SXSW: Tech trends 2018

by Annie Holman (annie.holman@cjrw.com) 202 views 

Editor’s Note: Annie Holman, Associate Media Director for Little Rock-based CJRW, is spearheading a roundup of daily workshops being attended this week by her team at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.
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TECH TRENDS 2018
The one thing everyone who comes to SXSW wants to know is what’s next in tech? Futurist Amy Webb, professor at NYU Stern School of Business and founder of the Future Today Institute, released her 11th annual Tech Trends Report that provides a data-driven analysis for the emerging tech trends that need to be on everyone’s radar in 2018. The full report identifies 225 emerging tech trends across 20 industries, but she boiled it down to a few that will probably blow your mind.

The challenge for 2018 is to distinguish between “what is a trend” from “what is trendy.” Real trends share four characteristics. They are driven by basic human needs. They are timely, but persist over long periods. They evolve as they persist. And, most intriguing, they materialize as a series of unconnectable dots which begin as weak signals.

Before we unveil the first key finding, remember how unbelievable it was to imagine that all the technology in a Discman, a digital camera, a portable DVD player, and a laptop would all exist within one piece of technology that fits in your pocket. Twenty years ago, we all would have laughed at the idea of that being a reality.

Today, though, new tech is bubbling up and smartphones haven’t really gotten much smarter over the last few years. That’s why Webb predicts that 2018 will be the beginning of the end of smartphones. Read again and breathe. If you’re under 21, consult a physician. Insane, right? Almost as insane as having a phone with a camera in it in the first place.

The fact is smartphone sales are dropping year over year—maybe because we aren’t all upgrading our phones at the rapid pace we once did because smartphone users are only seeing incremental benefits when a new device launches. Replacing your precious smartphone may be impossible to imagine, but digital voice assistants are already ubiquitous. Webb predicts that within 10 years, there will be a greater need for non-visual user interface. Instead, conversational interfaces will become the norm with 50% of interactions done by voice in 2021.

The next couple of trends to note are voiceprints and faceprints. Not unlike fingerprints, we all have a unique voice. Your unique voiceprint can divulge your health, age, emotional state and in some cases also reveal what size room you’re in and how many people are in it with you. Creepy? Combining voiceprint with new AI, biometric scanning will subside over the next decade, and we will have a conversation with a digital assistant instead of entering passwords.

Faceprints take into account not just what your face looks like on the outside, but also considers deep perceptual mapping, like capillaries and unique characteristics under the skin. Alibaba has already debuted “smile to pay” technology in China using this facial recognition technology.

With all that said, AI is already here. It just didn’t show up how we expected it to.

We use it every day and have for years in artificial narrow intelligence (ANI) that performs simple tasks. Anti-lock brakes, spam filters, and airline security are some examples of ANI. AI is not a trend itself, but when machines begin to recognize patterns, these systems will learn without humans.

Google’s AI can now create machine-learning code better than the researchers who created it. The big 9 companies—Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and IBM—control the future of the next era of computing. These companies are constantly mining and profiting from our data. Over next 20 years, human data will be a valuable natural resource. Although not everyone agrees with how this data should be used, they agree on this: data is the new oil.

READING SIGNALS: THE NEW SEGMENTATION
With 2 billion people on Facebook, we have a unique look at shopper signals along the path to conversion. And as we segment by signals, the full breadth of each unique consumer journey emerges. For Direct Response marketers looking to move shoppers from the intent to purchase, these signals matter.

Helen Crossley, Head of Audience Insights at Facebook and Yini Guo, a Consumer Insights Analyst at Facebook, walked us through a recent study conducted by Facebook to illustrate the online path to purchase experience more clearly.

The case study looked at various signals—“first day on brand site,” “number of days on brand site,” “number of pages viewed each day,” number of “add-to-cart actions” and purchase data gathered using the Facebook pixel—to build a segmentation of 1.6 million people who purchased from the specialty retail category.

They were able to create six groups of shoppers based on their collective behaviors. Facebook determined very specific characteristics of each segment to help businesses think about how different customers are experiencing the path-to-purchase funnel and how to serve them valuable content along the way.

The segments that came out of the study were Shopping Mavens (those who spent the most time online shopping), Informed Mobilizers (those who purchased mostly on mobile devices), Fashion Enthusiasts (specifically focused on fashion), Social Savvies (those who mostly end up on the site from social media), Opportunistic Shoppers (those looking specifically for discounts and sales) and Online Reluctants (who prefer shopping offline).

Through examination of how each segment moves through the funnel, Facebook determined some key points in each path that are optimal to serve ads that incentivize action.

CJRW Digital Content Writer Josh Walker contributed to this report.

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