Category Archives: Innovation

2019 sports industry game-changers

Pete Giorgio

Pete Giorgio, principle with Deloitte Consulting LLP, leads Deloitte’s US Sports practice

Sports trends expected to disrupt and dominate

Like most other industries, sports are being disrupted by technology advancements and cultural changes. How can sports executives capitalize on these industry changes in 2019? Our annual report explores eight trends that could redefine the sports industry in the year ahead.

 

Our starting lineup for 2019

2018 was an exciting year for sports. France beat out Croatia in a goal-filled match to win the World Cup. Simone Biles took home six medals at the world championship. The Red Sox won their fourth World Series title in 15 years. And the Capitals took home the Stanley Cup for the first time in team history.

Off the field, we’ve seen athletes grow as spokespeople for causes, front offices overhauled to bring in even more analytical rigor, and streaming media options grow in prominence. What trends will we be scouting this year? Our 2019 sports industry outlook covers eight trends to watch:

 

sports and digital icons

Athletes as content creators

Gone are the days of sports fans needing reporters to get news about their favorite players. Over the past few years, athletes are increasingly becoming content creators in their own right—be it through Instagram, Twitter, or long-form stories on websites like The Players’ Tribune.

While the athlete’s role as an individual content creator serves as a small complement to traditional media, this trend—buoyed by stars who were raised in the digital age—could become even more impactful and important in the coming years. This platform will enable further expansion and value of personal brands while also opening the door for the next generation of athletes to build their brands before they become household names.

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“The fewer barriers there are between athletes and fans, the more commercial opportunities that will materialize. The value in having fans relate to their favorite players is immeasurable.”

Brian Finkel, Deloitte Sports Research, Deloitte & Touche LLP

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virtual reality headset

Augmented and virtual reality

As technology advances, the challenge of keeping fans constantly engaged has become more and more difficult. Any lull in the game leads to fans diverting their attention to their phones and consuming content from other venues.

However, the growing integration of augmented and virtual reality is transforming the customer experience by giving fans the opportunity to get “closer” to athletes while having a single platform to access a wealth of data. While there are still some kinks that need to be worked out, this is a time where prioritization of customer experience is at an all-time high.

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“VR brings the best of the stadium into the home, while AR brings the best of home into the stadium.”

Allan Cook, digital reality leader, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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football plays on a chalkboard

The offensive revolution

Few ideas are as widely accepted among sports fans and players as the old adage that offense sells tickets, but defense wins games. As we watch shootout after shootout across professional sports, during the regular season and the playoffs, analysts are beginning to wonder whether times have officially changed.

While viewership numbers are up, purists question whether such a focus on offense has impacted the integrity of the games they love. This presents teams with a tough decision to make: Do they keep investing in offense and hope that’s enough? Or do they consider strategic defensive investments that will enable them to play a different game to compete in both the arena and in the market?

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“While increasing offense intends to sell more tickets, leagues will have to balance offense with maintaining the value of defensive skill and the historical backdrop of their sport.”

Lee Teller, specialist leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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sports betting app

Sports betting trends

What happens in Vegas no longer needs to stay in Vegas. With states now free to choose whether to legalize sports betting or not, many key stakeholders see opportunities to monetize, while others raise concerns about the impact legalized gambling could have on the integrity of the game, and federal and state governments consider their roles and legislative next steps.

Not only will betting impact the relationship between leagues, gambling institutions, data providers, and the government, it’s already changing the way fans can interact with games. The NBA recently announced an offering that allows fans to stream the fourth quarter of a game for $1.99. While convenient for the busy fan who is only able to watch part of a game, this is particularly notable for gamblers staking bets on real-time game lines who want to watch critical moments in the games they bet on.

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“September 2018 marked the first month of online sports betting dominance in New Jersey. With results from recent months, this trend has and will continue to be the dominant theme for the foreseeable future.”

Jamie Poster, manager, Deloitte & Touche LLP

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bubble map of sports icons

Tackling mental health

The past few years have seen an increasing number of high-profile athletes, storied franchises, and top programs publicly address a topic that affects both MVPs and weekend warriors: mental health. Many stars have offered a glimpse behind the curtain of endorsements and champion podiums into lives affected by symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions.

