The internet of everything

Facebook beacons … likely to herald major changes.

SO here we are. Corks have popped, fireworks have sparkled, and it’s 2016.

There’s no way of knowing when the Dubai Canal will open or what the average hotel occupancy region will be like during the summer months, but it’s probably safe to say that one area will continue to gain in importance: The Internet and everything 'online'.

For the past few years, without fail, various online pundits announced that the next year would be the 'Year of Video'. 2016 is going to be the year of video again, but this time the game has changed, because at the end of 2015, the previously unimaginable happened, and Facebook overtook the video stalwart YouTube and is now the most popular platform for video consumption. The two most interesting developments, in my opinion, are the imminent rollout of Facebook beacons and the integration of mobile payments into Facebook Messenger, the platform is no stand-alone social messaging application.

Facebook beacons, small devices that can be installed in buildings like hotels, restaurants or travel agencies, enable companies to broadcast information straight to a visitor’s mobile Facebook app and gather a wealth of user data. Beacons are likely to change the way guests, customers, and visitors communicate with bricks and mortar businesses. They’ll make it easier for people to find your shop or property and offer new ways for them to interact with you online. For local businesses with a Facebook presence, beacons could facilitate collection of loyalty data (e.g. how many times a customer visits per week or month) and enable cutomised insight-driven messaging (e.g. special offers on a customer’s birthday).

The integration of mobile payments into Facebook Messenger meanwhile will boost mobile payment uptake in the region and make it possible for customers to use Facebook as an end-to-end solution when interacting with companies. Theoretically, a mobile payment enabled Messenger app makes it possible to inquire about a dinner reservation or tour package via a company’s Facebook page and pay for it without ever having to leave Facebook.

Location-driven social media and online usage (and, in turn, marketing) will gain further momentum thanks to wearable technology like smart-watches and wristbands and an ever increasing number of connected devices. By 2020, the number of devices connected to the internet is expected to exceed 40 billion. We’re just getting started.

Other companies to watch in the coming month are Microsoft and Google, because both are preparing to launch affordable virtual and augmented reality devices and applications this new year. Microsoft’s Occulus Rift and Google’s Cardboard are set to revolutionise the way people book travel or research destinations. The increasing availability of virtual and augmented reality apps also means that real-time availability of customised information will become far more important. Customers will increasingly demand real-time information, almost immediate replies to their online questions and customised information. The rise of real-time video sharing apps like Twitter’s Periscope is only one of many examples.

It is likely that we’ll also see new in-store or on-property experiences emerging. Retail outlets in this region have so far been poor users of new technology like interactive in-store displays linking online and offline and able to adapt to a user’s exact requirements and requests rather than provide a one-size-fits-all solution.

Lastly, 2016 is going to be the year where search moves beyond Google and Bing. Sure, people will still use traditional search engines, but more and more search activity will take place on social media platforms and within social media apps. Not only will this require considerable changes to your search engine optimisation activities, but it also questions the raison d’être of traditional websites. We’re fast moving into the age of app-centricity, where there’s an app for just about everything.

Here’s hoping that your smartphone’s memory and the flexibility of our fingers needed to tap all these app icons and buttons will also increase in 2016! 

By Martin Kubler