Fjord looks into 2016′s design and innovation trends

Published:  January 4, 2016

Global design firm Fjord (part of Accenture Interactive) has released its annual report outlining the digital and innovations trends we can expect in the new year.

The trends, based on insights and analysis from a team of more than 750 designers and developers, focus on issues that are expected to be tackled in the coming year and the impact on design, users, organisations and society.



Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.27.30 AM1. Micromoments will rule

They’re in our homes, cars, offices, on our phones and wrists. Listening technology devices, think wearables, listen and respond to our needs almost in real time. Whether it’s literally listening to voice commands or the streams of data we create, devices are learning from our micromoments.

All of this has broken the customer journey into a plethora of real-time, intent-driven micromoments. It follows a very predictable pattern – immediate need, relevant reply, repeat – but in an unpredictable sequence. It’s changing the way we consume and has tremendous implications for brands: Consumers are moving away from long-term immersive research, instead seeking short periods of very focused activities that need to be satisfied with bite-sized snippets.

Fjord says, deliver on these micromoments or someone else will.

“Being able to detect exactly how and when consumers decide to reorder a recurring product could prove to be priceless. Faceless services have broken the privacy barrier. Services are inside the home in ways that have never been possible before, and they have the power to simplify our lives by automating many tasks. But taking advantage of such convenience means brands have access to every move we make. Aggregate that data, and you can get a very interesting picture of a consumer.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.27.47 AM2. Big data will be polite

Big data is not something new. But what’s cropped up, post-Snowden era is the issue of digital trust. And that is now more important than ever.

The good news is that organisations and policymakers have begun to reverse-engineer consumer distrust with innovative solutions. The Federal Trade Commission released a report in January 2015 on the Internet of Things, which outlined a series of steps businesses can take to protect the privacy and security of personal data.

Fjord predicts better practices in businesses and governments in big data usage.

The concept of “privacy by design” is another area that is taking shape. The notion states that privacy standards should be embedded into technology and the product design process from the get-go.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.28.05 AM 3. Companies will design and innovate for their most valuable asset: Employees

Career paths are no longer linear. That “corporate ladder” we know is no longer current. Now, employees are treating their careers as a series of “tours”, using each new employer as a way to establish a self-determined path, build critical skills and grow outwards.

Employees now expect tailored experiences, fast evolution and personal connection in their careers. As a result, we are seeing the emergence of employee experience (EX) design, where workplace processes, structure and culture are all reimagined at an organisational level. It was the fastest growing category of work at Fjord in 2015 across many industries, from banking to telecom.

According to Fjord’s report, in the next 10 years, a philosophical tug-of-war between four generational mindsets will be a reality. “On one side, Gen X and baby boomers adhere to more traditional forms of career progression. On the other, millennials and Gen Z, who tend to be more transient, idealise jobs where social impact plays a role. These two subsets will shape the future of the companies they work for.”

Building cultures of purpose will be a top priority of leadership in corporations, through both further experimentation with organisational models as well as the development of employee-centric tools that blend functionality and empowerment.

Fjord also predicts that artificial intelligence will play a huge part in workflow processes.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.28.18 AM4. Apps will disappear

Soon, we will not longer control the apps we have in our devices. Instead, apps will control us. We are in the midst of the atomisation of apps. Atomised brands take a much more flexible approach to their products and services, allowing them to be super distributed across various platforms and third-party services, while still retaining their brand identity.

The act of toggling between apps may disappear such as in the case of the Chinese messaging app, WeChat. Known as the “everything app,” WeChat functions beyond the traditional definition of an app or even a browser, with 10 million third-party apps hosted inside. One feature even controls the lights, temperature and settings of your hotel room.

Fjord stresses that the future of “app” design will be counterintuitive. “Most organisations currently focus on the transaction of a service – and rationally so. However, if you focus on the interaction, or “point of x,” and make it as smooth as possible, the transaction will happen naturally. It’s about designing for humans, focusing on interactions instead of transactions.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.28.34 AM5. Technology will make luxury services mainstream

Technology is beginning to open up the luxury service market to the masses. In the past, highly tailored experiences were reserved for the very wealthy, with costs and scale being the main barrier to entry. But with digital technology enabling highly scalable yet personalised experiences, luxury is now available for the masses like never before.