With one in four people worldwide affected by mental or neurological disorders during their lives, the notion that handsomely paid and highly visible athletes are willing to shed light on a topic historically burdened with a negative stigma is both a positive movement and refreshingly relatable. With each athlete that comes forward, it becomes increasingly apparent that the sports world’s investment in mental wellness is only just the beginning.

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“Mental health is more than a hot-button societal issue, it has the opportunity to become a key long-term competitive advantage for the teams and countries that effectively engage, support, and work with their athletes.”

Ramya Murali, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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soccer players and goalie

European soccer reaches America

Every two years, soccer’s popularity in America spikes as fervor surrounding the World Cup spreads throughout the nation. However, recent polling points not just to cyclical interest but long-term, sustained growth. Soccer is now the second-most-played youth sport in America and more Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 name soccer as their favorite sport over baseball.

European nations have taken note of this rise and are seeking to capitalize. The English Premier League inked a deal with NBC Sports in 2015 reportedly worth a billion dollars to stream its games to American households. And investments extend to human capital as well: European clubs are increasingly looking to young Americans to fill their rosters.

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“The US market provides a massive marketing, financing, and talent opportunity for European soccer—from traditional powerhouses to lower division teams looking to regain relevancy.”

Sam Ebb, senior consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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phone and video game controller icon

eSports

With the vast audiences drawn to eSports and the increasing direct ties to professional leagues, we’ve seen players, executives, and owners jumping into the arena as team owners and avid gamers, as well as a way to continue to connect with teammates and fans off the court. As leagues look to continue building and expanding their fan bases, their eSports presence will be a major part of those interactions.

Over the coming year, we expect teams and leagues will continue to embrace eSports as a part of the existing major sports leagues, including efforts to integrate eSports opportunities into the existing sports experience, from eSports lounges in Topgolf facilities to an eSports arena in the Real Madrid’s new stadium.

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“The eSports landscape continues to stabilize around the maturation of teams and leagues and increasing sponsor engagement.”

Kat Harwood, senior manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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bar graph and pie chart

Personalizing fan engagement

While organizations have always collected data from season ticket holders, fan loyalty programs, and other fan engagement sources, many teams house this data in disparate databases and siloed customer-relationship management systems. These organizations, though, are starting to think about the fan holistically, requiring a centralization of these touchpoints into a single source of truth that can drive deeper, more personalized fan engagement—inside and outside of the stadium.

As sports teams and leagues build on and incorporate the successes of the e-commerce revolution, they’ll be able to connect all dots of a single fan’s journey, helping to sell additional tickets while also driving personalized connections and experiences that can increase the lifetime value of fans. Over the next year, we believe organizations will adapt their marketing functions to leverage fan data and become even more nimble and automated.

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“A key question for teams remains who is in each seat, but more importantly, focus is shifting to who engages with the brand inside and outside the venue?”

Chad Deweese, manager, Deloitte Consulting LLP

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Download the full report to learn more

 

Take a look back at previous years’ reports:

2018 sports industry trends

2017 sports industry trends

2016 sports industry trends​

 

Let’s talk sports industry trends

We believe these topics are going to impact the business of sports, both on and off the field, over the next 12 months. But invariably new stories, trends, and themes will emerge that further disrupt the industry, derail the game plan for executives, and delight us as sports fans. Please tweet #DeloitteSports to share the sports trends or opportunities that are on your mind in 2019.

football field

Get in touch

Pete Giorgio

Pete Giorgio
US Leader | Sports

pgiorgio@deloitte.com

Pete, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, leads Deloitte’s US Sports practice, serving multiple sports clients including the United States Golf Association, NBA, United States Tennis Association… more

Innovation in Energy: What Will It Look Like?

Even in this conservative industry, the latest technologies can make a huge impact.

 

Lal Karsanbhai

By Lal Karsanbhai, Executive President, Automation Solutions, Emerson for IndustryWeek  | Apr 16, 2019

 

As long as people have existed, we’ve needed to harness energy to live: fire to warm ourselves and cook food, gas to generate clean electricity. Energy is a traditional industry with roots that stretch as far back as human history. Yet even in this conservative industry, the latest technologies can make a huge impact.

Organizations that embrace digital transformation can see measurable benefits in critical industry focus areas: safety, reliability, production, emissions and overall performance. But there is always the underlying question: How do you get started?

