Prediction Consensus: What Experts See Coming in 2020
Through the ages, humans have feared uncertainty. We’ve searched for clues in everything from entrails to tea leaves to the arrangement of heavenly bodies in the night sky.
In the modern era, data and media are the new magic 8-ball. The jury is still out on whether we’ve gotten any better at anticipating the forces that will shape the coming year, but that certainly hasn’t stopped people from trying.
Of the hundreds of forward-looking pieces of content published in the lead-up to 2020, how many of the expert predictions lined up? Was there a consensus on any particular trend, or were predictions all over the map?
During the month of December we analyzed over 100 articles, whitepapers, and interviews to answer that question. While there was no firm consensus on where 2020 will take us, there were a few themes that appeared in multiple publications. Today’s graphic highlights these reappearing predictions, and below, we examine seven of them in more detail.
The Promise and Controversy of 5G
One technology that’s sure to capture the headlines in 2020 is 5G. Broadband speeds of over one gigabit per second will become a reality when 5G technology rolls out across the country, without the cable that currently connects most homes. This prediction is a slam dunk, as some carriers are already testing the technology in select neighborhoods around the United States.
Experts also predict that a wave of 5G-enabled smartphone and IoT products will become commercially available in 2020.
The wild card in this 5G story will be guessing which companies end up building out the new network. Huawei was in a strong position to lead the charge, but the company has been stonewalled in a number countries – most notably the United States, Australia, and Japan. Whether due to national security concerns or protectionism, Chinese companies may continue to face an uphill battle in Western markets.
Fake News 2.0
While many predictions for 2020 were fueled by excitement for new technologies, there was one that was decidedly more ominous – the proliferation of deepfakes. Simply put, deepfakes are videos that harness artificial intelligence to create a convincing likeness of a real person.
With the U.S. presidential election just around the corner, many experts fear that deepfakes are going to do serious damage, manipulating public opinion on both sides of the political spectrum. Unlike fake news, which often comes with obvious visual cues to help determine authenticity, even deepfakes created using free online tools are extremely convincing. If predictions come true, the lead-up to the U.S. election could be a wild ride.
Consumerism in Flux
The late 2010’s were a turbulent time for retail. The rise of ecommerce and shifting consumer preferences combined to cause a “retailpocalypse”, and many brands are still struggling to evolve their brick and mortar strategy to compete in an Amazon Prime world. Experts are predicting new evolutions for physical stores that are powered by technology instead of human employees.
The incarnation of this approach that will likely garner the most attention will be the next wave of cashierless Amazon Go locations opening in cities around the country.
Experts also predict that brands will mimic the example of Amazon’s Whole Foods, and incorporate online order pick-up locations within their physical stores. Increasingly, the line between ecommerce and traditional retail is blurring.
The Cookie Begins to Crumble
In 2019, approximately $330 billion was spent on digital advertising, but privacy regulations such as GDPR and the CCPA – California’s new privacy law – are causing massive disruption and upheaval in this industry.
For many years, the humble internet cookie has done the heavy lifting in collecting your personal data from online activity. This data is what advertisers use to reach you as you scroll Instagram or read articles online. Already, changes to Safari and Firefox wiped out about 40% of all third-party cookies, and in a world where people need to physically click a button on each site to allow cookies, it’s unclear how viable the technology will be as privacy measures are enacted.
The Call of the Picket Fence
One of main predictions going into 2020 is that starter homes will be a leading category in new home builds. For millions of millennials around the country in the rental market, a starter home – the first residence a person or family can afford to purchase, often using a combination of savings and mortgage financing – will begin to look more appealing.
Rent in American cities has been marching upward for nearly a decade, and the promise of more space and entry into the home ownership market may lure more of this generational cohort to the suburbs.
Also on the topic of real estate, a few experts noted that even if there is an economic downturn in 2020, the housing market is unlikely to take a big hit.
All Eyes on IPOs
Despite experiencing a rough patch in 2019, SoftBank and its gargantuan Vision Fund will remain one of the most powerful forces in Silicon Valley this year. Masayoshi Son, Softbank’s enigmatic CEO, appears to have adopted a more pragmatic approach, citing a company’s “ability to turn a profit in the future” as a yardstick of evaluating the value of an investment.
Experts predict that in light of the very public PR disasters of unicorns Uber and WeWork, investors will be much more skeptical of high-valuation IPOs.
In 2020, more companies are predicted to opt for a direct listing to go public.
What Goes Up?
When the ball dropped to usher in 2019, market sentiment was leaning toward an impending recession. A year later, the economic expansion is still underway, and many experts now have a more positive outlook for 2020.
