Author: Craig Terblanche
2017 surely requires an obligatory ‘predictions’ piece. But this year I want to look at the worlds of technology and innovation from a purely mobile perspective, and take a practical look at how we can expect the mobile landscape to develop this year.
The age old ‘4-party model’ – the foundation of banks’ and credit card firms’ business models – will be further eroded in 2017. No longer will we see the crisp symmetry of ‘issuer-acquirer-merchant-customer’. New embedded payment features within apps and other digital services will continue to make the process of paying more frictionless, even ‘invisible’. Paying for digital services will start to become indistinguishable from using those services, as customers place greater levels of trust in entering their card details into apps, wallets, and other digital mechanisms.
The GSM Association predicts that Sub-Saharan Africa will add 400 million new smartphones by 2020. So expect great strides towards that target.
Mobile is the platform of choice for digital transformation in Africa
The rapid price declines of low-cost smartphones will mean that in SA, we’ll move very close to smartphone market saturation, as our neighbouring countries enjoy the social and economic boon that accompanies greater levels of connectivity and up-take. For businesses, a myriad of new opportunities will emerge, to connect local needs with digital technology.
Businesses need to imagine ideal scenarios of interaction with customers, irrespective of any existing or preconceived constraints and then provide customers with a moment-in-time service and value experience that makes them want more.
Mobile chatbots and digital assistants
It seems that the Artificial Intelligence required to make interactive digital ‘bots’ truly work, is on the verge of an important tipping-point. AI powered chatbots (such as Google Allo) will start gathering momentum in 2017, and slowly altering the way that we access information and interact with organisations. For about 2 decades, the mighty search engine has been our de-facto tool for gathering information, but this may start to change with the introduction of AI and bots – always available and willing to help, via more natural voice interfaces on our mobile devices.
Mobile ecosystems and platforms: build or join?
Note this is platforms with a small “p” – this trend is less a technology one, and more about business strategy.
In 2017 more organisations will be forced to make a hard decision: Should they invest in building one’s own digital ecosystem/platform (like Alibaba or AirBNB), and attracting various parties to exchange and generate value from the platform? Or, would it be better to simply leverage a network that has already been created, and seek to become one of the dominant players within that industry platform?
There are numerous examples of “wildly successful” digital services riding on mobile platforms like M-Pesa or WeChat, that adeptly leverage the distribution and investments of the platform provider, to minimise operational costs and lower barriers to launching new products and services.
Lowering the barriers and costs to launching new products and services is surely a business imperative…
Mobile video taking hold
Video-based tools will rise to greater prominence this year, evolving the way we communicate, learn, and consume information.
We’ve already seen the beginnings of real-time video streaming (through the likes of Google’s Periscope) of key events on social networks, and this trend will continue this year. With massive implications for traditional broadcasting, by the end of 2017 we’ll have a multitude of video channels available – embedded into our favourite mobile app – that are easy-to-use and capable of smooth playback on various devices, platforms, and connectivity quality levels.
Everything Digital ?
Having looked at some of the other predictions for the mobile realm, it’s clear that we sometimes get carried away by futurist theories – espousing the likes of “post-app” interfaces, virtual reality worlds, mainstream adoption of new digital currencies, rapid AI-powered automation, and dramatic mobile telehealth innovations.
But while it’s certainly fun to dream, and important for businesses to be aware of breakthrough technologies looming on the horizon, for most local companies 2017 needs to be a year of consolidating their digital and mobile strategies, doing the basics brilliantly, and being more realistic in the new innovations that they adopt by keeping them business focused and aligned to specific business goals. This year we’ll see increased investments into mobile. Here’s hoping that in your businesses, those investments are wisely directed.
I wish you and your business everything of the best for 2017!