As the tech revolution continues to evolve, successful digital adaptation and transformation demands advanced planning. To help your business prepare for what's in store, here's an overview of the top five tech trends that are expected to shape 2017.
The growing importance of user experience (UX)
As more people get mobile – for instance, reports show that four out of five people shop online through their phones – businesses will undoubtedly have more points of digital contact with customers, making the user experience paramount. Just one negative or confusing interaction could send them to a competitor. To tackle this issue, entrepreneurs can make use of analytics to build a more detailed picture of each customer's needs and preferences, so that they can enjoy a more seamless and personalised relationship with the brand.
So what does the future hold? Check out voice-controlled tools like Amazon Echo (a hands-free speaker) and Google Now (an intelligent voice assistant), which are already being used to provide frictionless UX for services like Uber and Spotify.
Consumers' mobility will continue to dominate
In the Asia Pacific and Europe, mobile is now the most preferred method to connect to the internet, beating other technologies, including Wi-Fi. Mobile payments (mPayment) are taking off, with nearly one in two people in emerging markets now using their phones to make in-store payments. Mobile apps are also emerging as a crucial tool for driving customer loyalty, giving retailers the ability to provide mobile-only specials, push notifications and 24/7 in-app customer service. It also gives retailers the opportunity to collect advanced customer analytics based on metrics like location and content accessed, which they can use to refine their marketing and sales efforts.
The rise of augmented reality and virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) offer new avenues to connect with customers and provide unique, memorable interactions. According to the WalkerSands' Reinventing Retail report, 35 per cent of consumers would shop more online if they could try out a product virtually using a technology like Oculus Rift; and nearly two-thirds expect it to be a part of their future shopping experience.
One such application is used for home design, which allows customers to place 3D virtual objects in their own homes, reducing uncertainty over whether they are suited to the space. For those still sceptical about the technology, the Pokémon GO game and its tremendous success is perhaps the best example of the potential waiting to be unleashed in this new virtual landscape.
The Internet of Things will take off
By definition, the Internet of Things (IoT) is "the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the internet (and/or to each other)." And it's poised to transform how we do business, by connecting people, data and events in ways where the internet has only started to scratch the surface.
For instance, fully connected smart homes are expected to comprise a $122 billion market by 2022, offering appliance manufacturers vast opportunities to expand their product portfolios. For marketers, the IoT offers a whole new world of insights into the customer's mind, aided by the proliferation of wearable devices such as smart watches and fitness trackers. Beacons – the devices used by retailers to send discounts and notifications to customers' phones when they enter a store – are also predicted to hit 3.5 million by 2018, from 96,000 in 2015.
But the connections and opportunities that the IoT will bring also opens the door to challenges like security threats – how to store, track and analyse data, as well as privacy and data sharing.
Advances in artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is creeping into our products in the form of tools like smart digital assistants, self-driving cars and next-generation data analytics. As our relationship with technology evolves, we will become more dependent on machines that can adapt to their environment and perform complex tasks.
Machine learning is already enabling retailers to fine-tune their product recommendations to each customer in an extremely personalised way, based on user reviews, search and purchase history, and other data. While AI has the potential to replace many low-skilled jobs, it can collaborate with people to solve complex problems and lay out a path to a future where work is less repetitive.
Digital transformation and evolution is inevitable. Data, mobility and contextual cloud-powered computing are expected to reach into many areas of our lives over the next year and beyond. For consumers, they promise to fundamentally transform how they interact with brands and businesses. Entrepreneurs must therefore create business models that are adaptable and agile enough to ride these winds of change.