The majority of predictions we analyzed foresaw a year of continued job growth and modest gains in the stock market. Here’s a look at S&P 500 end target predictions from some of Wall Street’s top strategists:
The Elephant in the Oval
One prediction nobody seemed particularly keen to make was on the result of the impending U.S. presidential election.
Experts are likely happy to take a wait-and-see approach until the Democratic nominee is announced. Also looming in the back of people’s minds might be the memory of 2016, which was a powerful reminder that even predictions that seem like a sure thing don’t always pan out as expected.
[Experts] can’t predict the markets with any useful consistency, any more than the gizzard squeezers could tell the Roman emperors when the Huns would attack.
– Peter Lynch
A note on methodology: To make sure we captured a robust cross section of predictions for the coming year, we spent the month of December tracking down and analyzing hundreds of articles, whitepapers, and interviews from respected sources. For this exercise, we chose to focus on four broad, interconnected themes – the economy, consumerism, real estate, and technology. In the end, we analyzed 100+ published pieces, and captured 150+ predictions. We focused on content from media publications in Comscore’s top 100, major banks and consultancies, and brands and agencies with high-quality thought leadership. In the end, we highlighted the 25 predictions that appeared the most often.
Visualizing the Size of Amazon, the World’s Most Valuable Retailer
Amazon’s valuation has grown by 2,830% over the last decade, and the tech giant is now worth more than the other 9 largest U.S. retailers, combined.
Visualizing the Size of the World’s Most Valuable Retailer
As brick-and-mortar chains teeter in the face of the pandemic, Amazon continues to gain ground.
The retail juggernaut is valued at no less than $1.4 trillion—roughly four times what it was in late 2016 when its market cap hovered around $350 billion. Last year, the Jeff Bezos-led company shipped 2 billion packages around the world.
Today’s infographic shows how Amazon’s market cap alone is bigger than the nine biggest U.S. retailers put together, highlighting the palpable presence of the once modest online bookstore.
The New Normal
COVID-19’s sudden shift has rendered many retail outfits obsolete.
Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and J.Crew have all filed for bankruptcy as consumer spending has migrated online. This, coupled with heavy debt loads across many retail chains, is only compounding the demise of brick-and-mortar. In fact, one estimate projects that at least 25,000 U.S. stores will fold over the next year.
Still, as safety and supply chain challenges mount—with COVID-19 related costs in the billions—Amazon remains at the top. It surpasses its next closest competitor, Walmart, by $1 trillion in market valuation.
How does Amazon compare to the largest retailers in the U.S.?
|10 Largest Public US Retailers*||Market Value July 1, 2020||Market Value July 1, 2010||Normalized % Change 2010-2020||Retail Revenue|
|The Kroger Co.||$26B||$13B||107%||$118Be|
|Walgreens Boots Alliance||$36B||$26B||38%||$111B|
|The Home Depot||$267B||$47B||466%||$108B|
|Combined value of retailers (without Amazon)||$1,071B|
Source: Deloitte, YCharts
*Largest public US retailers based on their retail revenue as of fiscal years ending through June 30, 2019, e=estimated
With nearly a 39% share of U.S. e-commerce retail sales, Amazon’s market cap has grown 2,830% over the last decade. Its business model, which aggressively pursues market dominance instead of focusing on short-term profits, is one factor behinds the rise.
By the same token, one recent estimate by The Economist pegged Amazon’s retail operating margins at -1% last year. Another analyst has suggested that the company purposefully sells retail goods at a loss.
How Amazon makes up for this operating shortfall is through its cash-generating cloud service, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and through a collection of diversified enterprise-focused services. AWS, with estimated operating margins of 26%, brought in $9.2 billion in profits in 2019—more than half of Amazon’s total.
Amazon’s Basket of Eggs
Unlike many of its retail competitors, Amazon has rapidly diversified its acquisitions since it originated in 1994.
Take the $1.2 billion acquisition of Zoox. Amazon plans to operate self-driving taxi fleets, all of which are designed without steering wheels. It is the company’s third largest since the $13.7 billion acquisition of organic grocer Whole Foods, followed by Zappos.
Accounting for the lion’s share of Amazon-owned physical stores, Whole Foods has 508 stores across the U.S., UK, and Canada. While Amazon doesn’t outline revenues across its physical retail segments—which include Amazon Books stores, Amazon Go stores, and others—physical store sales tipped over $17 billion in 2019.
Meanwhile, Amazon also owns gaming streaming platform Twitch, which it acquired for $970 million in 2017. Currently, Twitch makes up 73% of the streaming market and brought in an estimated $300 million in ad revenues in 2019.
Despite the flood of online orders due to quarantines and social distancing requirements, Amazon’s bottom line has suffered. In the second quarter of 2020 alone, it is expected to rack up $4 billion in pandemic-related costs.