The good news? The optimal digital strategy is different from company to company, meaning there is no single right path. The bad news? Digital transformation does not have one consistent playbook. This can be confusing for businesses trying to capitalize on the promise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). A recent Emerson survey of industry leaders responsible for digital transformation initiatives found that 90 percent felt that a clear and actionable roadmap was critical for success, yet only 20 percent of respondents said they had a vision and roadmap.

Even as companies work to find their way in the new digital transformation landscape, a few definitive trends are emerging:

1. Software will remain the backbone of making data actionable. It has long been an industry staple, but advanced software solutions are making it possible for companies to safely test new approaches to optimize productivity and efficiency without any risk to operations. Take power generation, for instance – a critical industry with no margin for error. Through “digital twin” technology, power companies can simulate a live plant that allows them to test proposed changes without impacting the actual operations. Software advances like digital twin have the potential to help the industry find game-changing improvements.

2. Cybersecurity is non-negotiable, but its implementation depends on its environment. Not everything needs to go to the cloud. There are many opportunities for remote monitoring of systems and other data analytics in the cloud, but knowing which applications are best suited for on-premise (or edge computing) versus the cloud will be key for businesses. Different cybersecurity protections are required for each, and understanding what makes the most sense will help guide many digital implementation programs. Secure remote monitoring has created a new business model that brings significant performance and financial benefits, through predictive analytics that detect maintenance problems in oil fields, refineries and chemical plants before they occur – leading to millions of dollars saved annually.

3. A clear business case and scalability are the name of the game. Sweeping initiatives won’t work; companies need solutions that account for where they are and where they want to go. Digital transformation programs must have a clear business case.  Implementing technology and hoping for a return will not deliver the significant impact that’s possible.

4. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) need to be on the same side of the table. IT and OT can too often speak different languages even as they develop and implement programs for the same company. Successful transformation will happen only when IT and OT come together with an integrated approach to technologies and work together to implement and optimize. We are seeing movement in this direction, as some companies are organizing integrated teams to drive digital transformation and encourage the collaboration of these complementary skillsets.

5. Technology should empower – not replace – the workforce of the future. The rise of automation is bringing with it trepidation that robots will eliminate manufacturing jobs. Done well, the influx of automation will instead evolve current manufacturing jobs. Yes, automation may replace repetitive tasks-related jobs, but it will also require new data analytics and interpretation skills that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge. Technology and automation are complementary job creators.

Empowering the future workforce comes down to meeting and supporting people where they are.  This includes upskilling the current workforce, making the industrial sectors attractive to students planning their careers, and instilling a passion for math and science with young learners beginning their educational journey.

Digital transformation has the potential to change the energy industry for the better—and give companies that embrace it competitive advantage.

Delivery robots are poised to invade our cities, but are we ready for them?


Photo credit: FedEx

John R. Quain

John R. Quain, Contributor to Digital Trends @jqontech Posted on 04.14.19 – 1:00AM PST

 

Gaggles of delivery R2D2’s scurrying down suburban streets? It sounds like a technological nightmare worse than an e-scooter infestation. But the concept of robot messengers got a major boost recently when FedEx announced plans to start testing such a service this summer, and for smart cities, it may not be such a crazy idea after all.

There are already several pilot robo-delivery projects running in the U.S.

Nuro, for example, recently announced it’s moving on from Arizona and expanding its delivery partnership with grocery giant Kroger to four Houston zip codes. Nuro’s vehicle is more of autonomous compact car than a rolling robot, but so far people seem happy to pay the roughly $6 for the self-driving silver surfer (probably because they don’t have to tip the car).

Nuro Delivery Robot
Nuro

The 7,000-pound gorilla in retail, Amazon, is reportedly testing a sidewalk-crawling delivery bot in Seattle. The project looks like a more practical service for suburbs — especially compared to drones, which are restricted or outright banned in many urban areas.

Most recently, FedEx has announced that it plans to begin testing its own autonomous delivery robot in Memphis, Tennessee. And while there are other delivery bot tests underway in addition to the ones mentioned, the entrance by the preeminent delivery service in the U.S. into the self-driving space represents something of a milestone.

Hitting the streets sidewalks

FedEx isn’t talking about autonomous vans and trucks — at least not yet. And the challenges facing even mainly on-the-sidewalk robots are legion. Weather, uneven terrain, traffic, poor cellular network coverage, and humans behaving badly are just a few of the headaches facing programmers. However, FedEx’s partners and its own delivery infrastructure imply that it may be uniquely positioned to overcome those obstacles.


