In 2016, we’ve overseen a number of major technological developments and trends, all of which are having a significant bearing on our online marketing strategies (not to mention our everyday lives).
Here are seven of the most important:
1. Live streaming.
Live streaming technology, particularly via Twitch, Facebook Live, Periscope, and other similar apps, is developing at a faster rate thanks to a combination of factors that is making live streaming more popular amongst users; some of these factors include the practicality of mobile devices, better Internet connections, and a greater expectation to be “in the moment” in a social media context. As a result, live streaming technologies are coming to a more diverse range of platforms—including social media platforms—and are becoming more efficient, with fewer interruptions and greater accessibility.
2. Virtual and augmented reality.
It was supposed to be a big year for virtual reality (VR) with the emergence of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. To date, it’s seen modest popularity, but nothing that’s revolutionized the way we experience the world. On the other hand, augmented reality apps are starting to see breakout popularity (and Pokémon Go is the major notable example here), bringing millions of users together for a shared physical/digital hybrid experience. VR technology is still new, and there’s always a learning curve, but I believe we’re witnessing our first baby steps into an era with a much blurrier line between the physical and digital realms.
3. Automation, machine learning, and AI.
People have been anticipating the onset of artificial intelligence (AI) for decades, and though it’s been around in various forms for the past several years (and even beyond that), we’re now bearing witness to the advanced learning systems that may soon come to define our interactions with technology. Digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana, which were mocked just a few years ago, now have a stunning ability to recognize and decipher human speech, and Google updates like RankBrain are now able to update themselves, learning from complex user inputs and making automated adjustments.
4. The Internet-of-Things (IoT).
The Internet-of-Things is a phenomenon driven by the fact that so many everyday items—such as refrigerators and televisions—are now becoming capable of accessing the Internet, or even enjoying “smart” technology. Theoretically, groups of these appliances and devices could be linked together on a single network, resulting in a “smart home” that can be controlled independently by a single user on a single system. This technology could soon revolutionize the way we engage with our environments and interact with each other.
5. Big data and visualization.
To be fair, it’s been a few years since “big data” started becoming popular as a buzzword, so it can’t be counted as a trend exclusively in 2016. For the past few years, businesses have been upgrading their systems and investing more to collect greater quantities and quality of data on their customers. This data is useful—but only if it’s interpreted correctly, and only if those gathering it are asking the right questions. Enter the era of data visualization, where advanced software programs and analytics platforms are able to automatically gather and project big data in meaningful ways, helping users form accurate, actionable conclusions.
6. App streaming.
App streaming is one of the most interesting developments in the field of online search and mobile user experiences. Google has been pushing the visibility and functionality of apps in its search engine for the past few years, but its recent push to “streaming” apps in search results for users is an insightful indication of where things might develop from here. App streaming allows users to access content to apps they haven’t even downloaded yet, opening a potential door to the eventuality of apps replacing traditional websites as the central medium to gather new information.
7. Better in-app experiences.
The dominant apps of our era—like Google and Facebook—are fighting hard to keep their apps in the top ranks, and keep users in those applications for as long as possible. Social media apps are starting to venture into new territory, with better, more diverse messaging experiences, and new functionality that overrides the necessity to leave the app and pursue functionality elsewhere. Most users are finding these in-app provisions helpful, and they’re only going to grow more sophisticated from here.
With these seven trends already in place and shaping the world around us, I can only imagine what wonders are down the pipeline. As a savvy marketer, it’s on you to chart a course for how these technologies are going to affect your business, and proactively work to get ahead of your competition by incorporating them into your long-term plans. Of course, some technological trends are bound to fizzle while others continue for many years—but since it’s so hard to focus on the distant future, the short-term future is your best bet for setting goals.