We got a brand new crystal ball as an early Christmas present. Not one of those rubbish ones from ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, which just shows flying monkeys and melty witches. Nope, our one’s much more useful, because it allows us to peek behind the curtain and see what’s in store in the world of marketing, retail and our own particular field of expertise: advocacy.
So pull up a seat, swat away the mist and join us as we run down the six trends set to shape 2019.
1. Genuine profitable customers
Acquisition was the be-all-and-end all for the last couple of years, but things are definitely changing as brands become more selective about which customers they bring on board, which ones they seek to retain and which ones they, frankly, couldn’t give a damn about. If anything, the GDPR mailing list purge of 2018 strengthened to case for quality over quantity, as everybody realised that, unless a customer is engaged – and, ultimately, shopping – they’re really not worth the database they’re written on. Expect that to continue in 2019, as merchandising, offers, loyalty programmes, and advocacy campaigns are all geared towards milking the prize heifers instead of the runts of the herd.
2. Nano and micro influencers
Keith Weed, the CMO of Unilever caused a right tizzy at the Cannes Lions festival last summer, when he called out the “fake followers, bots, fraud [and] dishonest business models” which have been blighting the world of influencer marketing. A couple of months later, the internet tore apart one deliciously inauthentic influencer who decided to pimp Listerine mouthwash with an outrageously idealised Instagram image. And, by the end of the year, our newsfeeds were awash with stories about brands turning their backs on high-profile internet celebrities who may well have followers but almost invariably lack real influence.
A lot of money’s been thrown at influencer marketing, and no one expects that trend to reverse 2019. But the smart money’s going to be spent on harnessing the influence and authenticity of nano-influencers such as brands’ existing customers – be that via referral programmes, targeted reviews or even intelligent assistant campaigns (“Hey, Siri – what perfume does my friend Sara wear?”). Meanwhile, as technology evolves, and brands are finally able to track and measure the ROI of influencer campaigns, expect to see budgets spread much more thinly among hundreds of micro-influencers, each with 10,000 or fewer followers, instead of just a handful of mega-influencers with a reach of millions.
3. The evolution of NPS
Okay, NPS – Net Promoter Scores – never really went away. But the way brands use the information gathered from that age-old question “On a scale of one to ten, how likely are you to recommend this brand or product?” is definitely beginning to change. Once upon a time, NPS was all about improving your customer service, finding ways to reduce churn and highlighting problems before they became disasters. That’s because brands always tended to fixate on customers who gave bad feedback. But, as we go into 2019, brands are starting to use NPS in an altogether more positive way: targeting products, offers and invitations to refer their friends at customers who give positive NPS ratings. It’s a subtle change, but expect it to have a big impact over the coming months.
4. A move to true omnichannel
Maybe we’re still unbelievably thrilled to have invented the internet. Maybe we’ve been brainwashed by the devices in our pockets. But, somewhere along the line, many of us seem to have forgotten that 90% of purchases still happen offline. In fact, brick and mortar is still so critical and, frankly, dominant within the retail sector that one-time online pure-plays like Warby Parker, Misguided and even Amazon are queueing up to open physical stores in key locations. That’s because, in 2019, there’s no such thing as online or offline: they’re just different sides of the same thing. And that’s why advocacy is also set to become a 360-degree phenomenon this year, as in-store shoppers are inspired to leave reviews for online customers who can refer their friends to make purchases via call centres, and so on, and so on, and so on – every touchpoint seamlessly woven into the next.
5. People start to ‘win’ at shopping
There’s a reason why the Candy Crush games earn their developer, King’s Digital, over $4m per day: gamification. We all like to win. No, we all need to win. Even if it’s just lining up some sweets and making a phone screen sparkle, we’re so addicted to the dopamine rush of micro-victories that we’ve started to seek them in everything we do. And that’s why smart brands and retailers are gradually introducing gamification into the shopping experience. Some, like the NomadX store in Singapore – which uses facial recognition technology to offer customers the chance to win spot prizes – are going all-in on ‘Minority Report’-style tech-overload. But others are using gamification more subtly, by rewarding shoppers who visit, check out or refer more frequently than their peers, or by offering highly shareable but just as highly limited deals to maximise word-of-mouth while protecting their margins.
6. Employees become salespeople
As we’ve seen with the influencer boom-and-bust-and-boom-again, authenticity is everything when it comes to advocacy – and that’s precisely why brands are starting to capitalise on their most authentic, knowledgeable and passionate demographic: their employees. After all, it’s one thing to see a gushing, paid-for review from an online influencer, but it’s another thing entirely to hear about a brand’s exciting new products from the people who actually made them or sell them every day. As we enter 2019, expect to see more and more brands use the latest sharing and tracking technology to bridge the gap between HR and marketing, offering their staff savings which they can, in turn, pass on to their friends and family.
So, those are our six picks for the trends most likely to shape the upcoming year. If they’ve got you thinking about how you can stay ahead of the curve and make the very most of 2019, we’d be delighted to play our part. Just get in touch, and our experts will take care of the rest.