Five Trends to Watch in 2019

If you still feel like you're catching up from the various different ways the world changed in 2018 then brace yourself because the scale of disruption is likely to seriously pick up pace in 2019.

Here's 5 trends I'll be watching closely throughout the year:

1. The Payment Space Will Open Up

It's no secret that the whole banking and payments industry is ripe for disruption.

And in 2019 I expect the pace of change we experience in the payments space to be nothing short of explosive.

The fascinating thing about the payments space is the disruptive shift in consumer behaviour is coming at us from multiple angles - NFC payments are on the rise (typically a digital wallet on your mobile device), payments via messenger apps are now available (both peer to peer and direct eCommerce) and retailers are increasingly offering the "Buy Now, Pay Later" split payment solution. That's just three of the trends likely to have an impact in 2019, let alone the popularity of crypto-currencies and their integration with everyday retail commerce transactions.

When it comes to the rise of NFC payments, I believe use of wearable technology such as smart watches will increase throughout 2019 which makes these payment solutions even more appealing and convenient for consumers.

Arguably the biggest opportunity for New Zealand businesses is the launch of payments within messaging platforms such as Messenger and WhatsApp. Why? Communicating with brands on these platforms is already the norm. Payments are next and they're coming fast.

For some context, there are now over 800 million users of WeChat Pay (the payment solution for WeChat messaging platform) and over 300,000 offline stores have the payment solution available. Let that sink on for a moment - over 300,000 offline stores are taking payment via WeChat (previously nothing more than a messenger service popular in China).

It's only a matter of time before Messenger Payments (which is now in Beta in the US) is launched here in New Zealand. This means that people interacting with brands on Messenger won't have to leave the platform to do business - with the whole process being taken care of within Messenger and the funds being taken through a connected Stripe or PayPal account. The implications of this on New Zealand businesses will be massive!

2. Video Marketing Will Finally Be Everything

We've all been harping on about video for years but as we review the year that was in 2018 - there are some staggering statistics emerging. It's expected that by 2020 (yes, that's coming round rather fast) more than 80% of consumer internet traffic will be online videos (Cisco).

It's unlikely I need to do much convincing around the popularity of videos because the chances are you're already consuming video content via social networks every day (and realise that everyone around you is as well). The very interesting trends in the video space is just how rapidly the way we consume video has shifted in the past few years.

For example, a whopping 85% of videos on Facebook are viewed without sound (Digiday).

If you're planning to get traction with video on social media in 2019 then you'd be foolish not to caption your video content so people can consume it on the go without being a nuisance to those around them.

It probably doesn't surprise you to hear that our attention spans aren't getting any better either. But you may be interested to learn than nearly two thirds of consumers say they prefer videos that are 60 seconds or less (Insivia). And 15% of surveyed consumers thought that videos should be 15 seconds or less! (Marketing Land)

If the overwhelming shift on consumer attention towards video isn't enough to convince you then take a moment to absorb just how effective video marketing is for most businesses. Here are a few stats that might be worth considering:

  • The average user spends 88% more time on a website with video.

  • Views on branded videos on Facebook have increased by 258%.

  • Nearly 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store. (Google)

  • Before reading any text, 60% of site visitors will watch a video if one is available. (Single Grain)

Need I say more? I don't think so.

3. Chatbots Will Go Mainstream & AI Will Impact Every Industry

Facebook say they already have over 300,000 active chatbots running on their Messenger platform.

Right now chatbots are both hugely impressive and hugely frustrating. Their popularity is driven by our demand for everything to be faster but challenged by our expectation for more personalised interactions and communications. Thankfully, AI appears to be taking care of both and in 2019 we can expect this space to "mature" and their usage to become the norm.

My first experience with a brand chatbot was two years ago when I flew KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Upon booking I received a message on Facebook Messenger which would then keep me updated about my flight status as my journey approached. Ironically, I missed my flight from Amsterdam (that place does that to you) to Berlin despite my very helpful digital assistant. Once I finally arrived in Berlin and my baggage didn't, it was Messenger that kept me updated on the status of my lost baggage claim. The depth of this chatbot was nothing short of impressive - even appropriately handling my rather heated messages while I was waiting for my bag. I was able to help them locate my bag and get it delivered to my AirBnB in Berlin without ever speaking to a real human.

Around the same time a client remarked to me that he was able to book his hotel via Messenger while on a trip to the US. Since then, doing any number of tasks from checking the weather to finding recipes has been enabled through innovative chatbots. Some of the star performers include:

  • Mastercard who now let you ask questions about your financial habits such as "how much did I spend on cafes in March?". Mastercard uses AI to trace transactions of that nature and give you the answer, removing the need to trawl through bank statements to discover the harsh reality of what your coffee habit is costing you.

