By Chris Cunningham, Founder of C2 Ventures
It’s become something of a tradition for me to look at the year ahead and predict where the industry is headed. Part of that process involves looking back at the trends that dominated last year and looking to see how much of that momentum will continue into the New Year.
And, what a year it was. Companies like Amazon and Netflix continued to assert their dominance, while others faltered in the face of heightened scrutiny (I’m looking at you, Facebook). On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented and virtual realities (AR/VR) have continued to develop rapidly, to the point where voice assistants and other smart gadgets have become commonplace.
It can be hard to keep up in the face of such innovation, but here’s what I consider to be the top issues and trends facing the tech industry in 2019.
My favorite tech movement of 2018 has to be the steady growth of companies focusing on direct-to-consumer products. Allbirds, Casper, Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Netflix, Peloton — the list is endless. So many of the best brands nowadays are choosing to go straight to the consumer, instead of having to rely on middlemen and third parties. What do these brands all have in common? They all know how to talk and listen to their consumers, and they don’t rely on suspect adtech to do it.
In 2019, consumers will take back control of their data, and start becoming more choosier about the brands they interact with. People will start participating more with the brands they love in a personalized way, which in turn, will allow them to get more value out of the interaction.
2019 will be the year that cannabis companies start to utilize technology to grow their businesses. While the ecosystem remains highly fragmented and not standardized, technology will allow companies to build a more robust infrastructure, and better meet the demands of its consumers. As cannabis becomes less of a taboo subject and more of a revenue driver, expect to see more brands branching out into the space.
What text chain would be complete without at least one gif, emoji, or meme? I’ll add one element to the mix: personalized animation. As we continue to incorporate visuals into our written communications, it’s only natural to want to include more dynamic forms of creative — including animated forms of ourselves and our stories. Apple’s Animoji and Memoji are just a few examples of this.
Fintech is no longer a cute concept that banks can ignore or make fun of. Instead, it’s quickly taking over every element of the financial industry, from credit cards to savings accounts to payments to determining credit scores. Fintech is THE sector to invest in 2019 — so consumers, take notice.
People want to live long lives and feel good while doing so. The global wellness industry is currently worth a whopping $3.7 trillion, so companies that help people on their journey, whether by providing an app that helps you meditate (Headspace) or giving you flexible access to a host of fitness classes in your area (Zenrez: Disclosure, I’m an investor and EVP.), will absolutely crush it in the next year.
While larger retailers struggle to leverage their data effectively, smaller businesses will get smarter about their customers through software, CRM tools, and pricing. This will make SMBs nimbler, and better able to respond to shifts in consumer sentiment.
After a long dark winter of believing that consumer products are impossible to win, new consumer-shaped businesses will rise. Long live the consumer — but maybe this time, do more than just build an app.
Everybody wants to feel like something’s been made just for them — that’s why personalization has worked so well. In 2019, more companies will arise that focus specifically on creating personalized travel itineraries based on previous behavior. Given both the premium that people currently put on unique experiences and the fact that more people are traveling than ever before, expect such services to become hugely popular. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see large hospitality companies such as Travelocity or Hilton opting to bring such services in-house.
Dynamic pricing isn’t just for airlines anymore. Other industries, such as auto and real estate, will also rely on the model so that they can better manage available inventory and reduce production costs. It could also have implications for the customer journey, as it allows users to get better deals depending on when they purchase and how much stock is available at the time.
Let’s face it, the utopia that blockchain promised has failed to materialize. Instead of continuing to spend resources on a technology that has not paid dividends, both investors and entrepreneurs should focus on how to use AI and ML to grow and develop companies. Not only has AI been shown to provide value to businesses, but it’s also much less of a hassle to implement.
There you have it, folks — my 10 predictions for the coming year. In case you’re curious about my predictions last year, check them out on Medium. Check back next year to see how many in 2019 came to pass!
Chris Cunningham is an active tech startup investor and founder of C2 Ventures and C2V Studios focused on investing in amazing founders in consumer-tech, data, financial-tech, travel, and wellness. Follow him on Twitter atC2cunningham and through www.c2ventures.co