Remember when the year 2020 seemed incredibly far away? Sure enough, if we'd read about next year's new business trends in the late '90s, we might have thought they were pretty futuristic.
A few developments—including the artificially intelligent voice economy, democratized IT and enhanced social video—became reality in the last few years and form the basis of future business trends in 2020 and beyond. As we enjoy the last months of 2019, let's boost our knowledge of these business trends.
AI-Powered Voice Economy
Proactive voice response systems have long been a part of customer service. A proactive response from a machine prompts a human to ask a question. Then the machine answers and then asks a follow-up question.
For example, a customer might call a drugstore to order a prescription refill. The machine would offer the customer options; the customer could choose one, such as “Do I have a refill available?" and the machine could respond “Yes, there is one refill available. Can I fill the prescription for you?"
Phone-based customer service “robots" were once clunky and fussy, but the technology behind them is rapidly advancing. This progress is mostly due to improvements in natural language processing (NLP), or a machine's ability to process human speech patterns.
Artificially intelligent voice-based assistants like Alexa and Siri are taking off because if you think about it, it's much easier for humans to communicate with digital devices and software by voice than by typing onto a screen. Your assistant sits quietly in the background until you ask for its help, and thanks to NLP, it can respond to you far more accurately than in the past.
One hot technology trend in business involves AI voice-based machines moving from the role of assistant to the role of coach. For instance, your smart speaker can listen to your conversations with customers, partners and employees, and then provide guidance for engaging more effectively and improving results.
Imagine if your device could tell you if the feedback to your direct report was too abrasive, or if the call you just placed to your customer needed to focus more on her needs. Considering that the NLP market will likely continue to grow, this may become a reality.
Democratized IT (also called citizen development) is exactly what it sounds like: Skills and activities formerly reserved for IT professionals are now in the hands of other business professionals.
Whereas before valuable software could only be accessed and used by a company's IT department, it's now more widely available and much easier to use thanks to the cloud. And, since much of today's software incorporates machine learning algorithms and advanced analytics and reporting capabilities, the average professional can now accomplish what not long ago, you needed a mid-level IT expert to do.
In 2020 and beyond, spatial computing—or the discipline blending augmented, mixed, and virtual reality into an individual's experience—will take social TV up a level.
As a result, developing new apps and systems that directly target specific departmental needs is among 2020's business marketing trends. For example, a marketing team in a medium-sized, U.S. shipping firm was unhappy with its means of collecting customer feedback. The company's IT group did not prioritize a new solution, so the marketing team took matters into its own hands. Marketing engaged no-code application development software to create a more user-friendly process for soliciting and analyzing customer thoughts. (That is, they didn't have to code apps from scratch, similar to how you can now design a website without knowing HTML.)
Democratized IT/citizen development was once known as "Shadow IT" because it was an activity only a few workers did on the fringes. But I've witnessed it come into the open in the last few years and believe that in 2020, it's likely to build further momentum.
Enhanced Social Video
I've observed that over the last few years, social TV, or a technology allowing people to communicate with each other while watching television, has become a social media trend for business. Businesses and individuals alike are also sharing their own long-form creative content in vertical format via platforms like Facebook Live, IGTV, and Snapchat's Shoppable AR. Instagram touted the success of IGTV, reporting that by 2021, mobile video will account for "78 percent of total mobile data traffic."
In 2020 and beyond, spatial computing—or the discipline blending augmented, mixed, and virtual reality into an individual's experience—will take social TV up a level. In short, content creators will immerse audiences in their brands via interactive digital objects. For instance, some platforms invite brands to share augmented video content allowing customers to use their camera to try on clothing or visualize using a certain product.
Staying on top of 2020 business trends such as the voice economy, democratized IT and enhanced social video requires curiosity and openness. Business owners willing to take risks and try innovative strategies may be more likely to benefit from a position at the top of the adoption curve.
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