​The Britton Digital Update—Week of December 11, 2017

​Five minutes to get you up to speed on this week’s digital, business, social media, entertainment, and marketing news

Reflection. It is an end-of-the-year ritual—a chance to review what was accomplished and what wasn’t. It’s a chance to grade the previous year and see how we have improved as brands and as people. It’s also a chance to look back and see how horrible or awesome we are at guessing annual trends.

So let’s take a break from being inundated with Facebook “2017 in review” videos and take a look back at our 2017 predictions. Which ones were spot-on? Which predictions were dead wrong? Which ones might ring true in 2018? Let’s find out!

Assistance, Please

In January, I wrote, “Expect Google Home, Amazon Echo (or Echo Dot), and other home-assistant devices to become more mainstream in 2017.” The rate of adoption for smart speakers and home-assistant-enabled devices has skyrocketed, thanks to the falling prices (and holiday specials) for the Echo Dot as well as the release of the Google Home Mini device.

Users are seeing that these connected devices are convenient, and with a low cost of entry and an ease of use, these devices don’t appear to be a fad. I purchased two Echo Dots this year and have connected some lamps through smart outlets to them. I even connected my Christmas tree and other holiday decorations so that Alexa can get in the spirit of the season whenever I ask her to. It didn’t take long before I was sold. I have since set up routines (saying “Good night” turns everything off and saying “Good morning” does the opposite), which has made it even more convenient. I imagine once I add a connected coffeemaker, I’ll be set. Then again, that’s more of a prediction for the future than a review of the past.

So what didn’t I predict correctly? I said, “I don’t believe Apple will release a home-assistant device, as the company has said it believes your phone is that device,” and that “Siri will become relevant again.” This could come down to a technicality. Apple announced—but hasn’t released—a smart speaker, called HomePod. It is designed to appeal to the music lover who doesn’t mind spending more, not the entry-level smart-speaker user. What hasn’t happened is Siri becoming relevant again. Despite some minor improvements, she trails Alexa and the Google Assistant by miles. When Apple does finally release HomePod, in 2018, I do expect we will see more functionality available with Siri. For now, that one was a swing and a miss.

Not Very Chatty Bot

Usually when Facebook is determined to make something work, it succeeds. Chatbots were one of the company’s initiatives, and I expected that 2017 would be the year that every retailer would invest in them. It is true that many retailers invested in bots and Facebook Messenger as a channel for partially automated customer service. However, it’s more that the adoption by consumers hasn’t really taken off yet. Earlier in the year, Facebook had even introduced a discover section for brand chatbots, but a quick check of the app shows that that section has disappeared, likely because of lack of interest from consumers.

Buy Low, Sell High

I made the 2017 prediction that Facebook and other companies would continue “buying smaller companies and incorporating their technology before they become big enough to become real competitors.” While some of this occurred in social media, it didn’t happen at the massive pace I had initially expected. The place where we are seeing more of this brand behavior is in retail.

In 2017, we have seen several retail brands strategically buy smaller tech companies that focus on image and voice recognition, augmented reality, and data management. This shows that brands understand the importance of digital in their future when it comes to sales, marketing, and user experience.

Just this week, there were two big purchases. Apple confirmed it was purchasing Shazam for $400 million. This gives Apple valuable resources when it comes to voice and image recognition, as well as music discovery. Also, Target purchased delivery startup Shipt for $550 million. This gives Target not only the option of same-day delivery in a bunch of markets but also the needed “expertise in its existing supply chain, including integration with the recently acquired transportation technology company, Grand Junction,” according to TechCrunch.

Perhaps the biggest example of the year for a large brand buying up a smaller (though not small) company is Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods. This gives Amazon a strong understanding of the grocery-industry nuances, a place for its Prime members to shop at a discount, and, most importantly, brick-and-mortar distribution points. As for how Amazon could impact the retail world going forward, you’ll have to wait for our 2018 predictions.

Social Media Collusion

Another prediction was that “Facebook will try to appease the fake-news haters in 2017” and that “it gets worse before it gets better.” Both of those statements were pretty true in 2017. Facebook has made efforts to be transparent about its role in spreading fake news in regard to the 2016 election and Russia’s involvement. It has also taken steps to suppress news-feed stories that it believes are fake.

However, Facebook has also taken a lot of heat for its role in the fake-news controversy. In fact, just this past week, a former company executive said, “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s former vice president of user growth, went on to say that his statement goes beyond Russian ads. In response, Facebook noted that he had not been at the company for six years, and that “Facebook was a very different company back then and as we have grown we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too.” There has certainly been an erosion of trust by users who had previously believed that everything they read on the internet is true.

As far as other 2017 predictions, I suggested that since many of its users were outside the United States, Instagram growth would continue to explode in 2017. It definitely has. In December 2016, Instagram’s reported total number of monthly active users was at 600 million. By September of this year, its reported monthly active users surpassed 800 million. That is ridiculous growth, with no signs of slowing down. Sorry, Snapchat.

Virtually Augmented

To be honest, I’m not sure those two words can be put together. It makes my brain hurt just looking at that heading. At the beginning of the year, I predicted that you should “expect virtual reality to take off with the gaming community.” While more well-known titles have helped advance VR adoption, it isn’t mainstream just yet. As far as social media in VR, I wouldn’t expect to see that many people hanging out in Facebook Spaces just yet.

I really expected Apple’s augmented-reality apps and its ARKit development with the latest iOS to help AR take off in 2017. Perhaps it was just too late in the year for Apple to release it to have a big impact on this year. When I purchased my new iPhone 8 Plus (the iPhone X was expensive and delayed!), I downloaded a few apps. So far, it still seems slow and clunky, with very few app options. While A and V are getting closer to R (augmented and virtual are getting closer to reality), I would say that this was also a bust prediction.

Overall, I would grade my own predictions as a B− (and that may be grading on a curve). With the digital media, marketing, and retail landscape changing as fast as it is, predicting can be pretty tough. The good news is that there’s always next year.

That’s exactly where you will find our 2018 predictions—in the new year. If it is current digital news you desire (much easier to predict), we haven’t forgotten about you. Here are some additional stories from the past week that you may have missed.

If you liked this, check out our previous Digital Update posts or the Digital Update on Flipboard.

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Photos: BMDG

Dave Goode

Dave Goode

My name is Dave B. Goode (yes, it is my real name). If it sounds like a radio name, it is—well, it was. I had a 22-year radio-broadcasting career as a brand manager and morning-show host. I’m an amateur photographer. I love to cook. I am obsessed with social media. I have come to the realization that Chia Pet seeds do not work on a human head and that it is OK to be bald.

Meet Dave Goode