If the rocky start to the 2019 New York stock market is any indication, we may be in for a tumultuous year. From new marketing channels, to the inevitable takeoff of the autonomous vehicle industry and the continued rise of alternative data, we’re looking out at some of the trends we believe will define 2019.
Storytelling will take new forms for marketers
Voice-activated shopping increased threefold this holiday season, though all signs point to continued growth as it remains in its infancy. Nearly 55% of US consumers own at least one smart speaker, up from 28% in 2017, and dominant providers Amazon and Google are beginning to offer creative ways for brands to engage with consumers in this new channel.
Amazon’s skills marketplace lets users engage with a number of different retailers to ask questions and browse products, with some brands offering exclusive voice coupons and discounts. Meanwhile Google’s shopping ‘actions’ enable a unified shopping cart, already leveraged by partners like Nike and Sephora. As consumers grow more comfortable with payments in this space, and they will begin to develop new shopping habits, marketers will be force to innovate in new ways in order to rise above the noise – particularly in a channel where visual cues are missing and barriers to switching products are high.
By 2020, Gartner predicts that voice-activated searches will account for 30% of web-browsing sessions. If a brand is not optimizing for voice-activated, conversational keyword-based searches and questions, it will risk significant loss of visibility and discovery.
Beyond voice technology, social media channels will continue to evolve, pushing marketers to adapt to new ways of telling their brand story. Marketing today is already multi-sensual, from voice to visual to text. Short-lived video formats like Instagram and Snapchat stories, along with social shopping and Instagram’s new Shopping collection feature, will continue to change the game. Developments in AR and VR on top of this will require thinking in terms of an immersive experience if they begin to play a more mainstream role in 2019.
The force behind it all continues to be data and data-driven content.
Everyone wants in on the action to tackle US healthcare
US healthcare has been one of the largest political issues on the ballot for years. Transparency in the industry is low, with few players sitting on top and near monopolies in particular regions. Prices for drugs remain astronomical when compared to other developed countries, as there seems to be no cap on price increases. As well, the focus on wellness and personal data continues to surge.
In a big way, tech companies are starting to take notice.
Apple has hired 50 medical doctors for developments in the health and wellness space, which sources believe may be related to finding ways of addressing real medical issues through its products. Insurance companies are encouraging policy holders to share the data from Apple’s built-in health app, while the Apple watch is being used more frequently by the older population to monitor health and potentially offer diagnostics.
LinkedIn and Amazon have also reportedly brought medical professionals on staff in recent years. Amazon is not hiding its healthcare play, releasing software that mines patient medical records for doctor information to improve treatment and cut costs, as well as acquiring online pharmacy PillPack enabling them to ship prescriptions nationwide. In addition, they’ve partnered with a non-profit going after pharmaceutical companies with radical transparency efforts in order to impact rising costs.
Meanwhile, Microsoft Azure announced a new healthcare AI team, Uber launched Uber Health and Lyft partnered with AllScripts, BlueCross Blueshield and American Medical Response to provide transportation in health-related cases.
The number of healthcare focused startups – from Insurtech, to AI-driven collaborative platforms, to diagnostic tools and telemedicine apps, to genetic testing – are exploding onto the scene at rapid pace, and investors are flocking. More than $28.8 billion has been poured into healthtech startups in 2018, with 4 startups raising over $130 million in July alone. This shows no sign of stopping in 2019.
The rise of human-free zones
From cashier-less retail experiences like Amazon Go, Sam’s Club Now and 7 Eleven, to autonomous vehicles and drone delivery, AI automation is stepping up to augment everyday services and experiences that render humans optional. In Japan, they’ve even trialled the world’s first humanless warehouse and fulfillment center run by robots.
That’s not to say AI is coming to take all of our jobs. According to Japanese tech company Mujin’s co-founder and CTO, Rosen Diankov, “Introducing robots creates more jobs, and history has shown that’s been the case. Companies that have embraced automation, like Toyota — it’s the biggest car company in the world now.”
In 2019, as major auto companies continue to make strides with autonomous vehicles and more companies test automated delivery, we’ll likely see these industries begin to take shape, with clear winners emerging.
The talent gap: data science jobs in demand
From data scientists and deep learning evangelists to cybersecurity experts, there remains a significant talent gap that appears to only be growing larger. Enrollment in relevant university programs isn’t keeping up with the pace, and top tech firms are increasingly keeping their innovations locked up behind closed doors.
Firms looking to produce the best and most innovative solutions will be forced to pay up for top talent, or rely on third party firms and existing open source solutions in order to compete.
The rising value of alternative data
Nasdaq’s acquisition of Quandl was a solid indicator that alternative data is about to play an even larger role in the way investment firms operate and make decisions moving forward. While data may or may not be the new ‘oil’, it’s clear that unique external data which can be easily analyzed in the ongoing search for Alpha will continue to prove immensely valuable.
According to IBM, 90 percent of all alternative data in circulation today was created in the last two years. Research firm Opimas estimates that in 2018, the alternative data market will exceed $5 billion, and reach nearly $8 billion by 2020, with buy-side spend exceeding $1 billion.
The reason is clear. Traditional data is no longer enough to provide investors with an adequate competitive advantage in order to make investment decisions. From news and social media, to search trends, hiring and turnover, competitors’ web and app engagement and more, alternative data offers forward-looking signals in real time that can indicate better investment decisions.
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