Yet, at the same time, its customer-obsessed business model appears to thrive under current market conditions. As of July 1, its stock price has spiked over 51% year-to-date. On an annualized basis, that’s roughly 100% in returns.
As margins get squeezed and expenses grow, is Amazon’s growth sustainable in the long-term? Or, are the company’s strategic acquisitions and revenue streams providing the catalysts (and cash) for only more short-term success?
10 Types of Innovation: The Art of Discovering a Breakthrough Product
How do companies like Amazon and Apple consistently make game-changing products? Here are 10 types of innovation, and the tactics that lead to big breakthroughs.
The Art of Discovering Breakthrough Products
As venture capitalist Peter Thiel once put it, “competition is for losers”.
It’s inevitable that every company must be out there battling for market share, but you don’t really want to be in a situation where the competition is so stiff that any potential upside is eroded away in the process—―a scenario known as perfect competition in economics.
To avoid perfect competition, companies must strive to build an economic moat that gives them a sustainable competitive advantage over time. While these protective moats can arise from a number of different sources, in today’s information economy they most often arise from the power of innovation.
But where does innovation come from, and is there a universal framework that can be applied to help consistently make big breakthroughs?
The 10 Types of Innovation
In today’s infographic, we showcase the culmination of years of in-depth research from Doblin, an innovation-focused firm now owned by Deloitte.
After examining over 2,000 business innovations throughout history, Doblin uncovered that most breakthroughs don’t necessarily stem from engineering inventions or rare discoveries.
Instead, they observed that innovations can be categorized within a range of 10 distinct dimensions—and anyone can use the resulting strategic framework to analyze the competition, to stress test for product weaknesses, or to find new opportunities for their products.
Here are the 10 types of innovation:
|1.||Profit Model||How you make money|
|2.||Network||Connections with others to create value|
|3.||Structure||Alignment of your talent and assets|
|4.||Process||Signature of superior methods for doing your work|
|5.||Product Performance||Distinguishing features and functionality|
|6.||Product System||Complementary products and services|
|7.||Service||Support and enhancements that surround your offerings|
|8.||Channel||How your offerings are delivered to customers and users|
|9.||Brand||Representation of your offerings and business|
|10.||Customer Engagement||Distinctive interactions you foster|
From Theory to Practice
What does innovation look like in practice?
Let’s see how well-known businesses have leveraged each of these 10 types of innovation in the past, while also diving into the tactics that modern businesses can use to consistently make new product breakthroughs:.
Innovation Types #1-4: “Configuration”
According to Doblin, the first four types of innovation center around the configuration of the company, and all the work that happens “behind the scenes”.
Although innovation types in this category are not directly customer-facing, as you can see in the examples below, they can still have an important impact on the customer experience. How your company and products are organized can have a crucial downstream effect, even enabling innovations in other categories.
Two of the most interesting examples here are Google and McDonald’s. Both companies made internal innovations that empowered their people to make important advancements further on downstream.
In the case of McDonald’s, the franchisee insight that led to the introduction of the Egg McMuffin spearheaded the company’s entire breakfast offering, which now accounts for 25% of revenues. Breakfast is also now the company’s most profitable segment.
Innovation Types #5-6: “Offering”
When most people think of innovation, it’s likely the offering category that comes to mind.
Making improvements to product performance is an obvious but difficult type of innovation, and unless it’s accompanied by a deeply ingrained company culture towards technical innovation, such advancements may only create a temporary advantage against the competition.
This is the part of the reason that Doblin recommends that companies focus on combining multiple areas of innovation together—it creates a much more stable economic moat.
Apple has a reputation for innovation, but the product ecosystem highlighted above is an underappreciated piece of the company’s strategy. By putting thought into the ecosystem of products—and ensuring they work together flawlessly—additional utility is created, while also making it harder for customers to switch away from Apple products.
Innovation Types #7-10: “Experience”
These types of innovation are the most customer-facing, but this also makes them the most subject to interpretation.
While other innovations tend to occur upstream, innovations in experience all get trialed in the hands of customers. For this reason, intense care is needed in rolling out these ideas.
In the early days of the internet, online shipping was precarious at best—but Amazon’s introduction of Amazon Prime and free expedited shipping for all members has been a game-changer for e-commerce.
Executing on such a promise was no small task, but today there are 150 million users of Prime worldwide, including some in metro areas who can get items in as little as two hours.
Making Innovations Happen in Your Organization
How can organizations approach the 10 types of innovation from a more tactical perspective?
One useful resource is Doblin’s free public list of over 100 tactics that correspond with the aforementioned framework.
The one-pager PDF provides a range of typical dimensions for approaching each type of innovation. In essence, these are all different ways you could consider when trying to differentiate your product or service—and at the very least, it provides a useful thought experiment for managers and marketers.
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