A sneak peek at the technology that will shape 2017 and potentially transform the way we do business. New ideas don't pop out of thin air, so many of these technologies have solid roots in development over the last decade but are now poised to significantly impact our lives and challenge us to adapt our businesses to meet demand and new expectations. Here are the trends we've been following at Cyber-NY:
Virtual Reality, Again But This Time For Real
We've been hearing about virtual reality since the 80s... maybe even earlier. The promise of the Nintendo Power Glove and the fear of The Lawnmower Man. While we may not be looking at the Star Trek Holodeck any time soon, last year brought exciting innovations in VR that hit mass market. Not so much the Oculus Rift which can cost upwards to $1000 to get started, but proliferation of low cost offerings ranging from Google Cardboard to Sony PlayStation VR with a variety of Samsung VR accessories in between. VR for the masses means some interesting applications to come. Bringing VR to smartphone app market places is the right target to make this industry real, well virtually real (pardon the pun). Glaringly absent from the field is Apple... hmmm. Maybe 2018?
As mentioned, one of the most accessible methods to get into VR comes from Samsung VR headsets and Android enabled phones. But it's not always as easy to get started as we'd like so we highly recommend checking out JoyofAndroid.com's articles on getting started as well as a specific guide for Samsung VR issues & troubleshooting.
Internet of Things Grows Up
While attending 2014's Maker's World Faire in New York, the buzz phrase was the Internet of Things (IoT). It was all the rage with start-ups on KickStarter and threatened to displace drones and 3D printers as Maker Faire favorites. By the end of 2015, the Internet of Things, or IoT matured and boomed through the home automation market. Nest and a number of home security systems had been brewing substantial offerings over the last 4 or 5 years but it was Amazon Echo and Google Home that exploded over the 2016 holiday season bringing IoT mainstream and poised for exponential growth over the next few years. Once again, Apple was not present in this market.
Payment Methods Unchained
Driven largely by mobile commerce, we have seen a proliferation of online payment methods that streamline checkout and improve security. Paypal was the leader in this area with a decent revamping of their online payment offering several years ago followed by Apple Pay and Samsung Pay as the first OS based payment services. Seeking to maintain relevance in mobile commerce, Visa and American Express released their online payment services or "checkout" feature allowing users a near single click payment method. And online commerce giant Amazon release Amazon Checkout which has been popular with our customers. These payment methods will redefine ecommerce and online checkout this year as single touch finger print I.D. and iris scan or biometrics takes checkout to the next level.
The On Demand Economy Gets Real
By definition, "on demand" refers to services that are available on a per order basis and offer a "pay as you go" business model. Online automation is providing small businesses and individual entrepreneurs with unprecedented access to tools to spin up new businesses or product lines with minimum to no investment. Established domestic retailers can access international markets through on demand logistics and fulfillment centers that used to be limited to the realms of Fortune 1000 companies.
- Online Commerce Automation: Shopify leads this space with substantial ecommerce website offerings with a base of free templates and a pay as you go subscription model. Other players in this space include BigCommerce and Square Space.
- Websites on Demand: Square Space and Wix provide offerings that are far superior to the sub-par offerings presented by tired, old school domain registrars like GoDaddy and Network Solutions. Tip: If they call it an "automatic site builder" tool and it's offered when you purchase a domain, stay away! It's pure cow chips. Go with a next generation site builder dedicated to design and up-to-date features like the fore mentioned Square Space, Wix or my favorite, Strikingly.
- Merchandising & Branded Products: Spin up your own line of branded merchandise or open a T-shirt shop at zero up front cost using services such as Café Press or Printful. There are dozens of other great services that allow you to upload your design, or design online and sell printed clothing, house wares and accessories. All you need to start is your creative vision and the rest is pay as you go. Most of these services handle the payment processing as well and allow you to set your mark-up.
- Logistics on Demand: You're online shop is killing it domestically and sales are peaking but how will you translate this success worldwide? Complexity with exchange rates, VAT taxes, shipping and fulfillment are often limiting factors with a small business. Offerings from UPS Connect and FedEX and others are stepping in to bridge this gap leveraging their established infrastructure and expertise for a percentage of the sale.