Media and technology 2021 predictions

2020 has been a year no one could have predicted and has seen some of our societies deeply ingrained habits and behaviours change. These changes have left gaps in the way we communicate with our friends and colleagues, how we spend our down time and much more. In many cases tech and media has stepped in to bridge these gaps. We rely more heavily than ever on our tv streaming services and online communication tools to keep us connected. We have embraced new technologies more than ever this year and for many this year has been the catalyst needed for their products to be fully picked up – will this trend continue in 2021? 

We have asked some of our media and tech specialists to give us their sector predictions for the forthcoming year. 

Communication trends

We will continue to see a fundamental change in how we communicate. The pandemic has forced an early adoption of fully digital communication across the whole business world. The value of collaborative work platforms such as Teams and Slack has been realised at a hugely accelerated rate. As we move forward, we will look for the balance between meeting in person and retaining the best practice of communication habits we have developed in 2020.
Ben Bilsland, Bristol

Retail

The coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the rise of home-shopping. In 2021 all retailers, both bricks & mortar and pure e-commerce, will need to ask themselves hard questions about how they can compete with Amazon. Order fulfilment and delivery will become even more critical and those retailers that can offer wide choice with fast delivery and cheap delivery charges will prosper. 
Graham Steele, Manchester

Data and AI

A great challenge for business on the horizon will be how they approach developing AI to help manage and monetise the increasing amounts of data businesses produce. Businesses can be proactive in unlocking the knowledge this data holds. For example, healthcare organisations and the battle against Coronavirus and the search for a vaccine, or retailers understanding shifting patters in consumer behaviour. 
Ross Wilkinson, London

Being online now dominates much of our behaviour. The volume in which we are using tech every is resulting in more and more data being produced, collected, stored and shared. I expect a continued surge in the use of AI as businesses seek to gain a competitive advantage by better interpreting and using the data that they hold.  
Nick Wyatt, Manchester 

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality will have a huge surge in product awareness and will be increasingly used in creative processes. Now, more than ever, the use of virtual tours and the ability to use AR to make actual real-life changes to products will be of real value and importance. The “fourth industrial revolution” is taking place in the electrification industry where everything is digital, and you don’t have to be onsite to make tangible changes. 
Hannah Matthews, Nottingham

Political landscape 

In 2020, GEN Z’s favourite video app TikTok, and its Chinese parent ByteDance, have had privacy and data management accusations thrown at it. It’s part of a wider battle between the US and Chinese internet giants for global dominance. Expect this battle to continue to rumble in 2021 with more international restrictions against Chinese tech players, and China targeting US companies with big operations over there. Biden has already said he sees TikTok as a ‘matter of genuine concern’, so don’t expect a change in stance with the change in presidency. 
Richard Heap, London

Online access

What’s the most important point you look for on a CV? A 2:1 in a degree, 3 A-levels, a clean driving licence… and now - superfast broadband. When recruiting for any ‘office’ job the first question employers are going to have to ask is ‘how strong is your broadband?’ At the end of 2019 54 per cent of UK households were subscribing to superfast broadband, but it was available to 95 per cent of homes (Ofcom) . Expect to see offers of employment being caveated on the quality of your home broadband or the benefits package including a contribution to an upgrade of the home connection. 
Jon Lowe, Manchester

Ubiquitous coverage – removal of the digital divide, where people's access to the internet is dependent on their geographical location. In theory 5G will advance this but there’s a body of opinion that it’d be 6G that fully unlocks this. Yes – 6G, they are talking about this already. 
Matt Appleton, Basingstoke

Digitalisation 

Within the gaming industry, there has been a move away from the physical production of games, much like how DVDs have been consumed by Netflix. This will undoubtedly lead to an increased need for higher broadband speeds for gamers, different architectural approaches from a developer’s perspective and alternative routes to market and advertising strategies. The gaming industry has benefited from the pandemic and the habits developed during lockdown are looking very much likely to continue. 
Simon Browning, Nottingham

Cinema experiences

With the fall in conventional cinema over the past year we are likely to see the growth of ‘experience cinema’. This is already a proven trend with Secret Cinema screening events over the past few years and their ‘Casino Royale’ run pushing the 10 year old film to the top 10 UK box office ticket revenue in 2019. The movement towards experience driven events has seen growth throughout the whole hospitality sector and I believe that some of the major streaming services will move into this space with market leaders Netflix and Disney pushing these event-like screenings to supplement their online platforms. 
William Hughes, London