Just when it felt like 2020 was about as off the rails as things could get, 2021 came along like, “Hold my coffee.” The way people consume and how brands engage those consumers is changing faster than ever. (Here’s to adopting change—cheers!)
Based on what the market has been showing us in recent months, here are some trends to keep in mind as we enter the new year as well as a couple predictions to watch out for. Will any of them come true?
First- & Zero-Party Data for Segmentation Granularity
As cookies are phased out, the quest for first- and zero-party data will no longer be a nice-to-have asset. Brands will find themselves spinning unless they realize just how valuable robust profiles are. These profiles allow brands to engage customers in granular ways and turn data into sales.
Loyalty programs can be the center of the wheel for data collection, and new tools will allow true individualized 1:1—and even what I’m calling 1:2 marketing.
Marketing in the Metaverse vs. IRL
My favorite description of the Metaverse comes from Shaan Puri (@shaanVP), Senior Director of Product, Mobile Gaming & Emerging Markets at Twitch, who theorizes that the Metaverse isn’t a place, it’s a time. That time is when our digital persona becomes more valuable than our real-life persona—for some, that time may already be here.
Which gets back to my idea of 1:2 marketing: Brands need to target their customers two ways using data available. One way to engage is in real life and the other is in the Metaverse. Engagement will continue to evolve as more of our lives are spent online. The brands and agencies who figure out omnichannel tracking of customers (meaning a cohesive brand experience across all platforms) and market to customers’ unique persona(s) will see the most success.
Gamification of Life
As boomers continue to enter into retirement, everyone remaining in the workforce will have grown up playing (or at least familiar with) video games. Brands can gamify every touchpoint and experience, not just for customers but for employees and partners, too. In time, we’ll likely see brands develop fun chapters or missions within all the roles inside their organization. Sure, some tasks are less creative than others, but it hardly matters when tasks are properly incentivized through gamification and some sweet loot waits in the employee lounge.
Geofenced Smart Glasses to Easily Identify Best Customers
There will likely come a point sooner than later where smart glasses start to replace the screens in our hand, and if your employees have a pair themselves, they’ll be able to see name and status as soon as a customer with enabled smart glasses walks into the building. You know, like a gamer tag. This will allow the floor team to immediately walk up to your best customers or high value targets, and greet them, thank them, recognize them and more. That is, for anyone who still shops at a physical location.
Automation at Scale
Automation is the biggest looming CX and EX challenge, with both positive and some negative fallout. From an employer standpoint, there will be major interest and desire to figure out how to reskill and upskill current employees. There will also be customer experience obstacles as consumers adopt emerging technology. Brands will need a plan for new roles and skills, new campaigns to target customers, new adoption campaigns and more.
Aside from these grander predictions, there are three smaller scale predictions likely to take hold in the more immediate future.
1. Affordable VR
Technology will be the gateway to getting people into the Metaverse. The availability of base (or at least beta) versions of virtual reality software will be free or included with brand interactions just to get people in the door or on the website. Concepts have been pretty cartoonish to date but expect advances in technology to make it feel like you are in the room.
2. 3D Printing on Demand
Just like VR software, 3D printers continue to grow in popularity as trained professionals (and passionate DIYers) demonstrate their potential in different markets. Think of it: A customer could buy something online and have it printed on demand in their home. Brands will change how products are built so they can sell material kits to consumers with printers. This will especially take root in food service, where you might be able to print steaks, pizzas, and more, sooner than later.
3. Automatic/Instinctive/Predictive Shopping
You might say we’re already here, but imagine a shopping experience that was so in tune with your day-to-day life it knew what you needed before you did. We’re not talking one button ordering like Amazon has done. Successful brands will take this a step further with in-home inventory automation (think subscription services for life needs) to make sure you never run out of toilet paper. These types of robotic scanners already exist in major grocery chains. The next logical step is an in-home version, ensuring you always have cooking and houseware staples.
Anything Is Possible in Customer Experience
While trend predictions tend to be about as foreseeable as the weather—and the longer the timeline the higher likelihood for inaccuracies—it’s hard to deny the above predictions aren’t already taking root in some form. Focusing on the customer and the experiences they’re after threads all these trends together. Learn what customer-centric brands are focusing on to ensure their customers stick around for the long haul.