Squad Up & Share Screens

And get ready for the implications on mobile UX…

People like to do things with friends. That’s no secret.

Improvements in technology use this premise to guide their products. Whether it’s gaming, live streaming, messaging, or video chatting, hanging out with friends is always an underlying utility. Virtual Reality developers have even tried to replicate this through lifelike avatars, bringing people even closer together, virtually.

That’s why when something ‘new’ comes up, that taps into our propensity to communicate and come together, people take notice. That something new is Squad. Squad is a screensharing video chat app, that resembles FaceTime or HouseParty, with a slight twist. Users can share their screens. While screensharing has been around for quite some time in the workplace, Squad is the first app to effectively bring the technology to our mobile phones.

Why is it so important? Well, when a user logs in, they fire up their squad and a typical video chat layout come up. From here, you can either continue sharing your face, or switch to screensharing what’s on your phone (The Android app has an option for sharing both with picture in picture). Users can then navigate around the web, shopping together, viewing photos, watching videos, looking up memes, swiping on Tinder, and much more. This interaction takes a lot of the pressure of video chat off of those using it. You no longer have to perform or look directly into the camera at all times.

Implications

When you first load Squad, a series of options are displayed beneath the video screen, directing users toward the best experiences on their phones. This includes Instagram, TikTok, Bumble, Pictures, and more. For publishers and brands who see good results from their app usage, it’s going to become important to tailor some form of messaging around driving Squads to use your app within the chat experience. While that navigation bar may not be open to sponsored placements yet, it very well could be in the future.

Additionally, as consumers begin using apps in new ways thanks to screensharing, app creators will have to rethink their functionality. What experiences can you include that nod to the fact that more than just one person is here? For example, a shopping app might include the ability to simultaneously look at two sizes or options at once, one for you, and one for your friend across the country who’s viewing your screen.

While it’s still up in the air if Squad itself will stick around, as we’re bound to see the major players release some form of the same functionality shortly, what we do know is that screensharing in this format is almost certainly here to stay. It will be interesting to follow how brands innovate to capitalize on this change in consumer behavior.

TikTok, Brands Want In

The Start

Vine, a massively popular short-form video sharing app, gained traction among the teen demographic in the early part of this decade. Vine stars were born and users found new ways to creatively express themselves using a 7-second share format. The app empowered users to create with simple video editing tools and filters. Subsequently acquired by Twitter, many thought that the social network had big plans to integrate Vine into its future. Unfortunately, it did not.

The company shut down the app in early 2017, and in its place, few competitors remained. Snapchat and Instagram were different. One was primarily used for ephemeral messaging and the other favored images and longer form video (60-seconds) which creatively didn’t have the same feel as Vine. Overseas, a Chinese company called ByteDance had an app called TikTok that was gaining popularity. Recognizing the need to expand into the US market, ByteDance’s co-founders acquired popular Karaoke-lip-syncing app, Musical.ly and converted its user base over to TikTok. The app soon filled the void that Vine had left and is cruising to massive popularity, specifically among the teen demographic.

What is TikTok?

TikTok combines the best of Vine with improvements over the social networks of Instagram and Twitter. Users are able to create 15-second clips, overlaying songs and utilizing video-editing effects or AR filters. It’s an app that fully embraces the idea of the camera as a platform. The + button, indicating the ability to add new clips, is front and center of the navigation bar and opens directly to the camera. From there, users are able shoot or add video to their post, combining short clips together to enhance creativity.

Similar to other social networks, users then post clips to their profiles that show up on others feeds. The differences come in the nomenclature. There is no following, only fans. There is no liking, only hearts. Those differences lead to somewhat of a different feel when using the app. It’s feels friendlier, more inviting and contributes to an atmosphere that fosters positive interactions. This, along with the creative freedom that the app allows for, explains why TikTok has shot up in popularity in the latter half of 2018, becoming the most downloaded app on the app-store over a period of time.

Brands Want In

Of course, with this popularity, comes interest of large brands. Currently, TikTok does not yet offer any traditional marketing plays, currently focused first and foremost on customer experience. However, being ripe with popular influencers, brands have found ways to drive massive traction on the platform, tapping into users propensity to create. A popular way to do this is through Hashtag challenges. Brands challenge TikTok users to create videos inspired by the brand’s initial video (which is posted from their account and propagated from popular influencers).

