by Marguerite Coetzee. As technology evolves, so, too, do our methods of research, communication, interaction, shopping and consumption. Consumers are looking for intuitive, convenient, seamless, smart, instant, predictive, adaptive, ethical, meaningful and informative solutions. Technology has filtered through to almost every aspect of our lives; what matters now is how we use it to our benefit, to enhance the consumer experience, and to shape the future in a positive way.

There are generally two polarised reactions to the developments in tech (particularly when thinking about the future): enthusiasm for the advancements in science, medicine, and education, or outright fear and dismay. The latter is usually directed towards the dread of losing jobs to automation, or the panic of robots going rogue. It’s up to us to make wise, considerate and purposeful decisions when using technology.

Quantum leap

In 1889, French artists painted their predictions of what the year 2000 would look like. They were preoccupied with ideas of flying machines, underwater adventures and purposeful technologies (such as cleaning machines or educational transferences). In the late ’80s, in the movie Back to the Future II, Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to the future, to 21 October 2015. We saw predictions of hoverboards (which sort of came true), video calls (which we have now in Skype and FaceTime), drones (even partnering with GoPro for creative use), video glasses (although Google Glasses weren’t as popular as anticipated) and biometrics (such as Apple Pay that allows you to validate payments with a glance).

What’s next

The imagination never ceases to amaze (and sometimes amuse). We’re increasingly becoming more imaginative as technology develops and shapes our world views and ideas of what is possible. We’re ever more creative and resourceful, making improvements to our lifestyles, formulating new solutions to old problems, creating transformational value, making more-informed decisions, modifying reality, becoming more efficient, and developing cleaner ways of living — all through technology. We’re even entering a new space age.

As researchers, consultants, brands and advertisers, it’s not enough to simply keep up with the times — we have to imagine, innovate and implement. We can do this by exploring:

  • the relationship between people and digital-era technology: understanding the consumer experience, their attitude towards technology, and their access to technology
  • investigating how online (artificial) and offline (natural) worlds interact or merge: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), computer-generated experience, simulated reality, virtual reality (VR), wearable tech, smart objects, or
  • even taking a digital approach to research: conduct online focus groups, join virtual communities, document digital conversations

It’s important to frame the consumer’s digital experience in terms of a human experience — what’s the core sociocultural need that drives their interactions with the digital world?


Marguerite de VilliersMarguerite Coetzee is an anthropologist at strategic marketing consultancy, Kantar Consulting. FastForward, the latest series in her regular column on MarkLives, takes an intellectual, scientific and artistic approach to the future – particularly the future of Africa.

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