As we close out 2018, there’s a lot of new experiences (like checkout-free stores), surprising acquisitions (like the Amazon/Whole Foods merger) and more to reflect on and leverage for the year ahead. In 2018, brands experimented more freely with voice and video technology, leveraged AI to improve customer experiences and took bigger steps towards unifying their commerce strategies.
Every year brands raise the bar for improved commerce experiences. As standards rise, so do customer expectations. With 2019 upon us, here are the big developments from last year that will have major implications in the year ahead:
On a broader level, 2019 will bring heightened expectations around seamless payment options. Apple Pay currently boasts 252 million users, and newer options like Amazon Pay are picking up steam. And of course, Amazon’s Go locations are setting a new standard for checkout-free experiences in brick-and-mortar locations. With these innovations exciting American consumers, brands with clunky purchase paths will suffer in 2019.
That said, while smart devices are growing more popular, they still haven’t drastically changed consumer shopping habits. In fact, only two percent of Alexa owners have used the device to shop, with 90 percent of those shoppers only using it once. This indicates that customers are open-minded to the novelty of voice-driven shopping, but brands aren’t offering the advanced experiences to make it worth it. The brands that can adapt to this new channel first and create unique, exciting and easy voice experiences will triumph as more Americans use voice-activated devices.
This reflects a wider adoption of video technology in consumers’ daily lives, which is probably why Apple added the option for group Facetime calls this year. The cultural shift towards video communication can’t be ignored by brands. At one point will customers prefer to hop on a video call with a cable company to troubleshoot issues? When will we video chat personal shoppers from Nordstrom while trying to put together an outfit?
We saw this idea emerge years ago with Amazon’s now-shuttered Mayday service, which allowed customers to instantly video chat with representatives for support. This may have been a bit too far ahead of its time, but you can bet we’ll see more of this in 2019.
Clearly, quite a lot can happen in a year. Coming into 2019, we’ll see a groundswell in voice and video interactions that will fundamentally shift how consumers engage with brands. Unlike the disruptive shift to mobile, this is so far out of left field of what we brands are accustomed to that most brands will struggle to adapt. That said, the brands that master engaging and seamless commerce experiences will dominate the market — in 2019 and beyond.
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