As 2016 nears its end, we can begin to look back at a year dominated by heavily contentious political events. With Brexit in Europe and Donald Trump’s victory in the United States taking headlines for seemingly the entire year, 2016 will be undoubtedly be remembered for such seismic democratic decisions.
For those working in digital, though, 2016 has been significant for another reason. In November, mobile web usage overtook that of desktop for the first time, a milestone in a shift that will only gather pace in 2017. Ever-increasing connectivity on ever-more sophisticated mobile devices has seen the percentage of webpages loaded on mobile rise from less than 5% in 2010 to 51.3% this year. With 2017 set to continue this trend, we can now look ahead and anticipate the ways in which the burgeoning industry will develop over the next 12 months.
Digital connects with the physical world
The ubiquity of mobile devices is such that brands - retail in particular - are looking to find ways to connect the physical world of brick and mortar stores/advertisements with the digital. A relatively crude example would be the use of QR codes found in store on or posters which unlock deals or content when scanned by a smartphone camera. We have also seen companies like Shazam allow companies to send people to their site when the app hears a specific song.
2017 will see this technique proliferate. More accurate location tracking services on mobile could allow retailers to deliver different messages to their customers’ apps depending on where they are in the store. Improved recognition software could allow users to hover over an item with their smartphone camera and be given details, price, deals, and a demo video, for example. The connection between the digital and physical worlds is currently underserved by brands, 2017 should see that change thanks to innovative front-runners.
Instant apps make an impact
Two major issues with smartphone use at present are storage - users find that an iPhone, for example, can only store a limited number of increasingly large apps - and retention - apps lose on average 75% of their users within three months after being downloaded. A potential solution to both is the notion of instant apps, essentially apps that load instantaneously to perform a particular task without the need for a download.
It seems that Google is currently winning the race to bring Instant Apps to the mainstream, with Android set to expand on the technology throughout 2017. You can safely assume that Apple is working on a similar product, though, particularly after it’s 2015 App Thinning development. There are a number of issues that could potentially hold Instant Apps back but, with the app landscape becoming increasingly dominated by a handful of popular giants, it’s an exciting prospect that both developers and brands should be aware of.
App integration becomes commonplace
With a user’s smartphone dominated by just a handful of apps, integration into more popular apps could potentially save some of the less popular ones. 2017 will see the trend of app integration continue, with the most obvious incarnation being chat bots. For example, the Guardian newspaper has developed a chatbot within Facebook’s Messenger app that allows users to ask for their daily news updates with Messenger. Uber, too, will soon allow users to book a ride from within Messenger.
The tech is arising as another potential solution to the problems of app retention and storage, but there are concerns that it could lead to a monopoly in which the likes of Facebook essentially have control over which apps reach users. Either way, businesses should consider 2017 the year that chat bots will become commonplace and, if appropriate, should be looking to create their own.
AR apps blossom
The incredible success of Pokemon Go in 2016 - the AR-based game has registered over 500 million downloads - may have been transient, but it showed above all else that the world is ready for innovative uses of AR. The game itself is relatively simple - location specific Pokemon are overlaid onto the real world as viewed through the smartphone’s camera. 2017 will see these kind of apps proliferate, both in gaming and lifestyle. For example, an app called Inkhunter lets users ‘try on’ tattoos before making any physical commitment, and Star Chart will identify which stars the smartphone’s camera can see based on location.
The phenomenon of Pokemon Go brought AR into the public consciousness and consumers will be willing to adopt AR apps more readily as a result. Google Translate - which allows users to snap a picture of the text they don’t understand for instant translation - is an early example of a major tech company developing their own AR software, and in the coming year don’t be surprised to see an explosion of major tech brands experimenting with the nascent technology.
FinTech on mobile continues its growth
Mobile FinTech truly ballooned in 2016, after 2015 saw a 75% growth in investment in the sector. eMarketer expects that the total value of mobile payment transactions in the US alone to be $27.67 billion by the end of this year, driven by newer smartphone models and a growth in the number of vendors accepting mobile. eMarketer also expects this figure to grow by 125.8% in 2017, to a huge $62.49 billion. As it grows, 2017 will see innovative FinTech startups given more attention and increase in number.
UK bank Barclays announced in November that it will be unveiling contactless ATMs that allow users to tap their card - or their smartphone - to withdraw money. The smartphone is quickly becoming a user’s digital wallet and, as the technology becomes more and more normalized, the Chip and Pin will diminish against contactless. 2017 will see this trend continue.