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Six industry trends and challenges for 2019

14th January 2019

thinkTRIBE’s CEO Deri Jones, highlights the tech trends that could impact web/app development and digital performance in 2019 and offers insight into the challenges they bring.

1. Real-time personalisation and contextual content

The most successful brands in 2019 will be those able to create more persuasive connections between brands and buyers via personalisation. It’s a trend highlighted in a recent study by data intelligence company Epsilon in which the majority (80%) of respondents said they were more likely to buy from companies who provided personalised experiences.

However, the report also showed that there is often a gap between customer expectations and the delivered service with only around two-thirds of respondents feeling that sites were providing personalised experiences effectively.

A large challenge for brands is recognising customers across multiple channels and it’s a tough ask, especially as many users prefer to browse anonymously. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is providing opportunities for real-time targeting by using algorithms to automate data integration/analysis and pattern recognition. But the third-party services needed to manage this data in real time can have a knock-on effect on the overall customer experience, so it’s important to monitor performance to minimise risks.

2. Artificial Intelligence … from content management to app development

It’s easy to write AI off as old-fashioned machine learning in another guise. But AI is not only helping to personalise content, it is also making a difference to the production, management and delivery of the ever-growing mountain of content – improving efficiency and helping to drive sales.

Content – Ecommerce operations have to provide tonnes of information – images, videos, descriptions, pricing, availability and reviews – for their products, much of which has to be drawn from a variety of sources and is a time-consuming task involving a lot of manual input. AI-based solutions will increasingly be used to automate and streamline the creation, optimisation and classification of product content, making it easier to manage.

App Development We also expect to see AI impacting app development. Gartner believes by 2022, 40% of new application development will involve AI co-developers, in a world where developers will use a library of AI algorithms and models, as well as development tools tailored to integrate AI capabilities.

Chatbots  Many brands are also experimenting with AI-powered chatbots to answer questions and help facilitate transactions. We expect to see this increasing although businesses should be wary, there is criticism as to the limited abilities of bots to find solutions to complex queries in real time. If these limitations can’t be overcome relatively quickly, consumers will become frustrated and may throw in the towel with chatbots.

There are great rewards to be gained from the more widespread adoption of AI solutions although it adds an extra level of complexity to the web experience from a monitoring perspective and provides challenges, as with all fast moving technologies, in finding developers with the necessary experience.

3. Mobile commerce enabled by PWAs

There’s plenty of research to show that slow page load speeds not only switch web visitors off but also have the potential to hit brands where it hurts – on the bottom line. Google’s own studies have offered their take on the three-second rule: leave visitors hanging longer than this and you can kiss goodbye to their custom. The crucial takeaway? While speed is important for SEO, it’s even more critical for the user experience (UX) and to create the optimal conditions for customer conversion.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) unite the best of mobile and native web apps in a handy device-agnostic form that offer all the benefits of native apps but without any of the development and maintenance overheads. PWAs work on any mobile device with a supported browser, transferring the workload to the device (instead of relying on the web server) and creating a unified cross-platform experience regardless of browser, device type or connection.

Last year we predicted that PWAs would be a significant trend in 2018 and we believe growth will continue this year. Fast growth brings it’s own challenges, not least finding developers with the right experience. From a performance point of view PWA use of pre-caching makes it difficult to measure UX – a risk that can be mitigated with realistic load testing.

Whether you’re planning on implementing a PWA this year or not, you’ll have to monitor your site with real mobile browsers to ensure a consistent mobile UX.

4. eCommerce platform trends

Many retailers are moving away from bespoke platforms to ecommerce vendor solutions such as SAP Commerce (Hybris) and Salesforce Commerce (Demandware). In the past this has been in the form of ecommerce software packages but there’s an increasing trend in favour of eCommerce platforms delivered as a fully managed service – offering greater flexibility, scalability, shorter times to market and infrastructure cost savings.

We support many clients replatforming to SAP Commerce. Highly customisable, SAP Commerce offers flexibility with a large range of extensions and add-ons. Watch out this year for progress of SAP’s KYMA project. An open source project, KYMA addresses the need to provide custom extensions to SAP’s commerce portfolio using a lightweight framework, making them quicker and easier to implement out of the box.

There’s also been a significant shift in favour of public cloud hosting, especially with larger organisations. Advantages include reduced infrastructure costs, greater scalability, better agility and heightened security but on the flip side, the risks include cloud resiliency with greater dependency on a small number of large cloud providers. This along with GDPR and privacy concerns could make 2019 the year for Hybrid clouds. In fact Amazon, Microsoft and other leading cloud providers are ramping up their efforts to target hybrid cloud opportunities this year. As with any platform upgrade/migration regardless of how it’s hosted, it’s important to minimise the risks with a program of realistic load testing.

5. Social Commerce

Just under half the world’s population uses some form of social media, which means it’s a fertile hunting ground for businesses looking for new customers. Although a relatively untapped market currently, social commerce could be given a boost by AI-powered chatbot technology that will get more clever, as well as cheaper in 2019. Even private messaging services like WhatsApp, Snapchat and Messenger are expected to become transactional.

Social commerce isn’t for everyone particularly amidst security and privacy concerns and with potential legislative changes in the wake of 2018’s Facebook revelations. However ecommerce businesses need to keep up with developments and be prepared to try new features as they become available or risk being left in the wake of the early adopters. Most likely implemented via third-party plug-ins and apps, it adds another potentially weak link to the chain within which the UX has to be managed and customer expectations met.

6. Blockchain

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? Blockchain always seems to be on everyone’s annual predictions list without actually ever fulfilling its potential. So, could 2019 be blockchain’s breakout year?

Famous for its role in the storage and transaction of virtual currencies like Bitcoin, it has potential for wider industry applications – the emphasis being on the ‘potential’. Comprising of sequentially grouped transaction blocks that are chained together – trust is created because of the distributed ledger and the shared verification process that creates an unalterable transaction record.

It’s hard to know if and when blockchain use will become more widespread. Although Gartner predicts that blockchain’s business value-add could tip the $3 trillion mark in the next decade, Forrester Research Inc argues that 90% of current blockchain pilots won’t ever progress beyond this stage. Our take? The tech has inspired entrepreneurs to take a fresh look at carved-in-stone practices, but it has yet to become the technological bedrock that it has the potential to be.

Reducing the risk of new technology

If we know anything, it’s that brands can be badly damaged as a result of underestimating the importance of the customer’s online experience. Customer loyalty is hard won but easily lost, so if you are planning to integrate new technology this year, make sure you invest in a program of load testing and website performance monitoring to ensure your UX is the best it possibly can be.

If you’d like to learn how thinkTRIBE could help your business mitigate the risks of introducing new technology to your website with our managed load testing and/or monitoring service, drop us a line. Alternatively find out how proactive monitoring and load testing services help leading brands reduce technology risks.