Businesses will have to respond to a number of new technological trends this year, or risk losing out to competitors, according to the Deloitte Consumer Review: Digital Predictions 2016.
The financial services firm has identified six of the biggest digital technology trends that will shake up markets this year, and warned that consumer-facing firms will need adapt rapidly in order to keep up.
“A wave of new technologies is revolutionising the way people are engaging with consumer businesses," said Ben Perkins, Deloitte's head of consumer business reseach.
"Consumer industries have to be flexible to rapidly changing consumer behaviour. Rising ownership of smartphones and tablet devices, faster connectivity speeds and increasing engagement with brands on social media are the main driving forces behind the UK consumer market’s digital revolution.”
The six digital trends to keep an eye on are as follows:
Cognitive tech, such as speech recognition, machine learning and natural language processing, will be used to making purchasing processes more convenient and Deloitte predicts that by the end of the year, over 80 of the top 100 global enterprise software companies will have integrated these technologies. This kind of technology has ramifications for employment as it can be used to carry out tasks humans were previously hired to do.
The VR market could enjoy its "first billion-dollar year in 2016", Deloitte says. It estimates that around 2.5m VR headsets and 10m games will be sold this year, indicating the technology is "starting to gain some traction in the consumer market". For example, VR could be used by hotels and car dealers to offer virtual tours of their facilities. Deloitte also suggests VR could be used to "reshape shopping experiences".
Gigabit-per-second internet connections could broaden the horizons of consumer businesses this year, with their number expected to hit 10m by the close of 2016. While that would mark a tenfold rise on last year, Deloitte predicts around 600m subscribers could ultimately be on gigabit tariffs by 2020 This would allow firms to create faster loading websites and deliver higher quality content, and would also help support innovations such as VR and the Internet of Things.
Deloitte estimates that the number of people adopting touch-based payment services to make mobile purchases to surge by 150 per cent this year, with up to 50m global users expected by the end of 2016. This tech will help drive sales via mobile devices, as it speeds up the payment process by allowing users to authenticate purchases with their fingerprint.
The growth of image sharing could be a commercial opportunity for consumer businesses - especially as networking sites begin to offer "buy" buttons and other functions. Deloitte's research indicates that 2.5 trillion images will be shared or stored online in 2016, up 15 per cent on last year, making the sector even more important for businesses. However, the firm warned that brands will need to "tread carefully, crafting images which feel authentic, are a cause of interest, and are of a high quality".
Mobile technology will continue to play a massive role in how people shop this year, helped along by other technological advancements such as cognitive tech, touch payments and photo sharing. But the use of personal computers in conjunction with mobile devices is also predicted to rise, meaning companies are going to have to cater to several types of machine in the future.