I bet your feed has been filled with trend articles. Everybody likes to predict the future! But 2019 has got me genuinely excited. E-commerce is booming and new tech is constantly increasing convenience, speed and intelligence. So much so, in fact, that sometimes it’s hard to find truth in the noise. Hopefully this Top 5 can help you out!
This is what I think we should zoom in on in 2019.
1. Creating easy, entertaining shopping
Everybody knows content is everywhere — the challenge in 2019 is to stand out. Brands will invest more than ever in content strategies that differentiate them on every platform. Make 2019 your year of quality content.
While historically the greatest production quality was invested in the upper funnel, on hero pages and the like, now it’s spreading out to all levels. Middle and lower funnel content like product pages are paying more attention to aesthetics and are becoming more enhanced and packed with information, images and videos that add real value to the shopping experience.
A big push behind that is given by the increasing ubiquity of social commerce. Instagram and Pinterest are leading the way — just wait until Facebook adds speed to it! It will signal a major shift in the funnel paradigm. Consumers are less and less aware of the act of purchasing, with our credit card details stored in our phones — it’s just a matter of a click. And social media goes hand-in-hand with creative approaches to content, including quality images and more importantly video, which is playing a growing role in conversion.
People love video because it taps into a deep need not for interaction, as was previously believed, but rather for effortless entertainment. Look at media giants YouTube and Netflix: We underestimate how attractive passivity is to people. E-commerce will be engaging with that idea more and more by producing content that’s entertaining, tells stories and expresses brand values through devices like integrated micro-videos at mid-funnel.
2. Choosing the right solution, not the right tech
In 2019 I expect to see lots of businesses challenge their mobile commerce experience. Mobile commerce is the way of the future, but that leaves many brands wondering whether they should invest in an app, or a mobile website. Of course, if you’ve got limitless funds and the manpower to keep them relevant, go for both — it’s always good to create as many points of contacts as you need. But what’s important is knowing what kind of relationship you want to create with people.
When you download an application, it’s an intimate gesture — you’ve integrated it into your life, in a way. That’s not the case with a website. When you visit a website, you’re just visiting. You’re not invested — you’re an occasional user. So as a brand, the first thing to do is ask yourself what challenge you’re facing. Do you want MORE people, or an intimate relationship with fewer of them? Websites tend to generate more traffic. With apps, the challenge of reaching a large enough public is offset by the far greater potential ROI if you do reach them. For both, though, it’s essential to design an experience that will meet your particular brand’s needs — there’s no one-size-fits-all.
Deep relationships are gaining more and more importance in the shopping process, and apps pair that with another must: simplicity. When people fall into a pattern they’re comfortable with, they tend to stick with it. Let’s say you buy your groceries through an app once and everything goes swimmingly. Of course you’ll repeat the experience. Your info’s entered, you’ve learned the ropes — you won’t be starting that over with different brands every time. People like their habits, and that creates brand loyalty.
3. Banking on competitive shipping — even for small businesses
If a simple click now represents the moment of purchase, the next step is for fulfilment of the product — i.e. delivery — to be just as seamless an experience. In 2019, if it doesn’t arrive faster, cheaper and with bells and whistles, people will head over to Amazon. This is the year to up your shipping game from beginning to end — and that goes for giants down to the local corner store.
Everything matters on the shipping front, from how fast it arrives to how pretty the packaging is, how carefully it’s delivered, where it’s delivered (home or sorting centre), how good the installation instructions are once the package is opened — everything. The expectation is speed, style, immediacy and affordability. And make no mistake, it factors into the purchasing decision: If one seller promises I’ll receive this gift by Christmas Eve while the other doesn’t guarantee it, for sure I’m going with the first one, even if it isn’t as cool.
This is relevant for local businesses too, whether it’s a pharmacy or a chain of corner stores: The one that develops a reliable, timely, user-friendly delivery service — best paired with an app — is the one people will use more. Just look at the success of Postmates. If I can order a chocolate bar, a pint of milk, a bag of coffee and a newspaper from my phone and get it delivered within an hour, that’s an incredible enhancement of my life. This is one of the key ways small local businesses can compete with big players who don’t have the advantage of that immediate reaction time.
4. Investing in AI (before it’s too late!)
Big Data has been on everybody’s lips for years now, but in 2019, all those accumulated metrics will finally start to bear fruit. There is simply too much data for human consumption; AI is the solution to help us make sense of it all and put it to work.
The ruling principle in Big Data is the idea of personalisation. People expect the services they receive and the suggestions we send them to be tailored to their tastes. AI, or more specifically machine learning, will be key for brands to start sorting their data into useful, applicable conclusions about what to show to users, where to show it and when to show it.
As machine learning gets more sophisticated, the ROI of AI will become more real. Now, it all seems a bit overwhelming and expensive. But AI is like e-com, or the Internet itself — people doubted it would have legs, yet look at us now. AI isn’t a trend — it’s here to stay, so start investing and strategising NOW.
5. Developing a design system to rule all of the above
In 2019, expect to hear more and more about design systems. More than the buzzword of the year in meetings, podcasts, blog posts and keynotes, a design system is a web style guide, a collection of streamlined components that will allow your team to design faster and better. In an industry like e-com, where speed is of the essence, developing a good design system is key for managers to maintain their websites as fast and as efficiently as possible.
Design systems aren’t new, but new developments in the tools for UX and UI design are making them better than ever. I believe our new single sources of truth should be delivered in HTML or coded components, because as I like to tell both my team and my clients, we’re not building XD files and mockups — we’re building websites. Our design systems should be as close to our final products as possible.
In short, you should already be planning your design system! And if you don’t know enough about them, read up about them during the holidays.
And that should get us started, right? Happy New Year!
By Vincent Ramsay-Lemelin, Senior Digital Creative Director, Sid Lee