Virtual reality, do-gooders and the sharing economy will shape online and mobile shopping this year, as well as bricks-and-mortar experiences
1. Virtual Reality: Exploding Out of Niche
For several years now we've heard the hype about the
new world of virtual reality (VR), but high price-points and a lack of
enticing apps has left stand-alone VR platforms with only small
hobbyist markets. This is poised to change with PlayStation's entry
into this space, which will help to put VR headsets into many more
homes, capturing the market for itself through its existing network of
gamers and console technology. While other manufacturers may have
better technology and more innovative design, Sony's existing status as
a big player in the home entertainment space will ensure it
out-competes smaller VR makers for the time being.
The best hope of these smaller manufacturers will be to sell their hardware or software platforms to Sony and its existing rivals, Microsoft and Nintendo. In addition, Oculus Rift will be available for $600 in March of 2016 (image left Oculus Rift @ Gamescom 2014, by Marco Verch). While not an accessible price-point for the masses, this does put the most advanced technology in reach of avid fans and not-so-early adopters.
2. Seamless Shopping Experiences
While at first glance, it may seem that the battle for
buys is between bricks and clicks. But the real trend is that shoppers
are moving more fluidly between online and in-store than ever before.
It’s not an either-or choice they want, but both … as long as all
concerned know and play by the rules.
More than half of Black Friday shoppers were using mobile devices while at retail. Shoppers are not making a distinction between an online brand experience and in-store brand experience. They expect both environments to deliver the same product, quality and customer service. Brands that succeed at building this seamless engagement will win in 2016.
3. Sharing Economy Goes Mainstream
Uber and Airbnb have taught consumers that a sharing economy model has a lot of benefits. As consumers look to be smarter about spending, participating in the sharing economy is a smart way to go as technology makes it even easier. Local apps like Nextdoor and NeighborGoods create local barter systems and information networks. Apps like Gone leverage the person-to-person economy established by Craigslist and eBay, but in a much more user friendly environment. This trend is being bolstered by mindset changes with shoppers rejecting more mindless consumption and thinking of themselves more as owners and stewards of goods.
4. Travel and Tourism Will Have a Difficult Year
This timeline shows the online travel sales growth figures worldwide, by region from 2014 to 2019. Compared to the previous year, online travel sales in Latin America grew 20.3 percent in 2015. Annual growth is projected to slow to 14.4 percent in 2019. Find more statistics at Statista.
The global stage is unstable at best. Traditionally "safe" places like Western Europe are overwhelmed with the refugee crisis, and terrorism is cropping up in unexpected places. International travelers are delaying plans or converting to domestic travel. Tourism industries in some cities will feel the impact, but the deeper pain will hit travel companies like resorts, cruise lines and hotels that can't rely on business travel. Add to this a strong dollar which typically dampens international travel for U.S. citizens and makes the U.S. a less attractive destination for foreigners.
5. No-Penalty "Do-Gooding"
Shoppers love the opportunity to do good without having to go out of their way. TOMS Shoes solved this with their buy one, gift one program. American Girl is joining that group as well. All other things being equal, if your brand has a program that makes shoppers feel good about their purchase, it goes a long way to building loyalty and advocacy. In today's crowded marketplace where differentiation is hard to come by, this strategy is not only good for our communities, but good for the bottom line.
Rebecca Brooks, co-founder and partner of Alter Agents marketing research agency in Los Angeles, is a regular contributor to AMA.