Braze Magazine

Marketing’s Future is Coming Fast

It’s been just over ten years since the introduction of the iPhone, and all of the predictions about how mobile was going to take over the world have pretty much come true.

Right now, people are spending nearly 70% of their time online using smartphones and tablets, up from basically nothing a decade ago. Desktop usage has held on, too: declining 8% over the past four years, but still constituting more than 30% of digital usage. But while mobile has become the central way that people go online, there are signs that its meteoric growth may be starting to level off. Between 2014 and 2016, year over year growth in smartphone shipments fell from 28% to 3%—that’s a decline of 89%.

With those platforms maturing, more and more brands are on the lookout for new technologies that can help them drive growth and engage more effectively with their customers. And while there’s no shortage of emerging technologies, it’s just not feasible for companies to take full advantage of every new platform that comes down the pike. To help marketers stay on top of where the digital landscape is headed, I sat down with Kevin Wang, Appboy’s VP of product, for a Technology Briefing webinar focused on this year’s major tech announcements and what they mean for the future of customer engagement. Let’s dig into the main findings.

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Why this spring’s big tech events matter

When you’re looking to assess which emerging technologies are gaining steam and which starting to fizzle out, it’s best to pay close attention to  what’s announced at spring conferences hosted annually by the biggest names in tech: Facebook’s F8, Google’s Google I/O, and Apple’s WWDC.

“At these big spring events,” Kevin said, “those tech giants reveal their big bets and the major technology initiatives that they’re putting their focus on. In past years, that’s been everything from push notification support for mobile devices to OTT messaging chatbots. And while not every announcement ends up being transformative, the tech that these companies choose to highlight is a key window into where they’re investing their money and resources for the future.”

This year, those big bets came in four main areas:

1. Smart speakers and other consumer-focused AI technologies

The smart speaker market has heated up significantly over the past year. Amazon first released its Echo smart speaker back in 2014, but it’s experienced a device adoption spike recently, with sales increasing 9x year over year during the 2016 holiday season. And at last year’s Google I/O conference, Google announced its own smart speaker (the Google Home), establishing this technology as a major focus for multiple tech giants.

Building on that momentum, we saw a lot of significant announcements this spring related to consumer-facing AI, including:

2. Augmented Reality (AR)

The augmented reality space has been defined by years of buzz and hype, particularly in connection to highly secretive technologies like Magic Leap, and one clear-cut success story: Snapchat’s facial filters. That all changed last summer, when Pokémon Go’s AR-powered mobile app burst onto the scene, introducing tens of millions of people to augmented reality and demonstrating that consumers will embrace this technology under the right circumstances.

That’s led Google and other tech giants to redouble their AR efforts and announce a number of significant initiatives in the space, including:

3. Virtual Reality (VR)

Ever since Facebook bought virtual reality startup Oculus in 2014—or maybe even since the introduction of Virtual Boy back in the 90s—people have been fascinated by the potential of VR as a new customer engagement technology. But while many observers believed VR would become a breakout consumer technology over the past few years, that hasn’t come to pass; in fact, VR’s been significantly overshadowed by augmented reality in the aftermath of Pokémon Go’s rise.

But while VR hasn’t taken off the way some predicted, this spring saw a lot of investment and innovation in the space, including:

4. Expanded web and mobile functionality

Although emerging technologies like AR and VR got most of the attention at this year’s Google I/O, F8, and WWDC, there were still a lot of significant announcements in connection with the two biggest existing digital platforms: mobile apps and the web. Those announcements included:

How brands can get ready

Given all these big developments, the big question is: how can you make sure that your brand is prepared to take full advantage of emerging technologies that could grow into new, dominant platforms in the coming years? The key to success is accepting that not every technology is going to be a good fit for your customer engagement efforts—and focusing your energy on finding places where your investments can move the needle for your customer engagement strategy.

For a lot of these emerging technologies, “it’s still early,” Kevin said. “But if your brand sees an opportunity to engage customers on these platforms, it’s worth investigating. Pay attention to what your competitors and other brands you respect are doing here, and make sure you’re not falling behind.”

To dig deeper into this spring’s big tech developments and get additional guidance on how to get ready, watch the Tech Briefing webinar on demand:

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