10 Trends We’re Watching in 2019
From assistants everywhere to lifetime value to restoring trust, these are the technology, behaviour, and business trends that are exciting the Rehab team in 2019.
Remember Blade Runner? The future predicted by the classic sci-fi, 37 years ago, is 2019. Yes, the 2019 that you and I live in; this year. Although the film’s predictions of flying cars and artificial humans is a little bit off, there are a few things that Blade Runner got right: we talk to our computers (voice assistants), and we see those huge, flashing digital billboards everywhere we go (highly-targeted ads).
Do you find that fascinating? We do.
At Rehab, we’ve been partnering with top tech and consumer brands like Google, Nike, Estée Lauder and HBO to combine advancements in technology with step changes in human behaviour. We focus on user intent then rapidly prototype, test and iterate concepts to innovate around the brands’ original products and services. Keeping an eye on both human behaviour and technology is integral to our business so we thought we would share a quick snapshot of just some of the things we’re looking at for 2019.
Recent technology breakthroughs, such as natural language understanding and image recognition, have already shown businesses a whole new world of possibilities. However, last year’s data breach incidents and GDPR are making users demand that organisations give them control over their personal information and provide more transparency in how their data is being used. All of this makes the outlook of 2019 exciting, yet challenging, for business leaders, brand marketers, heads of product, experience designers and solution architects.
We believe the trends covered in this report are among the most critical for businesses to consider in getting ready for the year ahead. We aren’t trying to make any predictions; these trends are based on user behaviour, industry insight, and the technologies that we see tech firms and top brands experimenting with and implementing. In other words, any trends that are on the horizon, but might not be worth your sleepless nights in 2019 aren’t included.
This article is a summary of the full report, which also contains case studies, and actions and questions for your brand or business, for every one of our featured trends.
We hope you enjoy reading it.
01. An AI-powered world
If AI is the new electricity, the ‘privilege’ of using AI is no longer reserved for big companies with huge resources. If you have clear business goals, machine learning models could help improve your operational efficiency, provide personalised content at scale, and reduce customer support costs.
But good AI depends on good data. 71% of B2B marketers say they haven’t implemented an effective process to improve their data quality, so “poor AI outcomes” remains the biggest challenge for many brand and business owners who’ve started to bring AI techniques into their businesses.
AI isn’t a magic wand. Techniques like machine learning are simply using statistics at speed and scale. Research has shown that companies that focus on human and machine collaboration create outcomes that are two to six times better than those that focus on machine or human alone.
“As much as the hype has overstated what AI might do for marketing in the next 12–24 months, the reality of how AI is already working in marketing today is often under-recognised.”
— Scott Brinker, VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot
02. Second phase of voice
Four years after Amazon announced the first Echo device it’s estimated that almost a quarter of US households have a smart speaker in their homes, giving a reach of some 58 million adults. Around 8% of people in the US got a smart speaker in the 2018 holiday season alone, and two thirds say they wouldn’t want to go back to life before their smart speaker.
The second phase of voice sees the smart assistant — Alexa, Assistant, Siri, or any of the other competitors in the market — move into more devices, and the smart speaker become the hub of the smart home.
An increasing number of household devices will gain enhancements from a cloud-powered smart assistant. Some will be powered by a built-in microphone and voice-processing; others will only need a connection to a smart speaker to have commands relayed to them, giving voice control to otherwise “deaf” products.
“The shift of voice beyond smart speakers and early versions for smartphones is in full swing. Smart speaker adoption will continue to grow at a rapid pace, but the new action is already shifting to other surfaces.”
— Brett Kinsella, Voicebot.ai
03. Smart everywhere
After smart phones: smart watches, smart headphones, and smart cars. There are increasing numbers of surfaces from which to access internet services, from your home, your car, and around your body. In particular, smart earphones (or ‘hearables’) is a category expected to expand greatly this year as dedicated chips make it easier for new products come to market.
It’s all a move away from the phone screen and towards an ‘atomic computer’, where actions are invoked from different devices as appropriate; for example, glanceable messaging notifications on your wrist, getting directions read out in your ear, or gaining new knowledge while you drive.
“The end goal for all the major technology players, from Amazon to Apple to Google to Samsung, isn’t a smart speaker in every home; it’s a smart assistant everywhere, in everything.”
— Peter Gasston, Innovation Lead at Rehab
04. Conversational commerce
Although more than two in every five voice assistant users have tried voice shopping, it’s yet to take off significantly — most purchases have been for entertainment and low-cost everyday goods. However, conversational commerce is about more than just voice. Conversational interfaces are being successfully used for customer service, breaking complicated functions into simple steps, and using natural language to allow richer interactions. This creates opportunities for brands to support consumers in a more convenient and personalised way.
Half of shoppers would like to use voice shopping in-store, although there are limitations still to be overcome, not least noisy retail environments, and customer reticence to authorise payments on voice-only devices. But technology gives retailers the ability to offer a useful and individualised experience to each shopper, remembering their profiles and playing back preferences through smart data usage.
