To be honest, 2015 has been a little disappointing in terms of new ways to engage with audiences through new technology. For a couple of years now, we’ve been tantalised by promises of virtual and augmented reality wowing consumers, and tracking technology delivering key brand messages to shoppers wherever they are. The reality has been that we’ve seen little of this innovation really put to use in mainstream marketing. 

However, next year could be different. 

Throwing the latest technology at a marketing campaign just for the sake of it isn’t necessarily going to have a positive impact. In fact, it may actually damage your campaign if it’s not in line with the objectives and appropriate for the target audience. However, used strategically and appropriately, the right technology can increase engagement and improve measurement. 

Here’s my pick of the top technologies that marketers should focus their attention on in 2016:

Get immersive with virtual reality 

First off, virtual reality (VR) just became affordable, opening it up to more applications and a wider audience, thanks to the Merge headset, released in November. This is the first time a consumer-ready headset has been available on the high street. It might not be of the same quality of Occulus Rift or Sony’s Project Morpheus, but it will still help brands deliver and engage a captive audience – the Holy Grail, after all. VR provides the chance to truly immerse consumers in a brand. Arguably, it’s the next generation of storytelling, which also means it’s only as good as the content itself, so avoid simply jumping on the bandwagon – make sure you have something relevant and engaging to say. But, thanks to Merge, 2016 could well be the year of VR marketing.

It’s an appy appy world

I also think that 2016 will see a growth in personalisation – creating more tailored experiences for consumers that will help to guide their buying habits and build loyalty. Mobile holds the key here. 2015 saw the UK officially became a mobile society, with over 90% of citizens now owning a smartphone and/or tablet, according to Ofcom. Meanwhile, app usage is also going through the roof, rising more than 75% in 2014, according to Flurry. This is a great route for brands to engage directly with their customers. By offering key incentives to get people to download their apps – such as a range of discounts, along with key tips and advice from experts – they can forge a closer relationship and maintain a valuable ongoing conversation. They are a great medium for alerting customers to new products and services, and ultimately driving sales. 

Utilise proximity marketing with beacons

OK, so this technology may have been around for a while now but another way to deliver more personalised experiences is through the use of beacon technology. From a retail perspective, it enables brands to fire messages directly to shoppers’ mobiles when they come within a certain distance from a store, with new product information and exclusive offers. Once in store, this technology can help to create a multi-sensory experience for shoppers, offering additional information and advice relevant to their proximity to certain products, essentially allowing consumers to discover a brand at their own pace. Beacons can add a new dimension to live brand experiences, triggering extra content that will boost customer engagement and linger time, while creating an all-round more immersive experience. 

Tailor to consumer needs with biometric tracking

Although I’m not sure whether this technology will actually take off in 2016, it certainly should do. It takes consumer tracking to a whole new level, allowing brands to hone their personalisation strategies even further. Biometric tracking can detect the gender, age and even the moods of consumers allowing them to provide a more individual experience, as well as more accurate targeting of products and offers. This may sound futuristic, but the technology is here right now, and the truly forward-looking marketers would do well to embrace this and the other technologies mentioned above, as it’s the early adopters who stand the best chance of gaining a competitive edge.

Big data reigns supreme

Finally, with the exception of VR, all the above technologies provide a great opportunity to collect valuable customer data. From shopping habits to opinions, movement around stores and live experiences, marketers should make a New Year resolution to make sure they thoroughly analyse this rich intelligence to arm themselves which as much market knowledge as possible to inform product and service development and future marketing campaigns.