The job of a marketer has never been so tough. In the past decade, not only have marketing budgets shrunk, but the media landscape has drastically evolved, exploding into a hyper-fragmented playground for both brands and customers. It’s no secret that today’s marketers carry the pressure to do more with less. It’s true for chief marketing officers at both startups and Fortune 500 companies.
As digital disruption continues to alter the media landscape and rewrite the rules of the game, marketers need to keep a close eye on the systemic trends at play, as customer behaviors are once again shifting drastically.
At Heyday, we help brands and retailers navigate the shift to a mobile-first world by creating more personalized and painless shopping experiences, powered by artificial intelligence. As such, we have a front-row seat to see the nuances of the marketing and ecommerce landscape on a daily basis.
Here are five critical trends that I see shaping the future of marketing and pushing brands to reinvent the way they communicate with and sell to customers.
Mobile commerce is exploding
The pivotal role of ecommerce is true for big and small retailers alike. According to Shopify, during the height of Black Friday, the platform’s sales topped $1.1 million per minute, exceeding last year’s $555,716. And looking at Adobe’s estimates for the November and December holiday shopping months last year, mobile accounted for 46% of online retail website traffic.
Because of its very nature, mobile is not just impacting ecommerce but commerce as a whole. When people shop, their smartphone is now their go-to advisor and assistant. The line between online and offline shopping is increasingly blurred.
For retailers, this means big opportunities exist to be present and useful in shoppers’ journeys and decision making, both online and offline. For marketers, it means shifting from a traditional, quarterly campaign strategy to an always-on conversational approach, where brands become virtual friends that can be reached by customers for product information or recommendations on demand.
The domination of messaging apps
According to a study by Deloitte, 80% of brands struggle to get more than 1,000 downloads for their branded apps. With this insight, messaging could be the holy grail to reach a new generation of text-hungry customers who are spending most of their time on one kind of app — messaging apps. In fact, 91% of teenagers and 80% of adults use these apps every day.
The net takeaways are clear for marketers and retailers: spend more time where your customers are. Messaging is a new sales and communication channel. Those who fail to capture it will end up losing the mobile commerce battlefield to competitors who have made messaging a cornerstone of their communication strategy. Take case studies like Sephora and American Eagle Outfitters as examples — both have already had massive success investing in the space.
The rise of voice assistants
Consider these numbers. As of January 2018, one in six Americans owned a voice-activated smart speaker. Plus, 41% of people now use voice search at least once per day.
The way I see it, this growing trend will definitely change the way customers search for new products and impact their decision making while shopping. It’ll also heighten the customer’s expectations of instant access to a service at each step of the customer journey — something that will deeply shape the future of marketing and commerce moving forward.
For those who aren’t already, marketers should use voice assistants to make personalized recommendations to boost sales, nurture customer relationships at scale through automated one-on-one conversations, and collect valuable consumer insights and first-party data.
The exponential proliferation of consumer data
Technology trends never come alone. They are often intertwined. As a result, they tend to amplify each other to the power of 10. The more we communicate together via messaging apps or with digital assistants living inside our phones and smart speakers, the more data we create as a society as a result. According to a report by IBM, 90% of the world’s data has been created in just the last two years.
That’s a ginormous quantity of consumer data that, once properly stored and structured, brands could leverage to adapt their customer experiences to each and every one of us. With the rise of data and AI, hyper-personalization at scale is now a possibility, which will redefine how we design the entire customer experience. Brands need to leverage these insights in order to market effectively and more accurately than their competitors in order to stay in the game.
The emergence of Conversational AI
There’s a perfect technology storm happening right now, and its impact is just beginning to be felt. Marketing and retail as we know them will forever be changed as we enter an era driven by AI and automation.
As conversational interfaces become the new norm, businesses will need AI to manage the billions of daily incoming messages and customer conversations. I see conversational AI — better known as chatbots — quickly becoming the cornerstone of every brand’s marketing and communication strategy.
The key for brands and retailers will be to provide utility — a good reason for customers to keep re-engaging with them. By making the customer experience more personalized and frictionless, brands will be able to leverage conversational AI at each step of the customer journey — from consideration to conversion to customer care — to boost conversion while building brand affinity and loyalty.
Whether it’s an always-on “FAQ bot” to help make travel stress-free or a personal stylist assistant, there’s a limitless playground to explore and a golden opportunity for brands to spark engaging, relevant, context-rich and personalized conversations.
The end goal for marketers should be to foster meaningful and enduring customer relationships through marketing strategies with these five trends in mind. That’s how brands will win in the evolving ecommerce world.