As we close out 2018, there’s a lot of new experiences (like checkout-free stores), surprising acquisitions (like the Amazon/Whole Foods merger) and more to reflect on and leverage for the year ahead. In 2018, brands experimented more freely with voice and video technology, leveraged AI to improve customer experiences and took bigger steps towards unifying their commerce strategies. Every year brands raise the bar for improved commerce experiences. As standards rise, so do customer expectations. With 2019 upon us, here are the big developments from last year that will have major implications in the year ahead:
- Frictionless commerce becomes the norm We’ve seen a clear example of this shift in the quick serve restaurant space, with brands embracing mobile and online ordering to enable the most frictionless commerce interactions. Think about the last time you waited in line at a Starbucks — you might have felt like quite the schmuck ordering at the counter while everyone else walked in and out with their mobile orders. Domino’s, a leader in this regard, even boasted that it aims to become a fully digital-only brand — a future that’s likely for more of these players than you might think.
- More Americans embrace voice technology 2018 began with the revelation that 39 million American consumers — or 16 percent of the population — own smart devices like Amazon Alexa. As Facebook enters the fold with its Portal product, you can bet that we’ll see more brands experiment with voice-activated devices like Alexa. Consumers are growing more comfortable using these devices, and it’s likely that products like Amazon’s new voice-activated microwave will proliferate in 2019.
- Video will explode across verticals The days of awkward dial-in conference calls are coming to an end. Data shows that 74 percent of businesses report they’ve increased their use of video technology in the last two years, and 84 percent use more than one cloud-based video solution. Services like Zoom, GoTo Conference and OwlLabs are reshaping how people conduct business on a daily basis.