The delivery bots, for example, are designed in partnership with Dean Kamen’s DEKA Development & Research Corp. Kamen is best known for developing the Segway and the iBot Personal Mobility Device, a wheelchair that can climb stairs. The latter demonstrates that DEKA’s engineering skills will probably be able to help FedEx surmount some of the navigation issues for door-to-door delivery. Indeed, the fully electric FedEx SameDay Bot is based on the iBot, with some additional technology that makes it autonomous, including lidar, radar, and video cameras to assist in navigation.

According to Kamen, the SameDay bot can run at about 10 miles per hour, “which won’t disturb pedestrians.” Kamen made the remarks during a presentation to announce the new partnership. The inventor said the SameDay Bot’s speed limiter means it won’t cause the kinds of problems associated with cyclists and messengers who hop onto sidewalks — but it will still be able to handle round trips of up to eight miles relatively quickly.

The road ahead

FedEx plans to work with retailers including AutoZone, Lowe’s, Pizza Hut, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart to perform, as its robot’s name implies, same-day door-to-door deliveries. Customers can open the bot using a smartphone app, or have it opened by a remote operator. Those operators will also control the bots should the machines encounter situations they don’t recognize.

robot delivery dog ces 2019 continental pp cube robodogs
Continental’s delivery robot concept

“It’s a way they could take on Amazon,” Gary Goralnick, a shopping center developer, told Digital Trends regarding self-driving technology. Goralnick said integrating online ordering and same-day delivery, for example, has helped brick and mortar retailers turn the corner and compete against Internet-only outlets.

Still, others note that such self-driving solutions beg for an infrastructure solution.

“You have to redesign the city before you layer in the technology,” Duncan Davidson, a technology investor with Bullpen Capital, told Digital Trends. Davidson pointed to examples such as e-scooters causing problems in Los Angeles and Uber cars causing additional congestion in New York City as ways in which technology can wreak havoc in cities — unless it’s supported by the right infrastructure changes.

None of these robo-delivery services will work unless consumers embrace the concept

Autonomous cars and delivery vehicles, for example, may need their own dedicated lanes. Making such changes could improve safety and help reduce traffic. And there are many ways in which same-day delivery in underserved areas could help home-bound individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses or other restrictions that prevent them from getting outside.

Indeed, Hyundai has a program called Elevate to develop an autonomous vehicle that can navigate rough terrain and even climb stairs to reach customers. And Dean Kamen’s iBot was originally designed to help people such as disabled veterans get around on their own. (The partnership with FedEx should help make the iBots more affordable for those who need them, according to Kamen.)

Ultimately, none of these robo-delivery services will work unless consumers embrace the concept. As long as they steer clear of scary robots, like Boston Dynamics’ headless Spot Mini, and focus on friendly delivery devices that look like R2D2, it may just work out.

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Digital-Native Retailers Are Giving Physical Stores a Radical Makeover


Photograph by Thomas Barwick

By Flavio Palaci, Ramy Sedra, and Anand Rao all from PwC  January 18, 2019

Online brands are opening brick-and-mortar shops, using technology and data-driven customer insights to transform the in-store experience.

 

On Black Friday in 2018, online spending in the U.S. leapt 24 percent from the previous year. By contrast, in-store sales fell by 7 percent and footfall was down 9 percent. These numbers might give the impression that brick-and-mortar stores are losing relevance with consumers, but several successful online-only retailers are actually opening physical shops — and traditional brands can learn from them by looking at why and how they’re doing it.

There are many reasons for online-first retailers to add an offline presence. For one thing, physical retail still accounts for about 85 percent of global business-to-consumer commerce. And although digital retail is growing, so is in-store retail. PwC’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Study — to be released soon — shows that 24 percent of consumers regularly used mobile to shop in 2018, compared with 11 percent in 2014, and 49 percent regularly shopped in a physical store in 2018, versus 36 percent in 2014. Stores allow consumers to experience and engage with a brand, its products, and its culture. Buying in a store is also sometimes faster and more convenient than online shopping. And new technologies enable retailers to gather insights from in-store video and audio data in ways that have never before been possible. Finally, physical stores provide online retailers with local distribution centers for their products.

