The last year has seen solid growth throughout the app industry, but 2018 is going to be more innovative and will force marketers, developers and businesses to think outside the box. We’re already being approached by disruptive startups that want to create the next big thing in their industry. Here are a few recurring themes and ideas we’ve seen going into 2018:
Smart Home, Voice-Controlled Speakers
Smart home, voice-controlled speakers are perhaps the most debated subjects in technology, but 2018 will mark their official boom. The popularity of Amazon Echo and Google Home have officially gone mainstream, gaining more market penetration than wearables. And fans are waiting with bated breath for Apple to release their HomePod smart speaker that was unveiled earlier this year.
Gartner Inc. predicted that by 2018, the mobile industry would be bombarded with smart home apps, driven primarily by the more than 200 corporations currently developing the technology in earnest and hungry startups looking to be crowned early adopters. And it looks like we're just now seeing the sea change.
Enterprising retailers would do well to look at the partnership between Google and Walmart as a smart model. A voice-activated app could set any business with a fairly standardized product or service on the fast track when it comes to accessing the growing niche.
If your business can provide an answer to questions like "send me ..." "get me ..." or "order me ...," you might consider implementing a voice-activated element or service on your mobile app.
Augmented reality shoved its foot in the door back in 2016 when it popularized the one-hit wonder Pokemon GO, but I think 2018 will be the year of mass implementation. Consider the following:
• Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore will accelerate the rate at which AR apps are developed and launched.
• Industry predictions estimate the AR market could reach around $120 billion in revenue by 2020.
If your company is trying to become the first in its industry to utilize augmented reality, first ask: Does your audience really needs AR functionality? Would AP improve usability or will it come off a simply gimmicky?
For example, Ikea’s new app allows users to see what furniture will look like in their home before purchasing a piece. Ultimately, the AR elements of Ikea's app solves a real need and also saves the end user time and money 一 characteristics of a valuable (and profitable) app. In this case, AR technology is being used as a natural extension of traditional usability.
An app that simply displays people's phone numbers over their heads, however, wouldn't be anywhere near as valuable and the AR, in this case, ends up feeling forced. Additionally, avoid trying to stretch the capabilities of the current technology. While AR feels incredibly advanced, there are limits to what can be done. AR tech can visualize furniture in a room but isn't quite advanced enough to visualize what clothes will look like on people -- at least not with any kind of satisfying accuracy.
Next, validate the idea. Conduct potential user interviews, commission a prototype in advance of full-on development and obtain as much unbiased feedback as possible through market testing.
Chatbots In E-Commerce
The use of chatbots in social messaging apps is set to revolutionize the retail industry. As humans, we crave personalization, and in today’s social world it’s almost expected from businesses. Chatbots are capable of boosting customer engagement and loyalty by offering tailor-made experiences for the customer.
Only a few experts are claiming that chatbots are indeed the future of the retail industry, but the data and consumer behaviors backing their statements don't lie. For example, Sephora recently reported that its messenger bot has contributed to an increase in its in-store sales. The company sees an average spend of over $50 from customers who book an in-store service via its messenger assistant.
The easiest place to begin experimenting with chatbot automation is by answering common questions for which you have ready-made answers that can be easily mined from a simple database search. Some examples include prices of product, store hours, return policies, appointment booking, etc. You can even answer more advanced questions like: "What are the top trending styles this season?" as long as you have the content in a database.
Steer clear of subjective questions/answers such as: "What product would you recommend for me?" unless you plan on investing substantial time and budget into your chatbot. The more an answer is reliant on subjective opinion or very complex, multistep database queries, the more likely your chatbot will provide an answer that doesn't feel quite right to your users.
The coming year holds a lot of unknowns, but one thing is sure: The app industry is heading in an even more fast-paced, user-centric direction, and it’s up to market experts to deliver on customer expectations.