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Since the vast majority of us wouldn’t claim to be psychic, predicting which elements of mobile marketing are going to be the dominant trends of 2018 is a matter of research, and one that is definitely worth doing if you don’t want to be left behind. We’ve reflected on some of the biggest trends of 2017, looked at the statistics that are indicating growth, and examined the plans of some of the sector’s biggest names. What emerges are the following seven key focuses that look likely to shape the mobile marketing sector in 2018.

1. Livestream video

By 2019, video will account for around 78% of the world’s mobile data traffic, and livestream has emerged as the fastest growing subcategory of videos. Facebook has reported that users spend more than 3x more time watching a live video than non-live content. This highlights the role of visuals in attracting and keeping users’ attention, but it’s also a good indicator that ensuring they don’t have to wait for the latest content is increasingly important too. The possibilities for incorporating livestream as part of a wider campaign are huge: the award-winning live coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade offered a 360 degree view of the event via their website and mobile app streaming of the event, and social gaming platform Twitch have collaborated with business partners to create interactive livestream promotional events.

2. Augmented reality

Most of us have used AR on a smartphone in some form or another by now, and over the course of 2017 these have become noticeably more sophisticated in both how ‘real’ they look and what they can achieve. The launch of ARKit and ARCore platforms have also helped to open it up to even further development. Whilst a variety of user and production issues have meant that virtual reality is still not gaining the popularity that was originally predicted for it, AR can be more readily applied to real-life scenarios. For starters, whilst VR requires a bulky, sensory-depriving headset, AR can be integrated into existing mobile apps and used whilst going about your daily business. Although to date it has been viewed as something of a novelty, in 2018 AR will truly enter the mainstream, providing value to users in retail, travel and media environments.

3. Native ads

A BusinessInsider study has suggested that by 2021, native ads will make up 74% of total US display ad revenue. Digital giants Facebook and Twitter still dominate our daily interactions, and therefore also the ad spend of most marketers, for the very good reason that they can slip adverts into our social networking with very little disruption. Marketing has increasingly become a matter of personalized relationships, and users are less likely to respond to obvious, traditional, billboard-style advertising. Instead, getting ad content seen – or, more importantly, noticed – will rely on integrating it into the mobile experience, appearing without disrupting user actions, and personalizing ads to provide value to the individual.

4. Faster loading

One of the simplest but most effective facts that has been highlighted this year is that users demand their mobile experiences to be delivered faster than you can say ‘exit site’, or indeed ‘exit app’. Delays in loading pages are one of the quickest way to turn users away, with 53% of users leaving if loading takes more than 3 seconds. Currently, this works in the favor of apps rather than mobile internet. However, work such as Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project is aiming to improve web page speed, and in order to keep that edge, apps will have to make sure that they’re optimised for a quick and easy user experience.

5. Artificial intelligence

AI is already embedded into many of our favourite apps, but predictions suggest that it will become a far more common element in healthcare technology, engineering and customer service. The AI used by ‘smart’ virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa will be advanced further still, making them even more – well, smart. For organizations on mobile, this will mean a more thorough understanding of consumers, higher degrees of accuracy and minimized staffing costs, thanks to chatbots and automated processes. Users, in turn, will come to expect instantaneous results and personalization based on their previous behaviour – which leads neatly into Trend No.6:

6. Messaging apps

For sending service communications, personalized ads and building relationships, messaging apps are going to be a key way for businesses to communicate with people, whether with chatbots or good old-fashioned real people. The top four messaging apps in the world now have more monthly active users than the top four social networking apps, and this huge, active user base will become increasingly accessible to other applications and organisations too. Being able to directly message a business makes 53% of people more likely to shop with them, Facebook Messenger claims. Perhaps most exciting is the opportunity for these businesses to use AI to intervene with useful suggestions and messages triggered by personal conversations. Although still in their early stages, Messenger’s Chat Extensions and WeChat’s Mini Programs are starting to show some of the possibilities that this format could offer through collaborations between apps.

7. Internet of Things

Smart speakers and virtual assistants have become features in a growing number of homes in 2017, thanks to Google and Amazon’s affordable options. This is just the beginning, however. In 2018, we can expect to see growing popularity for both these and similar IoT home products including app-controlled lights and heating, as well as an explosion in new IoT devices of varying degrees of practicality, from kitchen appliances to remotely controlled dog feeders. Some predictions suggest that IoT technology will be included in 95% of new product designs by 2020, making this area a huge opportunity for interacting with consumers even when their smartphone is in another room. Even the most basic tasks could become a moment of engagement: just putting your socks through the washing machine could gather data that automatically orders more detergent, or offer an on-screen recommendation to get the machine serviced.