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TrendWatching, one of the world’s leading trend firms has once again scanned the globe for emerging consumer trends, and has prepared their 2018 Trend Report which will give forward-thinking agencies and businesses a springboard for the year to come.
For the full report you will have to go to trendwatching.com and subscribe, and just to have a taste of what excpects you there, read on for 5 trends for 2018 which TrendWatching identified for you.
In 2018, consumers outsource their retail behaviors. Are you ready for AUTOMATED COMMERCE?
Where are you focused when it comes to the impact of AI and automation on your business in 2018? Maybe, like China’s JD.com, you’re thinking about epic efficiency gains. That business is building automated warehouses, drone technology and AI route planning systems to deliver 92% of purchases same or next day to most of China.
Such technologies will have a profound impact on consumer behaviour and their expectations from brands, says TrendWatching, especially in the retail industry. Because in 2018, shoppers with more important things to do – and that’s all of them – will embrace the outsourcing of certain retail experiences to algorithms and smart devices. That means the automation of hunting, negotiating, purchasing, delivery arrangements and more.
The natural next step? True A-COMMERCE. And yes, AI-fueled personal assistants, and all the expectations they give rise to, are key here. How can you meet those new expectations? By integrating an existing A-COMMERCE tool? By building one?
In the end, this trend is about a shift that’s about as deep as it gets: towards a world in which you’ll be selling to algorithms as well as humans. The implications – for your pricing strategy, your entire approach to marketing and messaging, and more – are endless. In 2018, it’s time to start thinking about them!
2. ASSISTED DEVELOPMENT
Post-demographic consumers – of all ages! – are crafting new narratives of adulthood. In 2018, they’ll look to brands to help.
Transgender catwalk models. Entrepreneur classes for seniors. A luxury brand launching a product line with a street artist. Look around and signs of the POST-DEMOGRAPHIC world – a world of more diverse and complex consumer lifestyles – are everywhere.
Consequence of this are changing social attitudes, converging economic pressures and endless choice that have scrambled the way millions of people think about, attain – or avoid! – traditional markers of adult life. Now, post-demographic consumers will look to brands to teach them life skills, let them outsource daily tasks, or help them realize personal life goals.
So, are you ready to offer some ASSISTED DEVELOPMENT?
One way to start the new year with purpose? Gather your team and ask how you can offer some ASSISTED DEVELOPMENT to your customers in 2018.
3. VIRTUAL COMPANIONS
Virtual entities make the leap from assistants to companions. In 2018 millions of consumers will start to feel it is possible to have a meaningful conversation (a relationship even) with virtual entities that entertain, educate, heal and even befriend.
This shift may sound more sci-fi than reality, but it’s grounded in deep shifts, both technological and social. After all, tech firm Gartner has long been predicting that by 2020 the average person will have more conversations with bots than with their spouse.
And while it’s AI and machine learning (again!) that make it ever more possible to realistically model human conversation, millions of consumers are already deeply immersed in behaviors that make VIRTUAL COMPANIONS the natural next step in 2018.
How will you meet rising consumer expectation for virtual entities that become true companions?
Still, this trend does come with a warning: it’s emphatically not one for every brand to embrace wholeheartedly. Consumers don’t want many of the brands they deal with to be true companions – virtual or otherwise – and that’s okay! You don’t have to jump on every new trend, even if your dev team tell you they can have something ready after the next sprint.
So first, ask yourself: are we one of those brands that should make a true VIRTUAL COMPANION?
4. FORGIVING BY DESIGN
Post-purchase forgiveness is 2018’s must-have feature. Customers now ‘need’ a choice of pillows. On a plane. And yes, they’ll turn to a virtual digital assistant to feel confident about what they’re wearing. As 2017 draws to a close, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve collectively passed the customer service event horizon.
Consumers are already sky high on expectations – fueled in part by their digital lives – of constant service upgrades and seamless personalization. One consequence? In 2018 they’ll expect all kinds of products and services to forgive them when their past – the product they selected, the size they chose, the service they wanted – doesn’t match their future. How? By near-magically adapting around their changing needs, wants and whims.
Design forgiving offerings that adapt to changing needs before your customer switches to a competitor. Across the coming 12 months smart brands will do just that. Even if it means crafting products and services that seem to defy the laws of space and time. Ready, set, adapt!
Need a shot of motivation to persuade colleagues? Ask them: what’s the opposite of a product or service that is FORGIVING BY DESIGN? The answer: rigid and inflexible. Not a good look.
5. GLASS BOX WRECKING BALLS
A revolution in transparency is just getting started. How will you respond in 2018? In 2017, a business is a glass box. Outsiders can easily see inside. They can see the people, the processes and the values. Sure, not always with 20/20 vision. But if something happens inside the box that will be of interest to those outside, eventually it will be seen.
That shift is thanks to the radical transparency made possible by a connected world. And it brings with it an equally radical implication: your internal culture is becoming part of your brand.
Be in no doubt: 2017 heralded the start of a seismic shift when it comes to transparency. One that’s set to expose a whole lot of toxic behavior, and slew of ugly internal cultures.
Connectivity has not only turned every business into a glass box. It has also vastly magnified the power of those who have been wronged by malign individuals or organizations (think of the whole Weinstein scandal). It’s done that in two ways.
First, because it enables those who have been mistreated to find others who share their story, to corroborate and organize in new ways, and then move in unison as a righteous transparency WRECKING BALL. Second, it is allowing a broader cultural movement that is seeing toxic cultures of secrecy and disbelief torn down.
For any business, the key question is clear. What kind of transparency WRECKING BALL is heading your way in 2018?
And if a WRECKING BALL does hit you in 2018, take prompt action and be totally transparent about what you’re doing to put things right.
It’s the right thing to do. And in a glass box world, it’s the only viable way ahead.
The 5 trends featured here are important, but they represent just a small fraction of the consumer landscape. For much more of such future-forward insights, head on to TrendWatching’s Premium Service.