As the world continues to evolve, customer’s expectations follow suit. That’s why we’re always on the hunt for new trends that provide insight into how customers think. While the oft-repeated adage about staying ahead of the game is true, we want to share our learnings about the latest trends that will prime you on how to evolve your business approach. The following are four trends we spotted at Emerce eDay, and our recommendation on how to apply them to improve your business strategy and operations.
A is for automation
New applications of technology are emerging in response to growing needs. What’s especially visible nowadays is our desire for service convenience; we want the best, with the fastest service, with minimum effort required on our part, and preferably at the lowest price. It is one of the reasons e-commerce continues to grow significantly. However, technological advancements require innovation in making service more convenient. One trend we are observing is the shift from e-commerce to a-commerce, or automated commerce.
Consumers are increasingly outsourcing their retail thinking, comparing and buying behaviour, which means they want personalized recommendations as well as timely updates such as pricing changes or sales. An example of a service that meets these needs is Echo Look, a styling assistant that work with Amazon’s Alexa; users take photos of what they are wearing and Echo Look provides tips on clothing and styling choices. Look rates outfits and recommend new items of clothing based on personal style or current trends, while improving its recommendations over time through machine learning. This way, customers don’t have to think about which pieces are missing from their wardrobe—Look does it for them.
While not everyone will want fashion advice from a tech device based on machine learning algorithms, the takeaway is to consider how to integrate automation when developing a product; these tools can help scale your UX efforts. Start by understanding the customer flow first, then implement smart and relevant tools and techniques, and lastly, manually setup the automation funnel.
Another aspect of online shopping we have grown accustomed to is personalization. As we have seen, products and services that use data for personalization are hugely popular. Think about all the times you have listened to your Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify and felt amazed by how well Spotify understands and can predict your taste in music.
As customers get used to such features, their expectations grow. A good product is not enough anymore—customers demand a seemingly magical kind of customization, fueled by data, which makes them feel as though a brand actually knows and understands them on a personal level. As boundaries between online and offline diminish, the recommendations we receive are increasingly personalized and relevant. For example, there are now car recommendation systems based on emotional responses, and cosmetics apps using AR and eye tracking to recommend products—the possibilities are endless.
Millennials especially don’t mind trading data for a personalized experience so long as they know their information is used to make product recommendations more relevant. So if your brand appeals to a younger demographic, enhanced personalization might be worth considering.
Continuing with the personalization theme, there is a special interest growing in the wellness hemisphere. With the prevalence of messaging apps that allow us to reach out to anyone at anytime, businesses have embraced this trend with chatbots. As customers have become so accustomed to using messaging apps to connect with friends, they turn to chatbots for both practical issues as well as advice and companionship. The new expectation is for chatbots to embody a brand so customers can connect with it on a more personal level.
Many of us are familiar with this in practice, especially if we use the bot in Slack, which is a simplified version that assists with our daily tasks. However, there are chatbots that are much more advanced, such as Replika.ai — an AI ‘friend’ that learns from chatting with you and with time, becomes a reflection of your own personality. And yes, if you have watched Black Mirror, this sounds an awful lot like one of the plots coming to life, but let’s face it, even though chatbots won’t fully replace humans anytime soon, small changes to make a bot more friendly can go a long way. Soon we and our partner Firmshift, will be launching Reason.ai—an AI solution that will help you build a result-driven conversational commerce platform.
Increasingly, consumption choices are of high importance, meaning customers support the brands that reflect their personal values. We have already written about the importance of brands making a positive impact, and now more than ever, internal culture plays a huge role in consumer purchasing decisions. Modern brands are now pledging to improve diversity and inclusivity in the workplace, and while it’s hard to determine whether words have turned into actions, publicly announcing your commitment to notable causes is a step in the right direction.
Positive change starts inside out, so look into your own backyard first before trying to change the world. Having a brand that stands for something good with a culture that reflects that ethos is a narrative worth sharing with conscientious customers. It changes customer perception and their engagement with the brand. Because as much as having poor morale internally is damaging for a business, fostering a welcoming and inclusive culture elevates your business potential and can be used as a powerful marketing tool.
What can you do as a brand and business:
We see and build bots and platforms in different stages of development and maturity, and can help you automate and personalize them to meet your customer’s growing needs and expectations. There are multiple considerations and decisions that define the way bots act and engages with users. Your brand will provide the lens through which the customer interact, and serves to unify the product experience, content, and overall design.
In sum, there is a lot of potential for bots and conversational commerce, which opens up consideration for more improvement in a customer’s digital journey. It’s about having a clear vision, understanding what’s possible, spotting opportunities in the sales funnel, experimenting within the context of your customer’s journey, and having a process in place that supports converging ideas into concrete and tested deliverables. Lastly, coupling a positive internal culture with meaningful engagement with customers through digital platforms results in enthused customers that will evangelize your brand for you.
Are you ready to talk about automation, personalization, culture branding or conversational commerce? Let’s chat.