Lifestyles and benefits of the very privileged are becoming suddenly mainstream; we now have chauffeurs drive us from point A to B, personal assistants wait in line for us, food delivered to our door with a touch of a button – the examples are aplenty.

“In the future, any industry with traditional roles and privileged expertise will be challenged. Data ubiquity, E2E customer experience engineering and evolving technologies have become fuel for the democratisation of services in banking, healthcare, education, shopping and more,” the report states.

“As we see the flattening of services, expect to see the emergence of a new strand of luxury, enabled by digital and available to the only to the top of the wealth class. Think personalized technology platforms, or rather, a platinum iOS. After all, mankind is still a status-driven animal.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.28.45 AM6. Approachable government design for the people

Governments are embracing digital and using it to its full potential to improve how they serve the people.

From connecting communities around a cause, addressing asymmetries of information and giving the underrepresented a voice, there has been a great leap forward in terms of how some governments are thinking about the citizen experience. This is moving from a one-size-fits-all approach to finely tuned services that are tailored to individual needs.

We’re even seeing archaic government departments step aside to allow for citizen-centric holistic solutions. This is the year when technology will be in service of the public good. And more importantly, technology will enable a new breed of citizenship.

The focus of public service design, Fjord suggests, is to use simple language for its content, structure and navigation, to be sensitive  and not opaque or cumbersome and to use a research-led approach to generate rich insights that can then be used to spark innovations.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.29.21 AM7. Health is the new currency

Health is no longer a complex cost managed by a closed set of entrenched players. It is now something we can all keep track of, learn from and reward.

Now, data is the newest fitness accessory. But this will have the effect of turning fitness into wellness – a much bigger opportunity. The consumer market is now very comfortable with the practice and progression of self-monitoring. We’re starting to see the consumerisation of healthcare. In the healthcare industry, this trend translates into a “beyond the pill” strategy.

The impact from this cocktail of self-serve devices and data is emphatic. It allows us to be proactive about preventative care and positive behavioural change, facilitate more productive and timely interactions with healthcare practitioners and also minimise avoidable and costly healthcare emergencies.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.29.37 AM8. Virtual reality is real

Virtual reality or VR will obviously offer the next dimension in gaming, but it’s the unexpected applications that we are intrigued by. From education to tourism to health, VR will begin finding its place in our work, play and homes.

In 2016, early adopters will give VR technology a try in their homes and workplaces. New movie formats will likely emerge as well as services to create them, such as the Oculus Story Studio, a team that focuses on developing new methods and techniques for VR movies. We will also keep seeing new peripherals being introduced, such as the Oculus touch, Google Cardboard’s Jump camera rig and other motion-sensing devices designed to enhance the VR experience.

From virtual tourism to immersive journalism to exposure therapy, VR can change many industries beyond gaming. The question will not be if, but how and when VR will impact business processes and customer experiences.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.29.51 AM9. Simplicity wins in an era of all-you-can-choose 

Thanks to the digitization of everything, we now have the most hyperreactive markets in history. From more than a million apps in the Apple Store to the grocery’s milk aisle, every aspect of our lives now requires making a choice.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to make sense of all the noise with all these endless options available to them. One of the more startling revelations of recent years is that people are more likely to make poor decisions, be less satisfied, and switch off entirely when confronted with the burden of increased choice.

Services that are able to anticipate needs by not only providing personalised messages and suggested options, but automating low-maintenance decisions, will be an important step. For choices and decisions that require greater knowledge of a product or a clearer articulation of the consequences and outcomes of any given choice, expertise (human or digital) and well thought out design will be required.

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 10.30.01 AM10. Corporations bring design thinking in-house 

Corporations are finding that innovation can be extremely elusive. Fostering demands a new approach to business, where empathy is established with users, models are created to examine complex problems, and failure is tolerated, even celebrated at times. This is an approach where design is in the doing.

For many companies, the journey toward design maturity carries two main challenges: process integration and scale. Integrating designers within a mature corporation is a very different matter than adding a vertical capacity. People from the leadership level will need to help spearhead initiatives of this scale.

For some companies it will make sense to integrate design throughout the organization, while others might see the value of its integration only in consumer-facing units. In the end, it will not matter “where,” but “how.” Ultimately the success formula will lie in the execution, and in such a volatile ecosystem, this will mean embracing a human-centric approach to design across the board.

Read the full report from Fjord here.

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