According to TikTok’s head of global marketing, Stefan Heinrich, he explains that TikTok drives a new level of engagement for consumers. “If I go as a marketer to another platform I get likes, shares or comments. If I get a video on TikTok, I get 20 to 30 minutes of a person’s time to create and share. I’m turning someone into a brand ambassador to start of a conversation”

And that’s what makes this app so intriguing for marketers. If people are inherently looking for places to create and share, and TikTok currently offers the best tools to do so, being a part of that conversation is incredibly important.

Implications

Marketers that are focused on reaching a younger audience should be keeping a watchful eye on TikTok and should be thinking of ways that enhance users ability to create. Tapping into popular hashtag categories and providing thought starters are easy ways to drive engagement through the app, but it’s also important to stay genuine. If there’s one thing that will continuously ring true, it’s that teens are incredibly digitally savvy, they can see right through the façade of a fake profile.

19 Trends for 2019

www.TheInnovationLounge.com

As our world shifts from mobile and desktop, to voice, vision, and touch, we’ve identified 19 trends that will power this convergence and dominate 2019.

Centered around the framework of Empower, Exponential, and Enhanced, our trend framework fully captures the changing paradigm of consumer behavior.

Empower: Trends that allow consumers to own, create and democratize experiences and how the mobile device has empowered consumers. This section highlights everything from the expansion of AR, enhanced imagery, advancements in Esports, interactive content and the growth of live streaming.

Exponential: This section focuses on how AI & intelligent systems are accelerating the evolution of experience. From all facets of AI (machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing) to conversational experiences powered by virtual assistants and the rise of systems-based marketing.

Enhanced: These trends focus on how our world is shifting towards enhanced reality with the convergence of location, computer vision and mixed reality that will reshape how we interact with the physical world and each other as well as the rise of new virtual economies.

Our full list of trends can be found at www.TheInnovationLounge.com

Isolationism – VR’s Blessing and Curse

In flight entertainment has seen tremendous improvements over the past half decade. Seatback monitors, while generally not very big, offer an array of movie and television choices while in-flight WIFI continues to become easier and easier to access. However, Alaska Airlines thinks that they can one up that experience, by using virtual reality.

During a 4-day period at the end of September, 10 flights on the airline will test out their VR offering. Passengers will receive a lightweight headset, made by in-flight entertainment company SkyLights, and have the option to be entertained by a few different VR experiences. Given the stationary nature of the environment, these experiences are limited to watching movies in your own private theatre and exploring virtual worlds through slight head movements.

Paired up with noise cancelling headphones, those experiencing VR will easily tune out any crying babies or other distractions aboard the flight and may make for an incredibly enjoyable experience. But is VR the future of in-flight entertainment?

Implications

Virtual Reality has long been knocked for some of its glaring fallbacks. It’s an isolating experience that’s expensive to set up and doesn’t have compelling content offerings to justify it. Those fallbacks, while justified, are tailored to the home – as a replacement or auxiliary option to your family gaming system. On a flight, many people prefer that sense of isolationism, as even the thought of sparking up a conversation with a random neighbor gives them anxiety. And cost issues? Well, those may be an airline value add or an additional fee.

In 2019, we’ll likely see VR address its obvious fallbacks and offer more experiences tailored to the environment that individual is already in. Location based VR, like arcades and immersive experiences such as The Void, have become increasingly more popular as they drastically reduce the isolated aspect of the experience. VR during in-flight, and possibly other transportation offerings, will look to capitalize on isolationism in the completely opposite sense.

Amazon’s TNF Stream points to an Interactive future

Last Thursday night kicked off Amazon’s live-streaming deal with the NFL, allowing them to broadcast 11 Thursday Night Football (TNF) games of the 2018/19 season. The feed, which was available for free on Twitch as well as offered to Prime Video customers, set the stage for what the future of interactive live television could be like.

For one, the stream was available just about anywhere someone could imagine watching the game – Amazon’s Prime Video app, Fire TV, mobile devices and anywhere with a strong internet connection. The ubiquity of it changes the paradigm of how consumers can take in this content. No longer is it primarily a passive event as the mobile and open nature of streaming platforms allow for more interactivity.

Amazon wasn’t shy about moving into this trend. Thursday’s broadcast on Prime Video included an ‘X-Ray’ feature, allowing users to see real-time stats as well as personalize their broadcast to follow Game Leaders and Team Stats as the game progressed. When digging deeper, users were able to discover more information on the history of the teams and players involved.

