Consumer Trends Now and Next Year
There is no doubt we are now in the ‘experience’ economy. The need for physical and emotional connections with a brand is on the increase. Now more than ever businesses need to focus on the interactions customers have with their brand and the experiences they can offer. Below are the top five five trends that I believe will be paramount to a successful business.
THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
If you haven’t already, mapping out the customer path is key. Defining your customers’ journey across all touchpoints, and making any necessary improvements will deliver competitive advantage in your marketplace.
The journey from awareness to advocacy is where businesses should focus their attention, not only looking at each step but all the sub-steps too. Understanding the expectations of the customer at each stage and continually improving the experience will enable brands to shorten the sales journey and will improve a businesses’ bottom line.
Consumer behaviour and attitudes will shift towards activism, compassion and self-expression, which will all impact the market this year and beyond. Below are a few key trends identified in Mintel’s 2018 Consumer Report.
Environmental lobbyists will be more active this year, raising awareness among consumers, educating themselves on environmental issues regarding plastics and how it impacts on the marine environment, wildlife and conservation.
Consumers are becoming more data-savvy, and before parting with their personal details they will expect something of value in return. Due to high profile hacks involving big companies such as Talk Talk and the NHS, the introduction of new legislation has been introduced to raise awareness among consumers to take action to protect their data. GDPR legislation now requires all businesses to request consent, disclose data tracking and provide the right ‘to be forgotten’ — a move towards controlling and securing personal data.
Research has shown an increase in mental health issues among the younger generation. Pressures and concerns about the future along with social media are cited as the main causes. A quarter of 7 to 15-year-olds in the UK are concerned about their future after school, and 24% concerned about their appearance.
This doesn’t mean that Generation Y and Z will reduce their social media usage, instead this age group are taking to social media to call-out unrealistic imagery and body shaming. So brands need to make sure they are presenting a ‘real’ image to attract the next generation of consumers.
SHIFTS IN BUYING BEHAVIOUR
Modern behaviour has shifted dramatically over the last few years, and businesses have yet to keep up. With the frequent introduction of new technology, it continuously opens up more channels to enable consumers to research, gain opinions, price compare and eventually purchase; the whole buying process has become lengthy.
More businesses should look at creating sales channel strategies to reach out to their consumers (omnichannel selling) and provide a seamless shopping experience, whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop, mobile device, by telephone or in a physical store.
An omnichannel approach improves the customer experience, drives sales and increases foot traffic, in the digital age.
Customers expect brands to understand them, they don’t want to receive a generic email with a wallpaper offer. At a minimum they expect ads and emails addressing them by their name with bespoke offers.
Advancement in AI will offer online retailers greater personalisation options through more intelligent automation and processing of big data, creating customer behaviour models that identify trends and patterns.
Consumers use multiple devices before making a purchase so ensuring a consistency personalised customer experience is key.
GREATER CUSTOMER INTERACTION AUTOMATION
Automation will have a genuine and measurable impact on consumers’ lives. Current automated activities such as checking in at a hotel or ordering a takeaway will advance to provide consumers with greater options and control over everyday tasks.
The number of tasks that businesses need to carry out to keep up with an increase in mobile device usage and the internet of things, is becoming insurmountable. The call for intelligent automation and artificial intelligence is higher than ever before. According to the ServiceNow report, fewer than half of UK business processes are automated, which amounts to approximately 15 hours per week of cost draining administrative tasks.
By 2020 3.85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human, according to Gartner.
The customer service industry will benefit from technologies embedded with artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligence augmentation (IA) that will improve the customer service journey, productivity and sales.
Businesses will be able to monitor customer interactions in real time, identify user frustrations and offer support. This will have a huge impact on customer sales, lower cart abandonment and improve the customer experience.
Messaging apps provide a new space for companies, which allow them to connect with present and future clients easily and cost-effectively. The airline and hotel industry have already taken advantage of real-time customer service bots, with messenger applications creating new revenue streams.