Digital natives apply their pioneering spirit to the physical world, using their inherent data-led knowledge of customer behavior and their comfort with technology to rethink and remake the experience shoppers have in their stores. And they’re showing the way forward for some of the savviest older retailers and brands. Here are some of the lessons bricks-first retailers are picking up from their digital-first peers.

Create a frictionless store. Online retailers have to focus on user experience and customer journeys to succeed. Shoppers are easily distracted from an online purchase by the ping of an arriving email or a flurry of social media likes. Each click away from the page could cause them to ditch their carts, so e-commerce strives to be as frictionless and engaging as possible.

And now, some online retailers are applying the same thinking to physical stores. Amazon Go grocery stores, for example, have resolved a major pain point: the checkout. Instead of paying traditionally, customers scan their Amazon Go app as they enter, their purchases are recorded by sensors throughout the store that are supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and radio-frequency identification (RFID), and their accounts are automatically charged when they leave.

Amazon is considering placing Go stores in the lobbies of office buildings and in airports. This fits with a growing trend for “microtrip” shopping, or short trips that take less than five minutes. According to PwC’s study, one-quarter of consumers make trips like these once or more per day.

Another point of friction for customers is not knowing whether the items they need will be in stock at a physical store. Canadian online fashion retailer Ssense has solved this problem. Its shoppers can browse 20,000 products online, and the ones they’d like to try on are then shipped from warehouse to store within an hour.

Use data to add a personal touch. Digital-native retailers are data-centric, and as a result have been able to disrupt brick-and-mortar shopping by being better at predicting customer needs and wants. In some cases, their insights reveal that customers want to see and use products in real life.

Online mattress retailer Casper announced last summer that it would open 200 stores across the U.S., after finding that sales grew more quickly in areas where it had operated temporary stores. A physical presence in a busy location can be a powerful marketing tool, too. Casper CEO Philip Krim told the Wall Street Journal the company’s stores make the brand visible, which is helpful because acquiring customers online has become more competitive and expensive.

Traditional retailers are also using data to get to know their customers better. Nike, for example, has spent a decade building its NikePlus membership program. It now has data not only on its members’ tastes in clothes and shoes but also on their exercise habits. It uses that data to curate stock at its Nike Live concept store in Los Angeles, and to offer personalized advice to ensure members have the best kit for their fitness goals.

The lessons from the Nike Live store have been used at the company’s New York flagship, where the “Speed Shop” department stocks merchandise based on online sales in the store’s postal code. And getting back to the frictionless experiences mentioned earlier, customers can also reserve the shoes they want using the Nike app and then collect them from an in-store locker, opened by the same app. They can pay for the merchandise in the app, too.

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“Data and technology are the connective tissue underlying the creation of rich, informative in-store experiences.”

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Stores are also using data on customers’ physical locations to enhance experiences. For instance, Nordstrom has experimented with a customer-tracking app that notifies staff as each person arrives, arming the sales team in advance with information about that shopper’s buying habits. For some people, this is delightful and convenient, but for others it’s intrusive and unwelcome, so data analytics is helping companies determine which customers are which, too. Of course, for these location- and habit-tracking features to work, people will have to trust retailers with their personal information — and that will be a big hurdle to overcome.

Make shopping fun. Personalization can help turn offline retail into a rich experience that consumers will seek out. And technology can enable even more ways to make shopping entertaining.

For example, French beauty brand Sephora is using augmented reality to allow customers to test makeup virtually. London fashion store Missguided’s expansion offline involved creating a flagship store inspired by a TV studio, with huge screens that stream customer-generated social media content.

The New York City location of fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff has interactive mirrors in the dressing rooms so customers can order a different color or size with a few taps. They can also customize the lighting so it matches the environment in which they will wear the outfit.

Track different things better. Retailers have traditionally measured success by sales per square foot, and based on that formula, numerous chains have closed branches because of diminishing results. But now that people no longer have to rely on stores as the sole way to access products, this gauge of productivity looks dated.

Last year, Adobe Labs showed off new technology for tracking shoppers through a store in real time, drawing information from in-store beacons, smart shopping carts, Internet of Things sensors, and a mobile app. This technology would allow retailers to direct offers to customers about certain products even as they’re looking at them.

