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2021 Technology Trends: Experts share their predictions for the year ahead

What a year 2020 has been. Across the tech sector, the pandemic has accelerated digital change, and has driven a new host of tech trends for the year ahead.

As we move towards 2021, some industry experts share their predictions for the year to come.

 

John Phillips, General Manager, EMEA, Zuora

“This year, the global pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already well underway for businesses; a shift towards more subscription-based models. Despite the economic downturn, key changes in consumer buying behaviours has meant that these models have proved resilient  In fact, a recent Zuora report found that more than half of subscription businesses have not been negatively impacted by COVID-19, while one quarter are actually seeing subscriber acquisition rates accelerate.

“This is a trend we’ll see increasing even further as we look towards 2021. The term ‘membership’ is likely to be replaced with ‘subscription’ as businesses look to engage with customers via bespoke added services and replace one-off membership fees with more flexible models.

“Membership provokes the feeling you’re locked into a contract for an extended period of time, with high cancellation fees and little flexibility. Whereas subscriptions offer customers a usage-based model that allows customers to opt-in, and out, based on their needs.”

 

Anthony Di Bello, Vice President, Strategic Development, OpenText

“While the main factor driving change is the remote workforce, it has led not to increased budgets, but rather different spending priorities. The pandemic has accelerated the shift to cloud, and existing budgets are shifting focus to securing cloud environments, and identification and control of sensitive data across what are now highly distributed work-from-home environments.

“As such, we do not see a broad push to increase cybersecurity spending due to the pandemic, and have heard customers indicate security budgets will be flat YoY due to budget cuts. Businesses are asking two questions: 1) Can we adapt existing tech to remote work-related use cases and 2) Can we consolidate our technology stack.”

 

Ali Ghodsi, CEO, Databricks

“As large scale use cases like AI and machine learning go mainstream in virtually every industry and segment, cloud computing has passed the inflection point of being a technical certainty. Startups are born in the cloud as a rule, and practically every enterprise is on the path to having a significant portion of its operations in the cloud. With such rapid adoption of cloud, more and more organizations are now operating in more than one cloud platform. The reasons are varied across regulatory requirements, diversification of risk, increased negotiating power, avoiding lock-in, and M&A activity, but the outcome is the same… more organizations are looking for solutions that provide a consistent experience across cloud platforms. This will have a big upside for enterprises that don’t want to reinvent the wheel with a second or third provider, as well as for software companies that are looking for ways to inoculate their businesses from the providers’ native offerings.”

 

Petter Nylander, CEO, Besedo

“COVID-19 has accelerated digitalization levels by years. As a result, there has been an influx of new marketplace users. The new users can particularly be found among an older demographic and in emerging markets.  Within this group there’s overall a very low level of tech comprehension which means we have seen an increase in vulnerable internet users who are exposed to potential fraud and abuse. Keeping this user group safe is a challenge that will continue far into 2021 and beyond.

“Additionally, it will take time before the COVID-19 vaccine has reached high penetration. This means that there will be a continued risk for various fraudulent offers around medical protection and treatments. Even with a vaccine it will take time for the hospitality industry to recover. As such Marketplaces with a high focus on travel and holiday homes could still face large challenges and will need to think creatively to push through until the world returns to “business as usual”. In 2021 we’ll continue to see a convergence between B2C and B2B. Unfortunately, many marketplaces mistakenly think that B2B is risk free and does not face trust and safety issues. This is not at all the case and to be successful platforms will need to put measures in place to safeguard their users in this space as well.

 

“In the past years we’ve seen automated text automation is becoming quite widespread. In 2021 I predict Image automation will be used by more and more Marketplaces in various verticals. We will even see an uptick in the requirement for automated video moderation as video becomes an even bigger factor when selling on marketplaces. 2021 will continue to be challenging to many businesses, but there’s also a range of opportunities for agile companies who dare to move fast. Young demographics are trending towards a more sustainable approach in their consumer behavior benefiting many marketplaces and sharing economy ventures. Also offering and integrating payments and delivery services is becoming hygiene factors. Finally, including various insurances and guarantees in your service offerings are becoming more common (for used cars for instance).”

 

Debra McCowan, SVP, Chief Human Resources Officer, NetApp

The strategic role of leadership is to ensure the agility of the business, through any transformation. We must remain mindful and sensitive to the hearts and minds of our employees, ensuring that we are making decisions first and foremost as people and not simply as corporations. While this remains true, the resources and tactics organizations use to achieve agility without sacrificing the comfort and safety of their workforce are evolving as we enter the new year; regardless, the comfort and safety of our employees take precedence, even in light of news regarding vaccines. The increase in attention and spend to ensure at-home workplaces feel sustainable, professionally and personally across the globe is evident and inevitable. Additionally, we can observe the continued evolution of traditional “work perks” in the foreseeable future with: more employers offering personal wellbeing and therapy apps, access to ergonomics trainers and meditation guides, flexible work hours, and virtual tutors for employees’ children in an effort to support their workforce and even attract new talent in search of a better work/life balance in a post-COVID world.”

 

Hans Tesselaar, Executive Director, BIAN

“In 2021, I expect that we will continue to see an increasing focus on customer experience from a financial services perspective. Our research showed that 37% of banks and fintechs believe the changing of customer demands will drive the most significant change of the next few years. As we look to navigate the new normal, consumers will remain unsure of their financial wellbeing and will look to their banks and wealth management advisors for support. This is exacerbated by the move to a cashless society, forcing many consumers to navigate online banking for the first time.

“Banks will need to play a vital role in ensuring that the demographic of cash-first users can navigate this digital world. They will also need to ensure that their systems can withstand the additional activity. At such a difficult time, customer experience will be paramount to a bank’s success both now and in the future. The coronavirus has forced a lot of changes to our everyday lives. I expect, when we start to recover from this pandemic, that many of these changes will stick, including our continued use of digital services.”

 

Samantha Chow, Life, Annuity and Health Lead, EIS

“The insurance industry has been highly affected this year, specifically because of the pandemic. The sector has lost $4.2 billion worldwide and has been affected this year more globally and faster than previous pandemics. However, they are still pushing through and many are accelerating their digital transformations to combat the affects.

“It is hard to predict what 2021 may hold however, we should definitely expect to see enhanced personalisation for customers within the global insurance industry. This pattern has developed over the year and it would not be a surprise to see its continued growth in 2021. Our recent report on consumer needs within the global insurance sector showed a full 20% of multiple policyholders stated a lack of personalisation is a ‘main reason’ for leaving a provider, and 28% cited poor customer experience. Getting experience and personalisation right is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for insurance providers; it is quickly becoming a crucial element of what the insurer offers to customers.

“We also predict that there will be a growing trend towards messaging apps for insurance providers; for example, the chat boxes you may sometimes see pop up when you visit a website. Our Customer Compass survey shows that phone calls are currently the main medium, however the data also shows a growing trend away from phone calls. As more options become available, consumers are likely to shift between the options, and at the moment 3% of Baby Boomers utilise messaging apps, compared to 9% for millennials.

“2021 should see more personalisation, elevating the customer experience and further digital advancements for the industry.”

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