The New Reality

 

Consider 2016 as the year we entered new realities.

 

Virtual and augmented realities were all the rage this year, thanks in part to the mass exposure of Virtual Reality Glasses and Pokemon Go, respectively. VR glasses earned their claim to fame through commercials depicting fascinated wearers and viral videos of users getting lost in the VR experience.

 

 

The VR industry as a whole is growing at an extremely fast pace, “with revenues from virtual reality products (both hardware and software) projected to increase from $90 million in 2014 to $5.2 billion in 2018.

 

The number of active VR users is forecast to reach 171 million by 2018. According to recent forecasts, revenue from virtual reality head-mounted displays is expected to grow from $685 million in 2015 to $3.89 billion in 2018.”

 

Goldman Sachs predicts the industry to be worth $80 billion by 2025.

 

Augmented reality, meanwhile, showcased its capabilities as an immersive, community-oriented gaming platform with Pokemon Go. One of the year’s biggest hits, the game was completely free to download and encouraged users to venture out of their house, visit Pokestops that would be filled with Pokemon, and engage with fellow users.

 

The game itself was a phenomenon never seen before. Besides the game itself already being unprecedented, it was also innovative in the way it compelled users to play a video game in a method never experienced before.

 

The wild success, albeit short-lived, no doubt was noticed by brands, and even failed presidential candidates, of all sizes. Restaurants invested in placing Pokestops outside of their location, apps were created to direct users to the best Pokemon, and, in general, brands noticed how successful an augmented reality platform could work.

 

Its capability alone will inspire future investors to build on it and adapt it to new industries, possibly even mixing it with virtual reality for a full mixed reality experience, similar to this one in Minecraft:

 

 

Optimizing Mobile

 

Let’s just take a few stats from Black Friday to indicate just how integral mobile optimization is:

 

  • “Out of $3.34 billion in online sales, mobile sales took up one-third of that number, with a total of $1.2 billion in sales on Black Friday alone.”

 

  • “Overall, mobile purchases were up 33% on Black Friday. Some of America’s top retailers, including Amazon, eBay, Target and Walmart, had all reported greater mobile traffic and sales on Black Friday.”

 

  • “Amazon had, in fact, said that Thanksgiving mobile orders were particularly good, as consumers ordered more items on turkey day than they did on Cyber Monday in 2015…Likewise, Target and Walmart both reported substantially greater mobile activity in both sales and traffic on Thanksgiving Day.”

 

  • “Smartphones have a substantial lead over tablets, with 45% of overall mobile visits and 25% of overall mobile sales compared to 10% of visits and 11% of sales on tablets.”

 

Overall, online shopping saw an increase in shoppers (103 million to 108) and brick-and-mortar shopping saw a decrease (102 million to 99.1 million) from 2015 to 2016.

 

This is a shift that’s unlikely to reverse the course because of the stigma of violence and frustration around Black Friday. It’s far easier for shoppers to buy their holiday gifts online, as opposed to braving the unpredictable crowds and never-ending lines of annoyed patrons.

 

Even in the overall this is a trend that will continue. More and more brands are beginning to realize the importance of mobile optimization because of just how important mobile has become. It’s impossible to go into a public setting and not find hordes of people staring into the dim abyss of their phones.

 

Mobile shopping, however, is still in need of improvement. Many brands have yet to adapt and it’s led to pages that aren’t easily navigable, difficultly inputting information, and an overall miserable experience that usually leads people off the page.

 

Wal-Mart is a prime example of a brand that has successfully adapted to the mobile craze. Shopping on their website through a mobile is an easy experience that lists the best sellers and best deals at the top of the site, and then divides each into easily navigable product lines.

 

It’s no wonder that 70% of Walmart.com’s website during Black Friday was driven by mobile. Expect next year’s overall mobile experience from brands on the historic day, plus Cyber Monday, to be far more accessible.

 

And speaking of mobile…..

 

Videos? On Social Media?? On a Mobile?!?!

 

In case you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of videos popping up on your Facebook timeline. Because of the arms race that is social media and digital marketing, brands continually have to one-up each other in a bid to have the most innovative, creative, and engaging advertisement.

 

So until Facebook becomes compatible with virtual reality, the furthest brands on social media can go is either with a video or a 360 cam, which borders between image and video.

 

Naturally, it wasn’t enough to just place videos on a Facebook timeline. It needed to be optimized, especially for mobile. As a result, “mobile video views grew six times faster than desktop views in 2015. In fact, in Q4 of 2015, mobile video views exceeded desktop views for the first time ever.”

 

Here are a few stats to convince you that a mobile movement is on the horizon, courtesy of invodo.com:

 

  • “Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.”
  • “4 out of 5 shoppers say a video showing how a product or service works is important.”
  • “7 out of 10 milennials are likely to watch a company video when shopping online.”
  • “50% of advertisers are shifting budgets from TV to digital video.”
  • “‘How-to’ searches are up 70% year-over-year on YouTube.”
  • “Explainer and product feature videos were the most popular videos for retailers in 2015.”
  • “79% of all global consumer internet traffic will come from video by 2018.”
  • “Mobile video will increase 11X between 2015 and 2020.”
  • “4X as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.”

 

Rise of the Machines

 

These aren’t your average chatbots that come off feeling like pop-up ads more than a helping hand to help navigate you to what you’re looking for.

 

Adam Toren, founder of Young Entrepeneur and BizWarriors, explains:

 

“Chatbot technology has become much more sophisticated. A great example is the behemoth Facebook, which invests a significant amount of resources into bot programs that provide users with news updates, personalized responses and more.”

As they’ve evolved, they’ve become more useful outside of the usual “How can I help you?” when searching for the right product, like this one that helps beat parking tickets.

Or the GYANT bot on Facebook Messenger that helps you identify your likelihood of having Zika.

Or even the Anti-Smoking Bot that actually helped “500,000 people quit smoking last year, succeeding with an impressive 20 percent of the 2.5 million smokers who registered.”

 

Once chatbots and their capabilities and potential are better understood, we can expect more brands to get in on the act.

 

Now Streaming Live…

 

Transparency is a common theme across all channels to showcase a brand’s personality and to separate itself from other brands, especially those in the same industry.

 

With apps like Periscope picking up steam, social media outlets are challenging the app’s lone function by adding the ability to livestream on their own platform.

 

Instagram recently integrated a livestream option into its new Stories feature and Facebook announced it would launch Live Audio to essentially turn the social network into a radio broadcaster. These are further attempts from the platforms to offer users with a one-stop shop for everything revolving around transmitting communication.

 

Even Mark Zuckerberg had to admit that Facebook was acting as a media outlet (albeit not a traditional one).

 

Social media users are becoming receptive to video more than any other form of communication, and what better way to transmit that information than from the source itself. Livestreaming has served as direct communication between a brand and user with the latter being able to ask the former questions in real-time.

 

For example, Grantland will livestream a Game of Thrones expert asking questions in real-time on Facebook a day or two after a episode. The expert is constantly bombarded with questions, meaning he’ll never run out of material, and engaged with the users hungry to have their questions answered for nearly half-an-hour.

 

As marketing budgets divert more funds to creating a video presence, which it undoubtedly will, expect livestreaming to follow.