How can we predict digital trends and how they’ll impact the consumer market in 2017? Now that CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) has set the tone for this year’s consumer device landscape, I’ve reflected on what new digital trends are emerging, how they’ll impact the consumer market, and — more importantly — how they’ll influence consumer behavior like media consumption and device use in the coming year.
Prediction #1: Apps and content will be bundled together to create seamless user experiences across multiple services.
I call this trend “the rise of apps as ecosystems.” Following in the footsteps of China’s WeChat, whose users do not have to leave the app in order to hail cabs, order food, or pay for their purchases, more apps will collaborate to create a seamless user experience across multiple services. For example, instead of requiring a consumer to separately launch the Uber, Airbnb, and Facebook Messenger apps, consumers will instead navigate easily among these different service providers. Similarly, games and other entertainment content will be offered as bundled services in 2017.
Zygna already experimented with this approach, integrating its web-based games into Facebook’s platform. But in 2017, social media platforms and messaging apps (from Facebook Messenger to Snapchat and WeChat to Line) will collaborate with game publishers to attract more users to play their games from within apps and services. Game publishers and entertainment players like Disney and Vice will realize that these social media platforms and digital publishers can improve user acquisition, content monetization, user re-engagement, and the overall native user experience.
Prediction #2: Homes, cars, and even individuals will become connected to digital devices.
We are entering a phase of separating traditional screens not only from computing and sensors, but also from user interaction. In fact, the whole notion of user interfaces is changing. Until last year, consumer use of digital devices was largely confined to physical screens: laptops, e-book readers, smartphones, smartwatches, and tablets. Moving forward, mass market consumers will adopt devices that rely on cloud-based computing and offer new standards of interaction (such as the pervasive interaction demonstrated by Amazon’s Alexa).
We will also see the continued rise of internet-connected cars that can navigate autonomously or semi-autonomously with tools like Google Maps or Here. And, by iterating on today’s generation of quantified self devices, such as the Fitbit or the Apple Watch, we will see more ambitious and sophisticated solutions to connect your body (not just “the eyes and fingers”) to the internet.
Prediction #3: Advertising will finally catch up with consumer behavior and embrace the cross-device standard.
The most interesting new advertising campaigns are “connected.” Until recently, most advertising campaigns were designed for a single screen (for example, TV, mobile, or PC). However, brands, mobile apps, and advertisers are realizing it’s expensive and difficult to acquire and engage new users through channels like mobile game and app-based advertising or TV-based passive campaigns.
There’s now a new breed of technical and commercial solutions for companies to tap into. Brands now have insight into the cross-platform optimization of campaigns and can identify a balance between different screens to maximize the ROI for campaigns. Mobile app publishers now have access to TV or event-based advertising, which provides new incremental opportunities to attract new downloads. Commerce platforms or retailers can retarget technologies to reach consumers across devices and incorporate location-based data to connect campaigns with consumers and their environments, thereby creating entirely new use cases for implementation. Retailers like Starbucks will now have the tools to provide an end-to-end solution as they engage consumers throughout the entire advertising and conversion lifecycle.
Prediction #4: Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) will move from novelty to cash cow.
Virtual reality and AR have received plenty of hype, but the fact is that both have been little more than novelties (and, sometimes, technological nuisances). Specifically, there’s been a dearth of consumer-centric use cases or content because not enough people are using VR or AR devices.
However, publishers and game developers are investing in games and experiences that really matter for demanding consumers, with the hope of providing more long-lasting value. (On the other side of the spectrum, professional applications of VR and AR will likely prove to be the true cash cow, as use cases for for remote medicine could be more profitable than consumer use cases.)
During 2016 we only saw one major mobile game designed specifically for AR: Pokémon GO. In 2017, we will see up to five apps or games designed specifically for VR and AR, which will attract dozens of millions of users And, despite its initial success, the game’s fortunes quickly declined and its active user base has been shrinking since July 2016.
Prediction #5: Mobile payments and purchases will finally and successfully hit the mass market
Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and various other domestic and international solutions are now largely accepted as convenient, secure ways for consumers to make payments, provide a more secure authentication channel, and remove friction from the user experience — especially in Japan, South Korea, and China. However, uptake on these apps has been slow across the U.S. and Europe, where there is more competition and fragmentation, and no widely adopted and distributed systems for mobile payments. As a result, consumers lack an easy choice. In 2017, more consumers in the U.S. and Europe will use Google Wallet, Apple Pay, or other demand-side services instead of or in addition to credit cards (especially as we see the rise of the app ecosystem, in which various apps will join forces to create seamless user experiences).