When discussing trends, it can be easy to fall into the trap of discounting continuing trends and only focus on the new, but this can be a major mistake. Genuine trends are those that have been around for longer. They are the ones you should pay attention to in 2019.
That’s why, in the past few weeks, we’ve reviewed multiple expert interviews, opinions, and past and current predictions to identify the 3 key trends that have shaped e-commerce and will continue to have a profound influence on businesses in the digital space.
For easy consumption, here’s what your focus should be in 2019 according to our research:
- Customer experience will be the key brand differentiator.
- Social selling will help savvy companies drive greater sales.
- Artificial intelligence and chatbots will become the norm.
Companies that have embraced these trends and moved them to the forefront of their corporate agendas have managed to distance themselves further from the competition.
Trend #1: Customer Experience
“Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before…”
Time and time again, customer experience is showing up on virtually all trend prediction roundups, and this hasn’t changed in 2019.
What has changed is that businesses have realized that delivering an epic customer experience is no longer “nice to have” or a buzzword, but pretty much the required standard to remain competitive in 2019.
Two things will be necessary to deliver the experiences that customers expect:
If you want to effectively personalize experiences in 2019, you need to look beyond capturing implicit data such as demographic data or browsing behavior.
You have to combine it with the Voice of the Customer, which is explicit data in the form of the customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. Only this will give you the opportunity to truly understand your customers’ needs and serve them the contextually relevant content and products they want to see. Understanding context will be key in 2019.
How to collect this explicit data, you ask? This leads us to the second imperative:
Establish a direct conversation with your customers. Get to know each one. Ask questions.
To build personalized experiences, you’ll need to ask questions and engage with customers in the right moment, in the right way. This is how you’ll gain important insights about their opinions, wants, preferences, situations, and needs.
In the end, customers are human and seek personal relationships and engagement. They want to feel valued, heard and understood – even when interacting on digital channels. In 2019, it’s all about breaking down the thick walls the digital world has created between businesses and customers. 2019 will be the peak of the Engagement Economy, which essentially aims to humanize the digital experience.
Ask questions to involve your customers (engage), listen to them across every channel to understand their preferences and desires (learn) and create experiences based on this understanding (act).
Do you want to better understand your customers’ wants and needs to deliver more engaging, intuitive and informative shopping experiences?
Check out zoovu, a pioneer in AI digital assistants. Why zoovu?
During our research, we looked at different companies, and the ones that motivate their customers to engage are the ones that stay relevant, drive long-term growth and gain a competitive advantage.
Speaking of engagement. The next hot trend to watch is social selling.
Trend #2: Social Selling
Social selling is “the process of leveraging social media to do lead generation, build meaningful relationships, and eventually, close sales.” (Social Media Today).
A study by Sales for Life found that businesses that leverage social media not only to engage and support customers but to connect with new buyers see a 119% higher ROI compared to traditional sales tactics.
Here are more impressive stats from Social Media Today:
- Close to half the world’s population (3.03 billion people) are on some type of social media.
- 59% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use Instagram and 33% of internet users between the ages of 30 and 49 use Instagram.
- 64% of online shoppers say that a video on social media helped them decide on a product to buy.
Social Media provides great revenue opportunities for businesses that successfully implement a social selling strategy.
In 2019, we predict that social selling, especially on visual platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, will see substantial growth. It allows customers to purchase products without having to leave their preferred platforms.
Although interest-based, personalized marketing can feel unsettling for customers, given all the information that is being shared, it’s convenient and therefore, customers are unlikely to give up these benefits in the near future, provided that the served-up content is relevant and personalized(!).
Trend #3: Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots
This trend has marinated for quite a while.
Thanks to busy consumers who demand immediate answers and assistance, in 2019, this will be the most popular trend.
Artificial intelligence (AI) helps businesses scale customer interactions and more brands (large and small) will start integrating it in their customer journeys.
Whether it’s to answer common customer questions, have a personal sales assistant on call 24/7, or customize brand experiences through advanced machine learning, AI, digital assistants and chatbots are no longer futuristic concept, they are becoming the norm.
To top it off, in a recent article, ThinkWithGoogle proclaimed that “Digital assistants are the next marketing revolution.”
Consumer expectations require brands and online sellers to:
- create better experiences than competitors
- leverage personalization to deliver relevant, in-context engagement in the right moment.
- make shopping more convenient through social selling
- use AI and chatbots to make 24/7 support and assistance available
Are you already ready for these trends? Because your customers are.