05. Customer lifetime value
The ease with which consumers can switch to different brands and products is another challenge for marketers already facing shrinking budgets and rising acquisition costs. Because of this, more and more brands are re-evaluating the effectiveness of their investment in their most important asset — the customer relationship.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) is the most critical metric for any relationship-savvy businesses. It is a measure of customer profitability over time, rather than just a single transaction.
The process of calculating CLV makes it possible for brands to identify their most valuable customers and focus on serving them better than anyone else can. In addition to making marketing more effective, CLV could also positively impact different element within a business, from promotions, financials, R&D, sourcing to product design.
“Rather than focusing only on [the physical] product, you would want to figure out what you could do for your most valuable customers. What products and service should you offer to enhance the value of those customers, and where can you find more customers like them?”
— Peter Fader, The Wharton School
06. Trust: rebuilt
For years, data has been the cash that customers didn’t know they were spending — and now they want their change. In an age of data breaches and fake news, where people lend their time or stuff for a five-star review and a payday, trust has to be earned.
For brands, the remedy has always been to placate, posture and position. In 2019, they need to consider the fundamentals of their conduct and be prepared to change, quickly, before customers go elsewhere. And they will, because they have choice.
People aren’t just more vocal, they are more educated and better protected. GDPR makes businesses accountable for their data practices, and the tools people use every day — from web browsers to social networks — are exposing the untrustworthy.
Brands have an opportunity now to put people in full, transparent control of their data. ‘Trust’ could soon be a factor for AIs making purchase decisions, and startups are already circling the opportunity to step in and manage personal data on users’ behalf. Before you know it, you might have lost out on the chance to deliver any message at all.
“We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge. From the ‘information age’, we are moving towards the ‘reputation age’, in which information will have value only if it is already filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others.”
— Gloria Origgi, author
07. Diversity and inclusivity
Today’s consumers hold all the power when it comes to interacting with brand experiences and making purchase decisions. Some companies still outsource their diversity and inclusivity challenges rather than integrate them as core values, but we see signs of this long-fought battle being addressed more seriously. Designing for inclusion from the ground-up means happy users, excellent designs, and no later costly retrofits.
Inclusive design and cultural diversity are becoming more prevalent in business, to the extent that it’s now a selling point on recruitment pages. More businesses are taking part in programmes like Flipside 2019 (encouraging young voices and diverse point of view in creativity) and Creative Equals (promoting equal opportunities for everyone from returning mothers to people of colour). These services make it easier for businesses to address the core challenges of designing for diversity and inclusivity and encourage them to tackle these issues upfront.
“Inclusive design is based on the simple principle that designing for the widest range of people creates better designs and benefits everyone.”
— Sensory Trust
08. Digital wellbeing
From the addicting effects of infinite scrolling to the harms of comparison culture, technology’s effect on our wellbeing had pretty bad press last year. But chastened technology giants are changing their attitudes, and a growing number of people are turning to tech to improve their physical and mental health.
The latest versions of Android and iOS introduced digital wellbeing tools: monitoring time spent in apps and giving controls to limit that time; better management of notifications; and ways to wind down before bedtime and improve the quality of sleep.
Globally, spending on health and fitness apps, from physical workouts to guided meditation to virtual medics, grew 300% between 2016 and 2018,
And younger people, born into a world of social media, have led the way to new, healthier online behaviours such as ephemeral sharing and groups and communities based on shared interests.
09. New ways to search
More than a third of the global population have used voice search, with 77% of US adults using it at least monthly and 46% at least daily. They like that it’s faster than typing, and leaves their hands free. Google’s history in search makes Assistant the leader in answering questions, but Amazon and Apple have invested heavily to improve their voice search results.
Visual search, powered by machine learning, lets customers use their cameras to find visually similar products — especially useful for finding items or patterns that are hard to verbalise. Computer vision has seen incredible improvements in the past few years; Google Lens recognises more than a billion products, four times what it could a year ago. Visual search was the new technology voted by 18 to 34-year-old internet users (62.2%) to be most likely they’d be comfortable with as part of their shopping experience.
“As computers start to see like we do, the camera will become a powerful and intuitive interface to the world around us; an AI viewfinder that puts the answers right where the questions are.”
— Aparna Chennapragada, Google
10. Extending reality
Google and Apple continue to extend augmented reality (AR) capabilities on smartphones, and Snapchat and Facebook’s app family have democratised mass-market AR creation. Smartphone AR is great for augmented selfies, enhanced ‘mirrors’ (especially for cosmetics brands), AR stickers in messages, and quickly snapping enhanced and shoppable posters.
“You sell 100,000 shoes? Great. But if all 100,000 kids who bought them are sitting at home clicking a button, there’s no culture there. Only commerce. So the key to success for the future of Nike and the future of sneaker culture is to be able to seamlessly blend real-world charm with digital world convenience.”
— Jeff Staple, Staple Design
But holding your phone at 90° isn’t comfortable or convenient enough for extended use. The full potential of AR will be unlocked by headsets or glasses.
HoloLens was first to market, and Magic Leap made its long-awaited debut last year. Challenger brands such as North and Vusix have more limited but less bulky headsets in market, and a new brand called Nreal promises high quality in a pair of glasses you might actually want to wear.
There’s still a long path ahead for AR, but big steps are being taken.