Another unique feature to Thursdays broadcast, and one that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, is the ecommerce aspect that Amazon integrated into the experience. Available within the Fire TV stream, users were able to browse and purchase officially licensed merchandise relating to the teams at hand. Carson Wentz just dropped a dime from 40 yards out in the back corner of the end zone? Cool, you’re 2 clicks away from owning his jersey and your eyes never had to leave the screen.

The other choice that Amazon gave users was with regards to the actual broadcasters. Three options were available on Prime Video, including the first ever all female booth, and Twitch highlighted a popular streamer, GoldGlove, to call the game for its viewers.

Within the Twitch platform, live reaction of viewers was a feature that was highlighted. After an exciting play, the Twitch chat was blown up with emotes (Amazon’s version of emojis) and the social nature of the platform made for a less isolating experience. Bringing people together for live sporting events is something Facebook and Twitter have been working hard at, but neither of them can reach the level of engagement that Amazon currently has.

Implications

Live sporting events have traditionally been viewed in a passive setting as users were mainly confined to a cable provider and their living room TV. That’s slowly but surely changing, and it’s a trend that’s not going to slow down anytime soon. It’s also one that has pretty wide ranging implications.

Niche sports executives should see this as a massive opportunity to get their product in front of a much wider range of audience. FloSports, a leader in partnerships for OTT sports, features rugby, track & field, wrestling, bowling and more. The company will steam 2,500 live events in 2018, increasing live streaming views and event attendance for hundreds of teams across the country. It’s all about getting your product in front of as many eyes as possible, and live streaming is doing that at a scale that hasn’t been seen before.

With those eyeballs, come brands trying to ride the pigtails of that success. Marketers will be able to closely align their product or service with teams that or events that closely align with their brand values. As the services mature, there will likely be opportunities to personalize these messages to individuals or segments. On top of that, the active nature of the service will continually allow for a reduction in friction to the path to purchase. Live streaming events and the interactivity that comes with them may be the last domino to fall in the fight against cutting the cord.

Alexa’s Ecosystem Expands

On Thursday, Amazon held its annual hardware event, and the company unleashed a slew of new Alexa related products onto the world. While we were given an upgrade to the companies classic line of Dot, Show, and Plus devices, we were also introduced to a few entirely new product categories. The Echo Sub allows users to pair a high end subwoofer to their existing echo, aiming to compete with likes of Sonos and Apples HomePod.

Amazon also introduced a few auxiliary devices, like the Echo Auto, bringing Alexa into the in-car entertainment space as well as an Echo Input, which will allow users to access the voice assistant through their existing speaker system. We’re also given an Echo Smart Plug, used to turn on and off household appliances. Finally, the event included an Alexa Wall Clock, to visualize alarms, and an Alexa Microwave, because why not?

If it wasn’t obvious before, it is now. Amazon is dead set on bringing Alexa into your life in as many ways as possible. While different from Apple and Google, who are both increasingly pushing Siri and Assistant respectively, Amazon is similar in the fact that it’s building an ecosystem around its voice assistant, starting with the hub.

Implications

For Apple and Google, the hub is the smartphone. It has been for quite some time, and consumers utilize additional products like the HomePod and Home, to tap into that hub. However, most of the interaction with those assistants occur on the mobile device itself, either through Apple’s built in Siri integration, or the Google Assistant App. Amazon is building an ecosystem of IOT devices, and sees voice as the primary interface.

Thursdays event greatly expanded this ecosystem, moving beyond the home into the vehicle, as well as expanding the presence throughout the home. Consumers who opt to utilize the hub for all its benefits, will begin to see Alexa learn and adapt towards them. One of the few software upgrades on Thursday was called Hunches, and it will allow the voice assistant to offer occasional suggestions if it thinks you may have forgotten something as part of your daily routine. For example, turning off the outdoor lights before you hit the hay.

Marketers will need to understand that as we move toward a world like this, it will be less about marketing towards consumers, and more about marketing towards assistants. As Alexa, Assistant and Siri begin making more and more of our decisions on their behalf, our mundane decision making, like making sure the fridge is stocked with groceries and Friday night plans are booked, will be handled by our artificially intelligent systems. It’s incredibly important to begin laying the building blocks of that future today, before it quickly passes you by when it shows up.