  • Starbucks got on the bandwagon early with the ability to order your coffee through Messenger on the way to a Starbucks Cafe. Once you've placed your order, you can simply pickup your coffee. And of course being the good chatbot it is - it will remember your order for next time if you want to make the process even quicker.

  • Whole Foods launched a chat bot which engages with you to help solve the "what to have for dinner problem". You can converse with the chat bot to find the right recipe for you including throwing a few variables such as dietary requirements, cuisine preferences and more. They'll even match recipes to your emojis!

Now whilst I've focused on big brands, AI and chat bots are becoming increasingly accessible to small businesses. Free tools such as ChatFuel mean just about anyone can build a chatbot for their business, even if it is just to avoid answering those pesky and repetitive customer service questions.

Be warned though - the consumer of 2019 is more demanding than ever before. There is a fine line between automation that helps and automation that rubs people up the wrong way (yep, we've all been there). It's important to keep in mind that digital automation is only as good as the information it's given so if things are a tad messy or dysfunctional right now, you're only fuelling the chaos by adding automation into the picture!

4. Voice Will Begin To Drive Our Lives

Whilst I believe that talking to your device in a public place is still a tad awkward, no one can deny that commanding your device via voice is easier than ever before. The rise of home based gadgets such as Google Echo and Amazon Alexa mean more and more of us are going hands free in 2019.

Despite the technology existing for sometime, the improvements in voice search over the past few years mean the uptake is likely to accelerate in 2019 and beyond.

comScore even forecast that 50% of searches will be voice by 2020.

An alarming statistic when you consider how few businesses are prepared for this dramatic shift in the way people find their business online.

Put simply - no one says "Nelson florist" when they're engaging with their mobile device. Instead they're far more likely to converse with it like a helpful human assistant "find a florist near me". As the importance of reputation capital increases, people are also likely to start asking more personalised questions like "what florist do my friends recommend?". If you weren't already feeling a bit confused about how to rank on Google, then voice search is likely to further complicate things.

One in six Americans own a voice activated smart speaker (like Echo or Alexa) and as more and more things in our homes become Wifi driven (think your heat pump, washing machine, TV or even the locks on your doors) then these speakers are likely to become a very important part of most people's lives. I also believe that socially we're becoming more aware of how much time we're spending glued to our screens and the impact that's having an our relationships and ability to sleep as well as physical impacts such as straining our eyes and changing our posture. To me, this is likely to assist with the uptake in voice activated smart speakers because it enables access to all the things we love (watching Netflix, listening to music etc) without having to be hunched over a screen the whole time.

This will be one of the more interesting trends to watch in 2019.

5. Retail Will Make a Comeback

Guaranteed to be my most controversial prediction for 2019 - I truly believe that great retail experiences will be more sought after in 2019. There are a number of reasons for this so let me explain.

Shopping online has never been more accessible - we can use our phones to buy anything from anywhere in the world and get it shipped to our doors. And more and more people are choosing to do just that. You'd be silly to think that was going to change anytime soon, especially with the introduction of eCommerce options within messenger platforms. But as with any disruption, I believe a whole new space is opening up for high quality retail experiences.

But this isn't just a pie in the sky prediction from me, some insightful data is beginning to emerge on this topic.

Most interestingly is that during what has been dubbed the "Retail Apocalypse", the number of independent bookstores actually grew by 35%.

This is during the same period that Borders got decimated by digital disruption and we all got used to reading books on Kindles or getting our favourite paperback delivered right to our doorstep.

So what would drive someone to head down to their local store when the same product is likely accessible and cheaper on their mobile phones? Experience.

Nordstorm Local are a chain of stores in the US that carry no stock - they're 100% focused on the experience which includes a juice bar, coffee, seating and dressing rooms. They have garments on display but don't hold any stock - that can be delivered to you or the store for pickup once you've made your purchase.

There is no denying that retail has been through a rough patch (well that's an understatement) but the casualties have made room (literally) for something new to emerge. For those wanting to be successful in brick and mortar retail, I'd suggest thinking less about deals and more about experience.

I'll conclude this prediction by saying that one of the things I hope (fingers and toes crossed) will help fuel the retail comeback is the increasing awareness that the convenience of fast shipping is actually killing our planet and fuelling climate change. Big call? Check out this short video featuring Dr. M. Sanjayan who summarises it perfectly.

Conclusion

As the digital age continues to entrench itself, the need for businesses to keep up with shifts in consumer behaviour has never been greater. But the tools and knowledge have also never been more accessible. The way we do business has changed forever - have you?

P.S What trends will you be watching in 2019? Let me know in the comments.

Change is inevitable. Growth is intentional. Glenda Cloud


Libby Brown