These past few years have been characterized not just by the immense changes led by technology, but also the speed in which these changes have taken place. This has become even clearer as technology continues to evolve faster than ever before and become increasingly essential to our everyday lives.
From computer algorithms like IBM Watson and robo-advice websites being made available to the masses; from the unprecedented automation and connectivity of home appliances to rockets that can be launched and landed and relaunched, the changes are seismic.
Here are three big consumer technology trends that will impact the way we do business in 2016 and beyond:
Today’s consumer is a changed consumer, with rapidly shifting behaviors, preferences, and expectations. These changes are largely driven by millennials – those aged 18 to 34 – who in 2015 had a combined spending power of $2.45 trillion and are quickly altering the very fabric of today’s workforce, with other generations quickly following suit.
Video consumption is skyrocketing, with the bulk of consumption taking place on mobile devices. According to Ericsson, mobile video is set to grow 1,300% by 2019. Likewise, shopping habits of millennials—using mobile, real-time decisions, and shopping via multiple channels—is rapidly extending to shoppers of all generations.
Millennial consumption habits are also massively different from those of older generations. According to Eventbrite, millennials value experiences over things,particularly as student debt, rising housing costs, and the lingering impact of the 2008 recession looms in the recesses of their minds.
In 2016, these consumption shifts will increasingly spill over to consumers of all ages. Much like grandparents have flocked to Facebook in recent years, next year Periscope and Snapchat "coverage" of major events will attract fans of all ages; authority figures will increasingly conduct exclusive interviews with BuzzFeed; and the behaviors we currently attribute to millennials will be commonplace.
By now, we all know that rating and review sites—which allow for higher levels of customer feedback and interconnectivity—have become important validators and play a major role in purchase decisions. After all, would you dine at a restaurant that had a two star rating on Yelp?
As a result, in 2016, reviews will become a two-way street with apps such as Uber—which now requires drivers to rate their riders—will influence (or deter) even the most savvy consumer. This new world of reverse ratings, where those providing the service rate those paying for the service, can already be a jarring experience.But it’s not hard to imagine a world in which every action we take is subject to review by others and made publicly available.
In fact, we’ve already seen the introduction of a "Yelp for People." Though the concept of a "Yelp for People" isn’t yet palatable for most, the role of reviews will continue to extend beyond that of the recipient of services or goods. eBay led the way a long time ago in enabling sellers to rate buyers, and it’s not terribly far-fetched to imagine a world where companies rate their customers en masse.
Beyond reviews, in 2016 crowdsourcing will continue to drive user-driven movements in a blink of an eye. From Kickstarter campaigns to Change.org petitions to movements that appear out of nowhere, the potential for social media to drive fast-paced, almost mob-like behavior will only continue to grow.
From the Roomba and airline check-in kiosks to factory robots and autonomous vehicles, automation will continue to disrupt the global workforce. Oxford University recently reported that 47% of American jobs are at "high risk of computerization."
But that’s not the whole picture. In addition to replacing many jobs, automation will also transform other jobs. Professions involving high touch, personal relationships—such as clergy, dentists, and financial advisors—for instance, face the least risk of automation but will nevertheless be profoundly transformed. In order to survive and thrive, high-touch professionals will need to embrace automation technologies tofree up their time to be more creativeand, well, hightouch.
The answer, it turns out, isn't man versus machine – it's man and machine. Only through leveraging technology will service providers and salespeople be able to focus on what human workers for now are uniquely capable of doing: deepening relationships and providing stellar customer experiences.
Rather than wringing our hands about robots taking over the world, smart organizations will embrace strategic automation use cases. Strategic decisions will be based on how the technology will free up time to do the types of tasks that humans are uniquely positioned to perform.
I predicted last year a shift from data collection to data insights;in 2016 we’ll move beyond data collection to data insights, exploring how these insights are put to use to generate predictive intelligence. The sheer volume of data is numerous and usually unstructured; it is only through machine learning that the data can be converted into insights, which in turn can be converted into intelligence and decisions.
For example, tools such as Facebook M and the one presented at Microsoft Research’s recent AI demonstration are poised to completely revolutionize the idea of a personal assistant. Automated help from these and other sources will increase productivity, efficiency and safety. Prepare for a brave, new world in which technology makes us value more than ever what it means to be human.
Clara Shih is the CEO and founder of Hearsay Social, the predictive omnichannel suite for the financial services industry. A pioneer in social media, she developed the first social business application in 2007, and is a New York Times-featured bestselling author and member of the Starbucks board of directors. Her newest book, The Social Business Imperative, will be released in spring 2016.