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The Changing Digital Landscape

December 5, 2019

Looking Back

As 2019 comes to a close and the year-end lists start to fill our social media feeds, we’re not only commemorating the end of a year, but the end of the decade as well. Before we move into 2020, let’s look back at how the digital landscape has changed in the last 10 years and what we have to look forward to in the new year.

How we digitally interact and communicate with the world has vastly changed since 2009, impacting everyone both personally and professionally. For example, while 70% of Americans had cell phones in 2009, the vast majority weren’t smartphones and couldn’t connect to the internet. In fact, only 59% of all households had broadband internet at the time. Online streaming was in its infancy: Netflix started streaming services in 2007 as they moved away from their mail DVD model. Online social networks were limited, with Myspace and Friendster dominating online social usage, and Facebook and LinkedIn just getting off the ground. Above all, social media and digital tools were more focused around leisure activities and not as closely linked to business networking and marketing or consumer advice, and certainly were not such an integral part of our daily lives.

Fast forward to today where 2.71 billion people around the world own a smartphone in 2019, with 22% of users checking their phones every few minutes. There are roughly 1 million new internet users a day, with an astounding 4.39 billion internet users worldwide in 2019. WiFi is universal, allowing users to access the internet from almost anywhere. In 2019, 48% of internet users do so from mobile devices, leaving desktops in the dark ages. Online streaming is built into TVs and consumed from mobile devices. Myspace is no longer relevant, while Facebook currently has over 2.45 billion users and is used by businesses almost as much as it is by individuals.

It’s safe to say we’re more connected than ever before, at least digitally. So, where does all this connectivity leave us?

With the monumental technological advances we’ve seen in the last 10 years, the capabilities and opportunities they create for people both personally and professionally are endless. But as we become more immersed online, it’s more important than ever to partner high-tech with high-touch. Business that used to be conducted solely in person has now evolved to balancing that personal aspect with digital platforms, and it’s crucial to know how best to use such digital tools without losing the ability to connect individually. Digital innovations should be used to complement the relationship factor in any business rather than replace it.

The following are some key strategies to help maintain a high-touch approach in a high-tech world:

  • Build credibility: Whether online or offline, relationships require a level of trust. Take time to define your personal brand and then stay aligned with it. Most customers today do their research online prior to ever contacting someone, and if individuals find a disconnect between how you present yourself online and who you really are, they’ll likely move on.
  • Be findable: It is essential to create an active social online presence where people can easily find information about you and your business. Ensure that your website, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts are updated and accurate, with clear descriptions of who you are and what you have to offer. Gone are the days of looking people up in the phone book; if you can’t be found online, you don’t exist.
  • Use digital channels: Every social media channel you use has a different audience, which means it’s essential to use a target voice or approach to reach your clients and prospects. Even if you post the same industry-relevant article on each platform, be sure to customize your description to match your audience. For example, LinkedIn tends to have a more professional focus, while Facebook is a network that provides more opportunity for personal insights to bridge the gap between your clients and your personal connections. Twitter is ideal for short commentary while Instagram is usually best suited to share image-based lifestyle content. Modify your personal brand’s voice for each of your channels when posting to ensure that you reach your target audience.

Looking Ahead

To say technology moves quickly is an understatement, and the advancements we’ve seen in the last 10 years will likely pale in comparison to what the next decade has in store for us. Here’s a glimpse:

Automation: Automation refers to autonomous objects such as drones, robots, vehicles, ships, and appliances using AI (artificial intelligence) to perform tasks that range in IQ from semi-autonomous to fully autonomous. From package-delivering drones to self-driving cars, the future really is now. And as if that isn’t futuristic enough, automation is already experiencing its own evolution in hyper automation, which is the use of both machine learning and AI to automate processes even further.

5G Connectivity: Going beyond faster broadband speeds and more reliable networks, 5G capabilities also contribute to smart cities, smart vehicles, and smart manufacturing. Expect it to also facilitate better data collection and transfer thanks to better bandwidth.

Faster WiFi: Better connectivity means better WiFi, resulting in faster processing speeds, 3x faster download speeds, higher quality data, and larger volumes of data that can be collected.

AI Technology: AI technology will not only be paired with machine learning to be able to process the vast amounts of data available, but it will be essential to businesses in terms of speed, scale, and convenience. From data analysis to customer service, AI benefits companies by automating tasks and processes, giving valuable time back to agents and advisors that they can then spend with clients.

How businesses will best use such technology remains to be seen, but the possibilities are exciting. These innovations allow companies to become more efficient by reducing time spent on tasks that can be automated, freeing up essential time that can then be spent with clients for a holistic experience that’s both digital and personal.

Chris Beck

Senior Manager, Customer Education Team

As leader of Hearsay's customer education team, Chris Beck develops and manages customer education materials and initiatives to help our customers succeed.

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