As these various examples show, data and technology are the connective tissue underlying the creation of rich, informative in-store experiences. Digital natives already know the value of understanding and using these tools, and it’s time for brick-and-mortar retailers to catch up. Using already-available digital approaches to capture the rich stream of information on consumers’ in-store and online behavior will turn traditional companies into data-driven organizations with an obsessive customer focus.

 

Author Profiles:

Flavio Palaci is PwC’s global advisory data and analytics leader. Based in Sydney, he is a partner with PwC Australia.

Ramy Sedra is PwC Canada’s data and analytics consulting leader. Based in Montreal, he is a partner with PwC Canada.

Anand Rao is PwC’s global and U.S. artificial intelligence leader and U.S. data and analytics leader. Based in Boston, he is a principal with PwC US.

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Related Stories

Best web browser: Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera go head-to-head (Updated)


By Ian Paul, Independent Contributor, PCWorld | February 11, 2019 05:00 AM PT
 

We take a look at the performance and features of the big four internet browsers to see which one will serve you best.

The web browser is by far the most important piece of software on your PC—at least for most users. Unless you’re at a workstation crunching numbers or editing the next Star Wars you probably spend the majority of your computer time staring at a web app or a website.

That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve always got the best tool for the job. In 2019 that does not include Internet Explorer. If you still want the built-in option for Windows, that would be Edge, though not for much longer as Microsoft plans to replace Edge (or at least its underlying technology) with a Chromium-based browser. Whatever happens with Edge there are so many other options out there including Google’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera.

Let’s take a look at the four major browsers (including Edge) to see how they stack up in early 2019. You might be surprised to find that our favorite overall this year is Opera. Read on to find out why.

(If none of these internet browsers strike your fancy, head over to PCWorld’s roundup of 10 intriguing alternative browsers.)

Browsers in brief

Chrome

chromelogo
Google

A perennial favorite, Google Chrome tops the metrics charts of both StatCounter and NetMarketShare by a huge margin. Google’s browser has built a dedicated fan base thanks to its massive extensions library, and the fact that it just gets out of your way to put the focus on web content, not the browser’s trimmings.

Chrome isn’t quite as simplistic as it once was, but it’s still very easy to use. There isn’t much to Chrome except a huge URL bar—known as the OmniBar—plus a space for extensions, a bookmarking icon, tabs, and that’s it.

Yet Google still finds a way to hide all kinds of features inside the browser, including deep integration with Google’s services. This allows you to sync your bookmarks, passwords, open tabs, and more across devices. Chrome also has multi-account support if you need it on a family machine, a built-in PDF viewer, built-in Google Translate functionality, a task manager, and the always handy Paste and go context menu item.

If there’s one complaint people have about Chrome it’s that the browser eats up available memory. Our browser testing in 2015 showed that Chrome was definitely a memory beast, but a few years later it fared pretty well in our tests.

Firefox

mozilla firefox logo
Mozilla

For users who love extensibility but want greater privacy than a Google-made browser can provide, the open-source Mozilla Firefox is a great choice. Firefox paved the way for other browsers to become extensible, and Firefox’s relatively new extensions architecture will hopefully help its catalog match Chrome’s Web Store one day. Firefox also has a sync feature to see your open and recent tabs, browsing history, and bookmarks across all your devices.

Firefox 64 continues the strong efforts to update Mozilla’s browser that we saw with Firefox 57, which brought a new and updated design with refreshed icons, and a new library section that houses your history, pocket reading list, downloads, and synced tabs. Firefox 64 adds to that with a new task manager, and the ability to use Windows 10’s native sharing tool—personally, I think the old copy-and-paste method is still superior.

Where Firefox has really stood out in recent years is with the browser’s incognito mode. All browsers have a private mode that lets you browse without any of your activity being logged in your saved history. But most of the time these private modes still allow websites to track your activity for that specific session. Firefox does away with this by including ad and tracker blockers when using incognito mode.

Opera

operabrowser
Opera

Before Chrome, Opera was a popular choice among power users—a position former Opera CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner is trying to take back with Vivaldi. Opera today is really one of the more under-rated browsers around. It’s based on the same core technologies as Chrome (the Blink rendering engine and the JavaScript V8 engine), which means it can run many Chrome extensions—there’s even an extension for installing extensions from the Chrome Web Store.

Opera’s also got a few unusual features like Turbo, which saves on load times and bandwidth by compressing webpages on Opera’s servers. It’s also got a nice security feature called domain highlighting that hides most of the URL so that users can see easily and clearly if they’re on Google.com or google.com.scam.com—with scam.com being the actual website.

