2019 Trends - From Buzzword to Business Essential

So, you’ve started 2019 with a bang. You’ve read all the blogs. You’ve been to the conferences. And you’re excited for an innovative year ahead where you’ll transform your business into a digital, omnichannel, AI-powered thing of amazingness… and then reality sets in.

How do you channel your inner drive for exciting innovation into something that will deliver tangible value and not just hype? I believe 2019 will see a shift from paying lip-service to the buzzwords of the past year to truly embracing them as business essentials that will deliver greater business success and competitive advantage. 


Enterprise AI

Despite what the movies would have us believe, AI isn’t just robots, avatars and hyper-aware virtual assistants. While artificial intelligence will continue to drive the development of chatbots and a focus on improving the customer experience, we’ll also see AI methodologies being embedded in the heart of enterprises to optimise business processes, enhance products, and make better informed business decisions. 

My hope is that we’ll also move away from this dystopian AI story of being ‘machine-replaced’ to one that focuses on being ‘machine-enhanced’. With enterprise AI, the idea is that we can augment the abilities of our people across all areas of the business to work smarter and more efficiently. 

In a November 2018 report from Forbes, 82% of enterprise AI early adopters saw a positive ROI from their production-level projects. As with the early years of cloud the path was murky and value unclear. But the technology soon matured, the benefits became obvious, and cloud uptake grew exponentially. AI is currently in a similar early stage. As the technology continues to mature, and the early adopters prove value and streak ahead, I think we’ll see greater levels of comfort and more widespread adoption.



The rise of voice-activated technologies and voice search has grown significantly over the last few years. According to Strategy Analytics, approximately 60 million households worldwide now own at least one smart speaker.

While many people still only use voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant to carry out fairly straight-forward tasks such as place a call, order food or taxis, and do basic searches online (e.g. “what will the weather be like today?”), as we become more comfortable with voice-activated technology this is likely to change.

Recently there has been a rise in voice-based commerce. But, according to a consumer survey from First Insight published last month, it seems that this uptake is driven largely by men (70%). They clearly feel more confident than women using those devices to research products and pricing. What’s the deal with this ladies?!

This positive shift in attitudes to voice means that in 2019 marketers will need to seriously start thinking about how their SEO strategies will need to be adapted for voice search. The interesting thing here is that it's not just Google that rules that roost in this arena. Alexa uses Bing to power its search capability (Amazon can’t exactly use Google), so this may require a whole new approach as well as diversity in capability.

Innovative organisations need to earnestly think about the use cases for voice. The vision of the future paints a picture of the demise of apps with everything simply becoming voice-based. However, I think that's still a way off. For now, it appears that we're using voice when we want to be productive but our hands are busy, or we're (attempting) to multitask - such as when we're driving and want to make a call, or when we're cooking and want to pull up a recipe on YouTube. But how will this evolve in the near future, and what other instances will provide a ripe opportunity for voice over text?


Data privacy and security

Last year data security and privacy were placed firmly at the forefront of our minds and gave us a good example of how not to do things (thank you, Facebook). Now organisations clearly understand the need to focus on how they must establish trust and take a privacy-first approach when it comes to people’s data.

Consumer awareness of how their personal data might be used (or misused) is certainly on the rise. Savvy consumers of today are looking to engage with organisations that incorporate a more ethical, secure and transparent approach to how they use their data.

Closer to home, a new Privacy Bill is set to be released in July. The bill seeks to bring New Zealand Privacy laws more in line with international developments, such as those laid out by the GDPR in the EU, and will place greater regulation on the collection, use and disclosure of information about New Zealanders. However, to be fair, our privacy policies regarding personal information and how it can be used, have always been much tighter than that in the U.S. which is typically where we hear of the abuse and breaches of personal data today.

In 2019, the respect for privacy and security of personal data may soon become a competitive advantage. I heard a smart CIO once say, with regards to automation “just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should”. I think this also relates to the use of data – just because you have the data, should you actually use it?

And it’s not just about being compliant, but about doing what’s right. If you can show that you’re acting responsibly with the data you collect, take a privacy-by-design approach and have their best interests at heart, consumers will be more likely to trust you and become a loyal customer.


Embrace the ‘Data Age’ 

The past few decades has seen us move from the ‘digital age’ into the ‘connected age’. And now, according to the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES), 2019 will see the dawn of a new age – the ‘data age’.

With the proliferation of connected devices and increased digitisation there is now more data than ever before. We’ve all heard the saying “data is the new oil”, so in this era, it will be those organisations that can harness the data and generate actionable insight, that will unlock the path to innovation and success.

But to truly embrace the opportunities that this explosion of data provides, organisations must first lay their data foundations and decide on their data strategy. And while organisations have access to more data than ever before, for many, this data is still siloed, limiting the ability to gain a full picture of their customers or operations, and to use this data for truly transformative applications.

I think that as more and more organisations overcome these challenges we’ll see a huge growth in the ability to take advantage of these technology trends, such as enterprise AI and voice, to create competitive advantage and deliver greater business success. 

So don’t despair. Strap your data boots on, find those AI and voice use cases, and see what 2019 will bring in terms of exciting innovation – I bet you get further than you think.

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