The start of every new year follows the same pattern. The Christmas Decorations come down. The leftover biscuits get palmed off to friends. And the line ’it was great thanks – how was yours?’ is heard in offices up and down the country.
Something else happens, too. Lists appear. Specifically, lists of things that will absolutely definitely happen in 2019. And in these lists there’s a few things worth looking at that could start to impact customers’ experiences.
Of course, the historian in me is keen to point out that most things won’t change. Voice search isn’t going to take over the world just yet; we’re not all going to fall in love with AI enabled fridges; and our high street stores won’t all be turning into incredible immersive experiences. Sorry about that.
So with the caveat firmly in place, here are the few things that might be interesting distractions from any political stories that may or may not occur in 2019:
For years we’ve read about how people are getting fed up with spending so much time staring at screens, only to realise that we’re reading about it whilst staring at our screens. But this time around, it does feel like the tide is turning.
People are becoming more conscious about the services they use, and the time they spend using those services. The ’I’m going to delete Facebook’ threats are turning into action, with Apple’s ‘screentime’ feature nudging us all into better behaviours. Add in the general fatigue at endless feedback requests, and suddenly the cognitive effort required from customers to interact with companies becomes a point of difference.
The rise of chatbots has been coming for years, and now it’s finally here. And like any good trend, as soon as most people start using it, it stops being cool.
Chatbots are in danger of becoming the IVR of the Internet – an automated service designed to help companies route customers to the right answer in the quickest (and most low-cost) way possible. But most customers want to speak to a real person to get the answer to their specific question, and the chatbots are just an extra layer they have to go through to get to that person.
Mobility as a Service
The world of transport has been changing very quickly at a slow pace. Boris Bikes appeared on our streets, swiftly followed by Uber, and now an infestation of electric scooters for hire, all able to be found on Citymapper.
This gives a big opportunity for companies. Buying a flat? Get a ZipCar membership as part of your rent. Staying in a hotel? We’ll pre-arrange the Uber for you. Visiting London on holiday? Here’s a scooter for you to use whilst you’re with us. Savvy companies will start to build mobility into their offering, helping customers to access their services with a minimum of effort.
Much like transport, the focus on health and wellbeing is slowly reaching a tipping point. Apple has an ECG monitor it its latest watch. Vitality Health is making good on the promise of pricing premiums based on fitness. And 23&Me is helping people understand more than ever about who they are – and who they might become.
The next step seems to be people thinking with, or about, their stomachs. The combination of easier testing, greater understanding, and a broader range of options for what gets consumed could mean this is something for food retailers and healthcare providers to put front-and-centre of their propositions in 2019 and beyond.
In the past few years, companies have been quick to promote products aimed at women, seeing it as a great marketing message – but without actually following through with something that’s genuinely useful, rather than cliched or patronising.
However, there are a number of companies starting to lead the way in areas that haven’t been properly addressed in the past (one report names Thinx, Crave, Willow, Elvie, Lola, Livia, Sustain and Maven). And the public castigation of the Consumer Electronics Show over their withdrawal of a female-focussed sex toy for being ‘immoral, obscene, and indecent’ – whilst the same event is showcasing a robot sex doll aimed at men – shows both the change in attitude that is finally happening, whilst also acting as a cautionary note for how far there is still to go.
So there we have it. By the end of the year we’ll be using our allocated one-hour of screen time to let our Uber driver measure our gut bacteria, whilst we stay on hold to an algorithm that’s just pretended to pop to the toilet.
Or at the very least, we’ll still be talking about Brexit.
Have a great year…
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