Inventions, science, and technology leapt forward in the 20th century faster than any century prior. A hundred years ago innovators had just invented radio tuners and circuits, affordable automobiles, and the first ‘robot’ in 1921. Fast forward to now, and we’ve created an immersive digital world that connects people around the globe, developed artificial organs for our bodies, and rolled out the first wave of self-driving cars. And we’re still speeding towards new innovations every day. Want a preview of the technologies everyone will be talking about in 2017? Read on!

1. Low-code/ no-code platforms take the burden off IT.

In May 2016, Forbes declared low-code and no code development to now be enterprise-class. In layman’s terms, that means that the market for low-code/ no-code technology has finally arrived, now that larger businesses are recognizing the value of empowering ‘citizen developers.’ Business leaders understand that they need powerful employee and customer-facing apps to keep pace with the speed of business, but until recently, IT teams were the only ones able to build them. So a simple solution surfaced: why not offer tools that empower non-technical business users to build and maintain apps? Aside from freeing IT to focus on larger, strategic projects, low-code platforms provide new ways for IT to partner with business users more effectively to roll out innovations that used to take years.

2. Artificial intelligence dominates the conversation.

It seems like artificial intelligence is on everyone’s lips lately. And no wonder: a $14-$33 trillion “annual creative disruption impact” by 2025 proves that this is not going to be a passing trend. Last year, you might have read about how AI defeated top players in strategy games, or how Mark Zuckerburg spent his year building a digital butler like Iron Man’s Jarvis. (We’ve even covered the topic quite a bit ourselves). But what does it mean for our everyday lives? With AI-powered technology and business solutions becoming more accessible to businesses, it means that we’re about to see a massive transformation in the way companies use their data. From smarter product recommendations, to predictive customer experiences, to more personalized service interactions, artificial intelligence is positioned to help businesses make big leaps in 2017 across all industries and departments.

How much do you know about AI? Take our quiz and find out.

 

3. Chatbots are here to stay.

If bots are designed to automate a specific task, chatbots take it one step further by using machine learning to pick up conversational cues, communicating with users through interfaces like text messaging or audio speaker (think Amazon’s Echo). These conversational robots can be useful in various business communication scenarios: customer service, virtual assistants, HR recruiting, perhaps even evolving to give you legal advice, manage your stock portfolio, or help you with your taxes. If you’ve ever asked Apple’s Siri to look up directions, or asked Slackbot to set up task reminders, you’ve seen a few of the useful things chatbots are capable of.

Of course, a chatbot will not replace the experience of a 1-on-1 human interaction, but here’s why it’s an attractive option for businesses: 51 percent of people say businesses need to be available 24/7. The Internet never sleeps — you can buy a pair of shoes on Amazon at 10 pm and have it delivered the next day. If you had a question about those shoes, would you want to wait until the morning to get your answer? Would a business want to risk losing a sale because the customer couldn’t get help? Probably not, so chatbots offer a supplemental, always-on service that consumers want. As AI programs become more sophisticated, we’ll be interacting with chatbots more than ever.

4. Mobile messaging/ live chat is the future.

We know that millennials would rather get their teeth cleaned then call a customer service agent. Turns out nobody really likes calling: 49% of consumers would rather contact a business through messaging than via phone call. That means that in order to keep up with consumer preferences, we’re going to see a lot more mobile customer service, live chat assistance, and marketing interactions in messages; hence the spike in chatbots operating on those channels. What’s fueling this trend? Let’s look at the numbers for context:
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  • Facebook Messenger has over 900 million monthly users globally, enabling businesses to connect on iOS, Android, and the web.

  • Since Facebook opened its Messenger platform to chatbots in April 2016, over 11,000 chatbots were built and submitted to the platform in the first 2 months.

  • Twitter has 317 million monthly active users, who can now receive instant assistance via Direct Message with brands.

  • WeChat has 700 million monthly active users, dominating China’s messaging market. Over 10 million businesses in China have WeChat accounts and many small businesses only have a WeChat account, foregoing developing a website or app altogether.

And messaging isn’t just a customer service tool — marketers are finding it useful, too. According to this year’s State of Marketing, the percentage of marketers who are realizing a return on their mobile investment jumped 147% from 2015 to 2016. This past holiday season, we’ve already seen many brands like Burberry, Estée Lauder, and Buzzfeed rolling out messaging campaigns that demonstrate the power of these highly personalized interactions. Estée Lauder President Chris Good says, “Today’s changing consumer behaviors mean that we need to adapt to the need for instant access. For the time-poor consumer, convenience is the new luxury.” With increased speed and personalization being a top priority for companies, all signs point to a surge in messaging and live chat in 2017.

5. Virtual Reality gets real.

2016 saw the launch of various VR platforms, from high-quality systems like Facebook’s Oculus Rift, to cheaper, smartphone-based platforms like Samsung’s Gear VR. The early adopters have tried it, and the launch games and programs have been experienced. So now what? At its release, VR headsets were both perceived and marketed as a video game experience, but in the long term, VR needs to be seen as more than a gaming accessory to attract more adopters. Here’s what’s at the end of the rainbow: a potential $80 billion market. Many companies are eager to leverage the new tech, so we’re sure to see many more interesting new use cases like these in the coming year. Here's an example of how Marriott is using VR to enhance their customer experience.