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Three digital consumer trends retailers should know

By Marjorie van Elven


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With 51 percent of the world’s population using the Internet, it’s crucial for retailers to take a look at the latest digital trends and developments shaping the way consumers interact with their favorite brands and stores. Here are three trends likely to gain traction in 2019, according to a recent report by market research firm Euromonitor authored by its Global Head of Digital Consumer, Michelle Evans, and consultant Amanda Bourlier.

Unmanned stores will open up new business models

Will sales clerks soon be a thing of the past? If we take a look at what some of the world’s biggest Internet giants are experimenting with, the answer is yes. Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com intends to open “hundreds” of unattended convenience stores while its main competitor, Alibaba, launched both an unmanned convenience store and an unmanned hotel, where robots deliver food and drop off fresh towels. In the United States, the trend is led by Amazon Go, a chain of partly automated stores where customers can purchase products without checking them out, just scanning them through the Amazon Go app.

Euromonitor predicts unmanned stores to grow in the US, China and beyond, with 2019 witnessing the start of a “profitability arms race” in the segment. These pioneering stores are also likely to inspire new business models. Expect some interesting startups to appear very, very soon.

Key takeaway: Brick and mortar stores should evaluate whether automation makes sense for them and, if so, how they will implement it.

Voice command to gain even more traction

The growing popularity of smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home is believed to lead to an explosion of voice-based shopping: sales volume is expected to grow from 25 million US dollars in 2013 to 200 million US dollars by 2023.

Companies looking to tap this opportunity should focus on pre- and post-purchase tasks, according to Euromonitor. Take example from PetCoach, a US-based pet shop chain providing care advice via Amazon Echo and Google Assistant. Users can ask questions to PetCoach about how to best care for their dog or cat. Another great example is the partnership between Ford and Starbucks, in which drivers can place Starbucks orders directly from their vehicle. In sum, retailers should be creative and start thinking about how they can make their customer’s lives easier and establish their “brand voice” through these devices.

Key takeaway: Retailers should think of new strategies for communicating with their customers through voice alone and explore untapped possibilities in this growing market.

Consumers are resisting the always-on mentality

Most Internet users (69 percent, to be more exact) access the world wide web on a mobile phone at least once a day, with 53 percent of them saying they would be “lost” without mobile Internet access, according to the report. However, many of them are growing aware of the costs of having constant access to the Internet: around 25 percent of Americans strongly agree that the Internet adds a great deal of stress to their lives. In Russia, India and the Middle East, over 40 percent of consumers say the same. Add privacy concerns to the mixture and there you have it: a growing number of consumers looking to diminish Internet use. A “digital detox”, if you will.

“While consumers have been running towards the Internet since its first coming online, there is a palpable countertrend gaining traction, whereby consumers are resisting the always-on mentality”, says Euromonitor in the report. Surprisingly enough, some prominent Internet companies are giving these consumers a helping hand. Apple, for example, introduced tools to limit screen time as part of its new operating system launched in 2018, allowing users to see how often they check their phone, how many times they open social media apps etc. We’re also seeing a boom in spas, retreats and restaurants where smartphones aren’t allowed.

Key takeaway: Consumers are more deliberate and selective in the way they interact with companies, prompting retailers to think of more creative, less invasive ways to engage with them.

Picture: Pexels

Amazon Echo
Amazon Go
Consumer Trends
digital trends
unmanned stores
voice command