Facebook IQ, the research arm of the social media giant, has released its first Annual Topics & Trends Report. Using Facebook's conversation data from its two billion users, the report reveals the trends taking shape across business models, social norms and digital experiences.
1. Choice simplified
"Category disrupters that specialise in only a few products or designs – in some cases even just one – are thriving," the social media giant says.
The report highlights Casper, a company shipping mattresses in a box. The one-size-fits-all model is spreading to many categories, including toothbrushes, meal replacements and even water filters. As consumers have become overwhelmed by limitless options online inducing decision fatigue, companies are achieving success by taking the pain out of consumers' choices, Facebook IQ says.
2. Make it about me
"Personalised subscription-based business models are also on the rise. Monthly, weekly, even sometimes daily, people receive boxes of makeup, clothes and meal kits curated for them."
Subscription models have taken off partly due to people's wish to simplify decisions, but also because they cleverly play on the brain's propensity to take pleasure from anticipation. A potential key to making the model work at scale will be personalisation of the product, according to Facebook IQ. "People might delight in not knowing what's in the box – but they want to know they'll like it," the report states. Personalisation relies on businesses collecting data on the products shoppers browse, keep and return so that deliveries can be improved.
3. The rise of cryptocurrency
"Formerly in the domain of the dark web, digital currency made headlines in 2017 – and now appears poised for the mainstream," Facebook IQ speculates. There was 146.9x growth in Facebook conversations about blockchain between January 2016 and October 2017, and 13.9x growth in conversations about cryptocurrency.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) may legitimise cryptocurrency in the mainstream, the report states. In an ICO, investors can exchange digital "tokens" for services and products. However, the lack of regulation of the industry has so far limited its appeal to mainstream investors, it notes.
4. Personality at work
As the Millennial portion of the workforce grows, workplaces have begun to adapt to the expectations of this generation for greater autonomy and collaboration, according to the report. In that context, building effective teams is more important than ever. Personality tests have become widespread to identify an employee's strengths, passions and conflict-resolution styles with the aim of creating higher-performing teams. Facebook IQ says most Fortune 500 companies now report using personality tests.
5. Everyday AR
"Developer tools now entering the market may make this the year augmented reality (AR) goes mainstream," the report says. Business adoption of AR has in fact already begun. Facebook IQ uses the example of realtors harnessing AR to virtually stage empty homes. And people are using the camera filters on Facebook's Instagram Stories platform to "imbue a little magic into their reality," according to the report.
Potential everyday practical uses for AR include using phones to translate menus or measure sofas. The January 2016 to October 2017 period saw 9.6x growth in Facebook conversations about augmented reality and 122x growth in conversations about mixed reality.
"People's fascination with artificial intelligence (AI) is growing," according to the report. Conversations around AI grew 4.5x between the start of 2016 and October 2017. In the US, one in five households now has at least one Internet of Things device, the most common being smart speakers.
Businesses are increasingly using AI as part of customer services, like using messenger bots to respond to queries. Facebook IQ cites the Microsoft app ‘Seeing AI’, which employs AI to narrate physical surroundings to the visually impaired.
7. The World, Customised for Me
"In the near future, people will come to expect their immediate surroundings to adjust to their personal preferences, all without having to ask," according to the report. Proximity marketing is becoming more commonplace. Conversations around the practice grew 30.6x between January 2016 and October 2017. Businesses are using Bluetooth to send people messages on their phones based on their locations. Helping the rollout of proximity marketing is the increasing popularity of wireless headsets, like Apple's AirPods, which encourage people to leave Bluetooth on by default.
Find the full report here.