More recently, Opera introduced its own take on the social sidebar with one-click access to services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram. Like Chrome and Firefox, Opera also has its own cross-device syncing feature.

Microsoft Edge

microsotedge
Microsoft

Microsoft Edge has always been a work in progress and is about to be abandoned in its current form. Microsoft announced in December that Edge would become a Chromium-based browser. Once the switch happens, Edge will have similar underpinnings to Chrome and Opera. It’s not clear exactly when this transition will occur, but it’s expected before the end of 2019 or perhaps early 2020.

You’ll see below that performance for the current version of Edge is pretty good in some respects, but speed is just one important factor for a browser in 2019. The Edge extensions library is small and will likely stagnate now that its underlying technology is going away. Edge’s sync functionality is still restricted to favorites and the reading list, and the browser doesn’t get updates nearly fast enough. All of these issues should improve once Edge becomes a Chromium-based browser.

Despite its current shortcomings, Edge has several helpful features that will appeal to some users. Edge is deeply integrated with Windows 10’s inking capabilities, as well as with OneNote, making it easy to clip a webpage, annotate it, and save it to a notebook. Cortana is also a big part of Edge. You can use Microsoft’s digital assistant to quickly search for information, compare prices, or get a quick calculation.

Like Chrome, Edge has a casting feature. It also has a nifty set-aside tabs feature to stash a collection of websites. Other plusses included the ability to read and annotate ebooks (great for tablets) and PDFs, easily pin websites to the taskbar, edit URLs in your favorites list, browse in full screen, see and manage website permissions, and “read aloud” web content. Perhaps the best recent feature, however, is the “Continue on PC” option that lets you push webpages to your PC from your phone with the appropriate apps installed.

In the April 2018 Update, Edge got some small but significant feature boosts including the ability to mute tabs and automatic form fill, an updated flyout menu, and clutter-free printing that carves out all the web ads and other detritus you really don’t need on the printed page. Edge also boosted the ebook reading experience with support for narration in EPUB files and improved note taking.

The more recent October 2018 Update brought a minor improvement with the addition of blocking autoplaying videos on websites. For more on the current state of Edge check out our Windows 10 April 2018 Update Review and our look at the October 2018 Update.

Read on for our benchmark results and our pick for best browser.

Benchmarks

With the overview of our four contestants out of the way, let’s get down to business. To see which browser is worthy of your bandwidth in 2019 we used a variety of testing

tools. For judging JavaScript we used JetStream and the now-unsupported Octane 2.0 and SunSpider 1.0.2 benchmarking tools. Then we turned to WebXPRT 2015 and Speedometer to test the browsers under simulated web app workloads.

Finally, we took a look at CPU and RAM usage by loading a set of 20 websites in a single window in quick succession. Once all tabs began loading, we waited 45 seconds, and then checked the CPU and RAM usage. The idea was to see the amount of system resources the browser would use during a heavy workload.

For this test we ignored the Flash settings and left each browser in its default state. In recent years, most browser makers have de-emphasized Flash, enabling it as “click-to-play” and blocking nonessential website elements that use Flash. Since Flash is on its way out (and most users are unlikely to mess with Flash settings in the first place) we decided to leave everything as is. During the tests there are no extensions running, account sign-ups, or deliberate tinkering with settings: Just raw browser action.

Our test rig was an Acer Aspire E 15-575-33BM laptop loaded with Windows 10 Home. The October 2018 update hadn’t rolled out to this machine yet so it’s still rocking the April 2018 Update. The laptop also has a 1TB hard drive, 4GB RAM, and an Intel Core i3-7100U. Each browser was tested over an ethernet connection.

