Posted: Thursday 9th January 2020 in Performance Marketing.

So that’s the end of another decade, and one which has brought us many new developments in the digital industry. Who could forget about the rise of tablet back in 2010, following the launch of the first Apple iPad? Or perhaps a more standout moment was when the virtual reality game, Pokémon Go, took the world by storm in 2016 (and many years beyond). In a nutshell, we’ve had a roller-coaster of ups and downs in the digital world, so what will shape the headlines we see in 2020?

During 2019, we experienced vast changes in the way customers purchase and what propels them to convert, which caused retailers and marketers to adapt their strategies in-line. Here we share our top predictions for 2020 and how you can get ahead of the curve as we speed into a new decade of marketing.

Reconnecting with stores

Over the past year we have seen numerous stories about brands investing more in their stores to reconnect with their customers and provide them with a more personal experience.

Let’s look at Nordstrom as an example. Back in October, the retail giant opened its new flagship store, which sprawls across seven floors and contains over 320,000 square feet of shoes, handbags, jewellery, makeup and more in Manhattan, New York. The store is designed to be a place where women can discover new brands and contains endless features to provide shoppers with a unique and personal experience, such as on-site customizable denim, a brow bar and nail salon. The flagship has received praise for ‘keeping the dream alive’ and being a place where women of all ages can come together and experience a special shopping experience.

Here in the UK, we’ve seen retailers rely on digital insight for their next store openings. Take Joules, for example. Earlier this year the lifestyle retailer explained that the rationale for opening a new store goes far beyond just forecasting margin and costs. The brand considers local council plans, new customer figures and nearby access to free parking, entertainment and food facilities; providing Joules with strong store results and its shoppers with the Joules environment they know and love. Plus, when Joules open a new store, their e-commerce revenue increased by 5-10% within that area. Understanding what customers want within stores is only going to become more important for retailers as we head into 2020.

Sustainable brands and products

It’s probably fair to say that we’ve all noticed a change in mentality around sustainability during the past year, so much so that 2019 has been nicknamed ‘the year of sustainability’. It’s difficult to imagine this topic being drowned out any time soon, particularly as countless retailers have pledged to make changes in the future to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Key headliners in the drive are H&M, who have been focusing on recycling and sustainability within their stores and product offering since the ‘90s (according to the brand). The retailer wants to be seen as a leader in the industry and has pledged that by 2030, all of the products that it produces will come from sustainable or recycled sources.

We have also seen pledges to the environment from retail giants IKEA and John Lewis. IKEA has set itself the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from its production systems by 80% by 2030. John Lewis has introduced a scheme to encourage shoppers to reduce, reuse and return packaging to help save tonnes of plastic from going to landfill.

In the fashion world, we’ve seen brands Boohoo and ASOS launch sustainable edits. Overseas, Urban Outfitters introduced US shoppers to a new clothing rental service, designed to reduce waste whilst providing customers with easy access to new fashion. The clothing rental market is estimated to be worth $1.1BN which is expected to grow by over 10% over the 2018-2023 period, therefore we believe we will only see more growth in this industry, particularly as brands are receiving such strong reception to their efforts in becoming more environmentally friendly. Whether it’s introducing more sustainable clothing, recycled packaging or reducing emissions within the premises, it’s clear that brands are eager to ensure they are doing their bit for the environment.

More virtual and augmented reality

We touched upon this topic earlier with the mention of Pokémon Go, however over the past couple of years we have noticed more retailers experimenting with virtual and augmented reality. Just in case this trend has passed you by, virtual reality (VR) immerses users in a fully artificial digital environment, whereas augmented reality (AR) overlays virtual objects onto the real world.

One of the most popular AR features is providing customers with an example of how a particular product would look when worn or when placed in their home. This is exactly what IKEA trialed back in 2012 when they launched their Place app to help customers see how items would look in their home, without the need to purchase first.

Retailers aren’t the only ones to advance in the world of AR and VR. Technology companies are also investing and making it easier for brands to launch these types of experiences. Over the 2019 Christmas period, we saw Burberry launch a digital pop up in London, using the power of Google Lens. Google Lens helps users search what they see simply through their smartphone camera. The experience created by Burberry allowed customers to scan one of the glass boxes with the Google Lens app, to be served with an aerial live feed of themselves on their phone, all captured by a camera suspended 35 meters above them.

As we head into 2020, we expect to see more collaborations between brands and technology companies as they experiment with AR and VR experiences. 

Another year of social expansion

In 2019 we saw Instagram influencer marketing grow by almost 50% with over 3M #ad feed posts published worldwide. It’s no surprise that influencer marketing platforms are also on the rise, designed to assist brands with their influencer campaigns, offering them vast, searchable databases of suitable influencers.

However, there has recently been some controversy over influencer behaviour, made viral by a BBC investigation. Three reality TV influencers were secretly filmed being asked to promote a fake diet drink, containing the chemical hydrogen cyanide, which revealed that some influencers don’t actually try the products before promoting them. Whilst influencer marketing is still a powerful tool to grow authority and trust among specific audiences, it is now more important than ever to be cautious about creating these relationships. If this behaviour continues within the industry, this trust is sure to dissipate.

Image source: Social Media Today

Aside from the explosion of influencer marketing, we have also seen increased competition with social platforms, with the increase in uptake of TikTok. The social networking service mainly focuses on short-form videos that play on a loop, which incorporate music, effects and AR overlays, making TikTok the perfect platform for brands wanting to grow a younger following. With the launch of other competitors, Lasso, Vero and Caffeine, it certainly feels like Instagram and Snapchat will face some tough competition in the Social space in 2020.

So, there we have it, our top digital retail trends of 2020, and these are just a few insights into how we expect trends to shift in digital marketing over the next twelve months.

As consumer habits continue to change and the market becomes more crowded, it’s important to maintain relevancy in the digital landscape. If you’re looking to maximise your digital marketing investment or are interesting in how we can help you adapt your digital strategy in 2020, get in touch with us today.