It’s officially 2018 so it’s time to make a prediction or five about which technologies are going to make the biggest impact over the next year.
Prediction 1: AI will only get bigger
To make predictions about the impact of artificial intelligence is almost like predicting that the sun will rise tomorrow. It’s an easy one, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Of course AI, the topic of nine major conference sessions at CES, is going to continue to get bigger. Last year, Accenture found that 85% of executives planned to invest in AI over the subsequent three years. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Facebook are going all in, creating compact machine learning software models and paying top dollar for talent.
As investment in AI increases (IDC estimates it will explode from $12 billion in 2017 to $57.6 billion by 2021) marketers will become better versed in how it’s utilized, from automating data science to more digital assistant integrations. According to Adobe, the Amazon Echo was one of the hottest gifts this holiday season and Alexa’s skillset skyrockets every quarter.
At the same time, consumers will learn more about what AI can do, as well. Surveying 24,000 people in 16 countries, Deloitte Global found that many don’t realize just how much machine learning impacts their smartphone usage, including predictive text and route mapping.
Prediction 2: Augmented reality will enhance more apps
Augmented and virtual reality didn’t quite blow up the way everyone thought they would, but we’re not counting the technology out. Last year, we bet on AR and VR. In 2018, we’re streamlining that prediction a little bit to focus on apps.
People love AR—look at Snapchat filters and the overnight success of Pokémon Go—but it requires an app. Consumers’ smartphone usage tends to be concentrated over very few apps, which AR has the potential to make more engaging. Brands like Patrón and IKEA are already using AR to educate consumers about their tequila-making process and visualize furniture, respectively. We expect to see more brands get on board in 2018.
App Annie research from October demonstrates that we’re already on our way. Similarly, Deloitte Global predicts that more than a billion people will create AR content at least once this year.
Prediction 3: More marketers will adopt an Amazon strategy
Last year, we teamed up with Catalyst, part of GroupM, for a report entitled, The Age of Amazon: Maximizing the B2C Marketing Opportunity. Amazon is practically synonymous with ecommerce and yet, only 17% of the marketers we surveyed have a set Amazon strategy.
Surprisingly, we learned that one-third of them don’t even realize there’s an opportunity. But at the same time, 63% of marketers plan to increase their Amazon budget over the next year, even more who plan to spend more with Google and Facebook. Only 1% intend to decrease their Amazon budget.
True, not every marketer knows exactly what they’re going to do with Amazon. But the fact that so many of them are at least thinking about it tells us that if we were to conduct the same survey in 2018, the percentage of marketers without an Amazon strategy will be much lower.
Prediction 4: Blockchain and the Internet of Things will grow together
Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, was one of 2017’s hottest topics. Our most popular read for November was Never Stop Marketing CEO Jeremy Epstein’s series, in which he predicted that blockchain will disrupt the advertising industry entirely.
That’s probably too ambitious to really come to fruition in 2018, but we believe it will start. Before that, we believe blockchain will have a huge impact on the Internet of Things (IoT). Billions of connected devices share information and payments, which undoubtedly excites all the cybercriminals out there. The encrypted nature of blockchain will keep these devices more secure, while creating ease between something like Visa’s payment ring and a merchant.
IDC Health Insights projects that 20% of organizations will have operationalized blockchain by 2020. We expect to see significant progress this year. Brands like Expedia and Overstock.com are already accepting Bitcoin payments, and Google’s search trends show a dramatic spike in interest.
Prediction 5: Brands will continue to improve personalization
Last year, Spigit found that 75% of companies’ biggest priority going forward was improving the customer experience. More and more, personalization is factoring into what makes a good experience. It’s a hallmark for brands like Netflix and Starbucks. We don’t see that slowing down, especially since consumers are more inclined to purchase from retailers who personalize, according to Accenture.
Why don’t more marketers embrace personalization? For 74% of companies, it comes down to a lack of dedicated employees. We expect to see a greater investment there in 2018, especially as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) approaches.
In May 25, 2018, the GDPR will change the game for every marketer operating within the European Union. Companies will have to get consumers’ explicit consent to store or use their data, or risk a staggering fine. When people opt-in to data collection, they’re essentially telling brands exactly how to target them, naturally improving personalization.