A digital transformation was long underway before the pandemic, but there’s no doubt that many advancements have been made in the past year. Insider Intelligence has put together a list of the top five technology trends in 2021 that are making a big impact across multiple industries.

Technology Trend #1: Artificial Intelligence

It can be argued that artificial intelligence (AI) has been a top trend across various industries for many years. It has. However, the technology has become even more sophisticated and automated over time. From healthcare to finance to retail, AI technology is continuously being leveraged to streamline processes and personalize experiences for customers.

According to March 2021 data from Genpact, nearly half of CIOs worldwide said they’re looking to prioritize AI and machine learning (ML) in the next two years in order to achieve their company goals. In fact, out of all the technologies cited, a key focus will be AI.

AI is a top priority for many marketers. - Insider Intelligence
AI is a top priority for many marketers. Insider Intelligence

Technology Trend #2: Virtual and Augmented Reality

Just like AI, virtual and augmented reality has been an emerging trend for many years. But similarly, the technology has become even more sophisticated as more companies continue to leverage it. The use cases may vary across different industries, but the technology is primarily used to elevate user experiences and drive-up engagement. 

In the retail space, for example, many brands are testing the waters by letting consumers virtually try on products just by using their mobile devices. That said, there’s still a big barrier to getting consumers to shop this way. According to data from Bizrate Insights for eMarketer, just 10% of US adults have at least used AR and VR technology to shop before, though not regularly—indicating a lot of room for growth.

There's a lot of opportunities to use AR and VR when shopping. - Insider Intelligence
There’s a lot of opportunities to use AR and VR when shopping. Insider Intelligence

Technology Trend #3: 5G

This past year, 5G has helped digitally transform the retail, healthcare, financial services, and the media and entertainment space. By and large, 5G is equipping businesses with faster speeds and higher connection density. 

“Businesses will be able to collect vast amounts of data from more numerous remote devices, store and work with that data in the cloud, and control operations remotely,” said Yory Wurmser, eMarketer principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.

Technology Trend #4: Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies have surged in value this year, with more people placing their bets on Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ether. And interest will only continue growing as more companies implement this form of payment, and more businesses begin to accept it. In fact, Walmart recently announced that it would hire a cryptocurrency expert to help the big-box retailer identify any crypto-related investments and partnership opportunities

There will be a learning curve for many when it comes to cryptocurrency. May 2021 data from YouGov found that more than two-thirds (69%) of US adults don’t really understand cryptocurrency, while another 47% believe that, like Bitcoin, it’s just a fad.

Many US adults don't understand cryptocurrency. - Insider Intelligence
Many US adults don’t understand cryptocurrency. Insider Intelligence

Technology Trend #5: Telehealth

The pandemic fast-tracked virtual care by years as the need for telemedicine boomed. As a result, traditional providers have restructured—and in many instances built out—telehealth capabilities to keep up with consumer demand. The industry will continue to grow and expand, especially as big giants, like Amazon and Walmart, make a bigger play in the space.

Future of technology and digital disruption

Overall, technology will continue advancing and growing in importance. And many brands and marketers will continue leveraging technology to help achieve their goals, as well as stay ahead of competitors.