Online has cemented itself this year as a staple of large-scale sales this year, even bringing in a large share of revenue during those traditionally seen as in-store events. Online sales on Black Friday, for instance, topped $3 billion dollars in the US in 2018, while Cyber Monday saw a 20 percent spike in orders. In fact, so much shopping takes place during the long Thanksgiving weekend that the whole long period has been dubbed the Turkey 5. But it’s not just the US: In China, an internet extravaganza known as Singles’ Day has become the largest online and offline shopping day on the planet. E-commerce giant Alibaba made a billion dollars in sales after just the first 90 seconds of this year’s 24-hour shopping period, and more than $30 billion over the course of the day. And things are only getting bigger, with Singles Day, along with Turkey 5, continuing to register a huge spike in sales year after year – and it seems clear that e-commerce will continue to play an increasingly important role.
In the world of entertainment, 2018 was the year of the video game. The massively successful online title Fortnite dominated the industry. The game’s more than 200 million users can download the title for free and revenue is generated through in-game micro-transactions. Sales are expected to top $2 billion this year and on top of that, Fortnite’s creators, Epic Games, just landed $1.25 billion in funding in October. Reflecting a broader industry trend, eSports have continued to grow in popularity. California startup PlayVS last month raised $30 million in funding to help bring competitive video games to US high schools. The idea is to turn esports into an activity for the masses and PlayVS expects to have leagues in states across the country up and running by next year.
The technology sector may be one of the most forward-thinking industries in the business world, but it is still one largely dominated by men. The year 2018, however, has seen several efforts to change that. Just last month, Apple announced its Entrepreneur Camp, a two-week program that offers business and design training to women-led app startups for women still trying to get their companies off the ground. Then there is startup The Wing, which has opened several women-focused shared workspaces around the country, its latest in San Francisco. The facilities feature modern conference rooms, a library with feminist literature and lactation rooms, and they also regularly host events with leading female figures in business and the arts. Even the spaces themselves were designed by women architects. The Wing has raised over $40 million to date, and plans to continue expanding.
From logistics to household convenience, artificial intelligence has entered the mainstream. Robotics firm Kindred has developed a package fulfillment device called SORT. The AI-driven system is capable of picking up objects of various sizes, which means it can perform a whole range of different tasks - often a tall order for today’s robots. On top of that, its performance-based pricing system means customers only pay for the jobs SORT can complete. Meanwhile, smart assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa are more popular than ever. Earlier this year, Amazon even reached a deal with Marriott hotels to use Alexa as an in-room concierge service. On top of all that, MIT announced in October it was investing $1 billion in a new college focusing on the “rise of artificial intelligence” - the biggest ever commitment by a US academic institution to AI education.
If you want to see the future of mobility, head to the city. From billion-dollar bike-share and scooter firms to dominant ride-hailing apps or even old-fashioned public transport - there have never been so many options to get from A to B. Popular Montreal-based startup Transit has integrated all those choices into a single app, which gives users real-time traffic data to offer the best travel route. Showing how big players in transportation see things changing, carmakers Renault-Nissan Mitsubishi and Jaguar Land Rover led an investment round worth $17.5 million into Transit last month. But the innovation doesn’t stop there. The Miles app, which launched this summer, now gives urban travelers the option to earn miles for whichever means they choose to get around - from walking to ride sharing. You can redeem the miles for all sorts of things, including your morning coffee.