In 2017, the iPhone will celebrate its 10th birthday, and trends like wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to fundamentally change the ways we live and work. Below, five tech founders predict the technology that will make waves in the 12 months ahead and the implications of each for small businesses.
Live Streaming Explosion Continues
It's been less than eight months since Facebook made Facebook Live available for all users, but it's already capturing billions of views per day and fundamentally changing the way people consume content. Ash Kumra, founder of media company Youngry, says this trend will widen in the months ahead. “Social media live streaming will be amplified," he says. “Right now Facebook Live is the king, but other forms for specific niche communities, like Kickstarter Live and Twitter Live, will soon be the norm."
What does that mean for your business? If you aren't already producing video content, the good news is that it's simpler and less expensive than ever to get started. In many ways, Facebook Live has leveled the playing field between expensive, highly-produced, TV-quality ads and on-the-fly content shot via an iPhone. However, it's important to remember that content is still king. Don't go live for the sake of going live; if you aren't giving your customers something that's compelling and adds value, they won't come back. As long as each livestream is interesting and authentic, don't be afraid to experiment.
Augmented Reality For All
“Augmented reality (AR) will become more mainstream as companies like Snapchat pioneer how users engage with brands," predicts Ian Blair, co-founder of the app-building platform BuildFire. This will become especially important, he says, due to the ever-evolving way consumers engage with brands. “With the rise of ad blockers and people tuning out ads in general, successful brands are going to embrace these new forms of brand engagement," Blair says.
The real power of AR lies in combining physical and digital experiences. Big brands are already making it possible for consumers to virtually try on clothes, test drive cars, and redesign their living rooms with new furniture. Startups can also opt for lower-cost AR that still fuses the physical and digital worlds. From product demos to virtual rewards, here are six ways startups can get in the AR game.
Market Smarter With Big Data
Serial entrepreneur Phil LaBoon, whose latest company, WUND, is an online purveyor of handcrafted wooden fashion accessories, predicts Big Data will be the big marketing story of 2017. “It's going to dominate the marketing landscape," he says. “Gone are the days of pushing out tens of thousands of ad impressions hoping for a conversion. Smart money is moving to a 'sniping' technique of very targeted ad buys where you know more about the customer's buying habits than they do."
Think Big Data is only for big businesses? Think again. It's easier, more affordable and more critical than ever for small businesses to think big when it comes to online marketing. If you're a Big Data beginner, here are eight solutions that will have your business operating more efficiently than ever. Even if you don't sell to customers online, being able to effectively target your key stakeholders — investors, enterprise customers, manufacturing partners and others — can mean the difference in landing or losing important opportunities.
Bots and Machine Learning Automate Repetitive Tasks
John Rampton, founder of the digital wallet Due.com, says 2017 will bring accelerated advances in bots, AR and machine learning technology that can help businesses grow more rapidly by automating non-creative tasks. Such technology can help automate several aspects of running a business, including “numerous time-consuming tasks related to communication and personalization," Rampton says. “For startups, this means a way to get more done without adding people resources."
Carlo Cisco, founder of premier experience card Select, agrees. "It's going to be so interesting to see how quickly and dramatically AI and automation change things," he says.
Entrepreneurs unfamiliar with bots can check out this article from Small Business Trends for six ways to incorporate chatbots into small business strategy. If “machine learning" still sounds like sci-fi to you, this executive overview from McKinsey should go to the top of your reading queue. Every time-saving task adds up. Even seemingly commonplace AI — like Amy, a bot that magically schedules meetings, or Charlie, an app that collects pre-meeting intelligence — can save business owners dozens of hours per month.
Consumers Demand Increased Authenticity
Cassie Petrey, co-founder of digital marketing agency Crowd Surf, says that a trend that will rise in 2017 is consumers demanding truth and authenticity in distributed content. “This movement is already underway, but it will be more fully realized in 2017," Petrey predicts. Google and Facebook have taken high-profile steps to combat fake content, and consumers are getting smarter too. “People are outraged at fake articles and facts being distributed on social media platforms, and we're going to see more efforts to combat this going into the new year," she says. “This is one of the reasons why people are loving live streamed content. It generally feels more 'real' and not overproduced."
The biggest takeaway here? Of course it's vital that all content (both written and video) your company shares is truthful. However, it's also important to educate your employees on how to spot fake or sensationalized content. Having a VP-level employee spread fake or false content — even from a personal Twitter or Facebook page — can be an embarrassing faux pas for the company. It can also throw the employee's judgement into question with clients and partners who see the share. This great primer from CNN can help employees quickly sort fake information from real content.
As you go boldly into the year ahead, don't be afraid to embrace new technology! The five trends above — and many more that will come across your radar in 2017 — have the potential to amplify your efforts to do what entrepreneurs have been doing since the beginning of time: improving the lives of their customers.