Some will provide important new data streams, some enable different analysis & some make possible different actions as a result.

Here is my, subjective list, of technologies to consider when crafting your plans for 2018…

Technology Trends – Consumer perspective

It’s not the only lens to consider, when identifying new technologies, but consumer awareness matters. So, what better way to assess the consumer interest in developing technologies than to hear debriefs from CES.

For those who aren’t aware, CES stands for the Consumer Electronics Show. This has been running since 1967 and has become the major global event for previewing new consumer tech.

So, what is all the fuss about this year? Which technology has caught the eye of consumer tech journalists? A useful blog post from HubSpot, summarises the advice from Consumer Technology Association; of trends to watch:


Of the list they have highlighted, the ones I suggest keeping an eye on are: AI; Voice; VR & the drone part of Robotics development. I selected these because they are both, ready for widespread adoption by consumers & will yield data useful to insight teams. As consumer experiences, it is also easy to see how new insights from analytics could be deployed to improve CX.

So, let’s look a bit deeper at those trends & then also raise one that is not yet well understood by consumers, but will change businesses.

Technology trends: AI

Much has already been achieved in the world of AI & Deep Learning. Numerous Machine Learning algorithms have been around for decades. More recent advances in big data & technology have enabled an ever-growing number of applications. And yet this still feels like a technology yet to reach main stream for customers.

This helpful post from O’Reilly Media, highlights some of the developments for AI that should matter to insight leaders. As well as the expected focus on algorithms & ‘use cases’, I am glad to see mention of simpler development tools. As for the rise of Python, ease of use & speed to learn will drive greater use:


They are also right to predict a focus on privacy, ethics & responsible AI. There is much negative media coverage (loss of jobs, robot wars etc). So, it is key that insight leaders help, to design human-centric applications. As with many innovations, customer insight leaders have a key role to play in design. Listen out for conversations that may currently be focussed on what is possible or optimisation. You can add human insights.

Technology trends: Voice Assistants

The consumer take-up of voice assistants has been more visible. Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home & others have been popular Christmas presents this year.

However, until recently, there has been less published on how use of this technology changes behaviour. So, even though it is short & ‘advertorial’ in nature, I found this post from ‘Think With Google’ interesting:

5 ways voice assistance is reshaping consumer behavior – Think with Google

Voice-activated speakers were a popular gift this holiday season. And that means in the coming year, people will not only be learning how to use these devices, they’ll be weaving them into their daily lives and routines. We wanted to explore how this emerging technology is shaping consumer behaviors, so we conducted research with people who own a voice-activated speaker.

As well as considering the data potential of voice interaction, insight leaders need to think about data protection. As mentioned before, GDPR has implication for voice data too.

But beyond the potential pitfalls, with the right permissions, insight leaders should think bigger. How can voice CX be designed to improve? How can behavioural analytics of use of this new interface, help businesses redesign voice apps to help consumers.

In your 2018 plans have you considered voice as a channel?

Technology trends: Virtual Reality

With the futuristic looking headsets & immersive digital worlds, it’s easy for VR to feel more like playing. But, consumer take-up is growing. More businesses are also identifying commercial applications (inc. internal & B2B). So, it is worth considering.

One of the initial problems for organisations considering venturing into using this tech, is all there is to consider. How will the domain data be captured? How should they assess a viable supplier.

For that reason, I recommend reading this piece from CMS Wire blog. In it, Manel provides advice on questions you should use to challenge vendors. They are a helpful guide to ensuring you consider the practical implications of piloting this technology:

Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Ripe for the Enterprise

Immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality are among some of the most exciting and promising technologies available today. Recent years have seen a number of different headsets released into the market as well as increasing investments in the field.

It’s striking how much emphasis Manel rightly puts on better understanding people. Both those who need to be involved & how to elicit domain knowledge. Two key topic areas where customer insight leaders should be working in partnership with IT on such pilots.

Technology trends more to come

I hope those consumer facing technologies were interesting. Not all businesses will have relevant applications for each. But, it’s a useful list to consider for your innovation planning.

I have more to share; too much for one post. So, in our next post, I will turn to consideration of technologies that are less obviously driven by consumer demand. From robotics (drones), to Blockchain. How can developments in these technologies help today’s businesses?

For now, I leave you with the thought that for each of the technologies considered in this post, there is a key role for customer insight leaders.

First, understand the customer need/job to get done & design a human centric experience.

Secondly, consider the potential of the data provided, from interaction with each of these technologies. How can this data be used to continuously improve the ease of using each of them, to engender trust for data sharing?

Thirdly, what are the data protection considerations? How will you ensure customer understands the data you want to capture & provides proactive consent, as they see value to them?