Smartphones Will Continue to Take Over Our Lives – And Other Predictions for 2018

The following is a guest contributed by Josh Ong, Director of Global Marketing and Communications at Cheetah Mobile.

The holiday season is upon us and the weather has turned cold, which can only mean one thing: It’s time to make my predictions for the future of marketing in 2018. If there’s one overarching theme here, it’s that mobile is the future – and the way we interact with our phones, whether it’s by talking with a voice assistant or peering through cameras, will have a significant effect on which advertising methods are successful, and which are not.

Without further ado, here are the three trends that I’ll be keeping a close eye on in the coming year.

Voice assistants will continue to gain popularity

Siri has been a constant, reassuring presence in our iPhones since 2011, yet voice assistants have been fairly slow to catch on – until recently. Amazon Echo changed all that, by introducing an easy-to-use voice assistant who also happens to be handy around the house. Lately, it seems like nearly every big tech firm is getting in on the idea, from Google to Apple to Samsung to musician’s tech startup.

According to research firm Juniper, 55% of US households will have voice-enabled smart devices in their home by 2022. This will be in addition to the multitudes of people around the world wielding Siri-enabled iPhones, Google Assistant-powered Pixels and the like. That number is sure to continue growing as people become accustomed to using voice commands, and as voice technology becomes integrated into more household gadgets and furniture.

What does this mean for brands? For one thing, it means that advertisers will have to come up with new, audio-only ways of getting people’s attentions. Some brands might even decide to pay Amazon and Google to ensure that their products come up first for certain keywords, which is fairly similar to the way Google already operates. Beyond that, more brands will likely develop “skills” for Alexa as a way of trying to get their brand into people’s homes. Juniper forecasts that ad spend on voice assistants will climb to $19 billion in the next five years, although not all of it will be tied directly into revenue. People’s voice search habits might prove to be as lucrative a goldmine as their web searches.

AR is finally ready for its close-up

After years of fits and starts, Augmented Reality (AR) is finally ready to hit the mainstream, thanks to Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore enabling developers to incorporate AR directly into their applications. In the past, much of the focus and excitement have been directed towards VR, but the relatively tepid response to Oculus Rift does not bode particularly well for the widespread adoption of the technology. AR, on the other hand, is beginning to emerge from the shadow of its much-hyped cousin, and holds great potential for consumers and brands alike.

The traditional selling point for VR has been as a tool to lose yourself completely in a different world, and go to places you’ve never seen and that might not even exist in real life. I have found, however, that technology is at its best when it plays a supporting role to our existing world, instead of trying to replace it outright. That’s the beauty of AR: Instead of giving us an alternate reality, AR enhances our current one, which keeps us grounded in the present but also gives us the ability to explore beyond what we’re familiar with. Just think about Pokemon Go – most of the fun of the game was discovering the Pokemon out and about in the world. Given the success of Pokemon Go and the AR capabilities now widely available to developers via ARKit and ARCore, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more advertisers using AR to create engaging and shareable experiences for their audiences, whether it’s simulating a demogorgon from Stranger Things or creating AR versions of furniture to see what they’d look like at home.

People will begin to take breaks from technology

There has recently been a growing backlash to the role of technology in our lives, especially as it relates to the ceaseless churn of information that inundates us at every turn. While this backlash is certainly not new, it is true that people are starting to feel the wear of having to keep up with the newscycle, where every day brings a new outrage, as well as having to remain abreast of the latest news in pop culture and trends. People are finally getting sick of having constant access to content.

How, then, are brands meant to address their need to bring more content into the world via advertising while still acknowledging the need of the consumer to unplug? This question is difficult to answer, not least because it’s a contradiction in terms. Apple’s answer was the Apple Watch, a device designed to encourage people to leave their phones behind but still stay connected; however, it’s unlikely that people trying to get away from technology will go out and buy another gadget. Brands just have to be accepting of the desires of their consumers, and create content that speaks to the consumer without overwhelming them.

Smartphones are relatively new, but they’ve already managed to completely transform the way we live, work and interact with one another. New technologies – voice assistants, AR, and so on – promise to continue that transformation. People want experiences, and marketers will have to give the people what they want in order to stay relevant and keep consumers engaged on their own terms.