The performance picture

Looking at both JetStream and SunSpider, Edge 17 won top marks again just like in May 2018, and again by a wide margin. SunSpider has been deprecated for some time and is no longer supported, but the result was expected based on previous tests.

sunspider

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

Firefox’s JetStream score (higher is better) keeps getting worse, dropping from 125.43 in November 2017 to 120.31 in May 2018 to 112.39 in January 2019. Its SunSpider score stayed within the margin of error at 331 in January compared to 330.4 last May. Lower is better for SunSpider, and Firefox’s recent scores are much worse compared to the 290 it scored in November 2017.

jetstream
Katherine Stevenson / IDG

For Octane 2.0, which is also no longer supported, Firefox won the top spot this go-round, followed closely by Chrome and and then Opera, with Edge coming in at the bottom. That’s quite a difference from May 2018 when Opera was in the top spot with Firefox taking third place.

octane

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

Moving on to the more modern Speedometer test, which quickly iterates through a bunch of HTML 5-based to-do lists, Chrome came out on top, with Google’s Blink-based cousin Opera a close second, the same as we saw in May 2018; however, the numbers were noticeably worse in this test for all browsers. Last time Chrome and Opera scored 110 and 106.7, respectively, while this time around the scores were 51.5 and 50.2. Firefox took third place at 42.8 and Edge was in the bottom at 30.2.

speedometer

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

The numbers were much closer for WebXPRT 2015, and once again things stayed about the same as May 2018. WebXPRT 2015 uses a wide number of web apps, from photo collections to online note-taking to data sets. This test is kind of like a PCMark for browsers, and to my mind, one of the most significant tests. Firefox came out on top here, with Chrome and Opera quite close to each other, followed by a trailing Edge. Again, higher is better.

webxprt

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

Finally, we come to the memory and CPU tests. Slamming an average PC with 20 tabs of mostly media-rich sites all at once is going to chew up a good chunk of CPU and memory. Most of these browsers did not disappoint in that respect. That said, most of the browsers scored better than just a few months ago in terms of CPU usage, and memory use was about the same. The exception to memory would be Chrome, which had an unusually low memory score in May 2018 but returned to its memory-munching antics in January.

Opera was the best performer in terms of CPU usage by quite a bit, with Chrome coming in second, followed by Edge, while Firefox was the biggest hog of them all this time around. That’s not to say that Firefox got worse. In fact, its CPU percentage isn’t that far off from the 86 percent it had in June 2018. All the other browsers, however, made noticeable improvements over their previous scores.

cpu

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

Second place went to Chrome, followed by Edge, and Firefox a little further out in the CPU stratosphere.

The results were a little different for memory. This time around Edge was kicking butt with the lowest score yet for Microsoft’s browser of death. Don’t get too excited, however, as Edge’s scores are always a little tricky to get. We had similar problems to last time, where the PC often froze from overloaded system resources once the tabs were loading. We managed to get the task manager front and center quick enough to jot down the scores, but the screenshot we took didn’t go off for a noticeably long time. The bottom line here is that power users with multiple tabs open in Edge are still going to feel some serious pain trying to get work done. The next lowest memory hog was Opera, followed closely by Chrome, with Firefox at the back, but with results not that far off from Opera and Chrome.

memory2

Katherine Stevenson / IDG

And the winner is…

So who wins? Here’s the way we see it.

Opera wins our top spot for a good showing in the stress test and winning out in a few other key measures.

Chrome earns second place this time. It performed well in the live stress test, and was close to Opera in many respects. Many people love Chrome, and don’t get us wrong, it’s a great browser. But if you want to get away from Chrome without losing all of its advantages, Opera is a great choice since it can support nearly all the same conveniences Chrome can. Plus the social sidebar is a unique feature that you won’t find in the other browsers.

As in May 2018, we had to give Mozilla’s browser the bronze. Performance scores for Firefox 64 weren’t all that different from last time, while the others had noticeable improvements. The new Quantum versions of Firefox are dramatically better than their predecessors, but the goods just weren’t there to move up in the rankings. The fact that Firefox is a top performer in WebXPRT is a great sign, and if the stress test had gone better it might have taken the top spot or at least second place.

As for Microsoft’s browser…well, this time around Edge doesn’t even get an honorable mention. These days Edge is more of a “well, who cares?” It has always been the lesser browser and while we’ve seen some performance improvements, they’re really unimportant at this point. Edge is serviceable at best as a day-to-day browser, and it’s doubtful anything will change now that Edge as we know it is headed for the dustbin. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Microsoft Edge (assuming the name stays the same) should be a dramatically different beast before the end of the year.

To sum up: Give Opera a try and see if it performs as well for you as it did for us. If you love Chrome too much to give it up, then stick with it. Firefox, meanwhile, is still a solid option if you want something that isn’t built with Chrome DNA. That’s no small matter either, because once Edge gets its overhaul in the coming months, a non-Chromium browser will be a rare thing to find.

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