The 2020s are officially underway. While the digital market undergoes constant upheaval, this year offers a convenient milestone to gauge the changes we observed in the market, and which changes are coming in the near future.
One of the biggest questions of the decade is how to reach younger Millennial and Gen-Z consumers. It’s hard to connect with a cohort of buyers who are moving away from over-consumption. Many even forsake the concept of “ownership” entirely, preferring to share access to goods, rather than own them outright.
How do you sell to these individuals? The truth is that there are still plenty of opportunities, if you can provide the kind of experience for which younger consumers look.
You can’t rely on past truisms and expect them to hold up over the next decade. Thus, reaching the increasingly-important late-Millennial and Gen-Z age cohort probably requires a re-imagining of key elements within your business model. That begs the question: how do you develop a strategy to attract, serve, and ultimately retain young buyers? I believe the key lies in analyzing some of the trends currently shaping the future of the market.
Predicting trends in business is a pretty vague, loose idea. That said, we can break down many of the most important points into four key categories: customer experience, business model, infrastructure, and technology.
1. Customer Experience
To satisfy contemporary consumers’ expectations, you need to meet them where they are. This means providing a unified, omni-channel experience, not only across desktop and mobile devices but on new platforms as well. You must simultaneously feel engaging and relatable to customers.
With IoT devices becoming commonplace, concepts like voice-enabled commerce will be central to the market in the next ten years. Buyers want a customized experience that moves across platforms with them; they want the opportunity to research on their phones, then order using an IoT device.
This idea of personality-driven commerce extends beyond the transaction process. For younger customers, a culturally- and socially-conscious brand identity is just as important as the actual buying experience. Building an identity around this can make it easier to interact with and engage customers across channels.
2. Business Model
As mentioned before, younger consumers have an aversion to “ownership.” As a result, many prefer subscription services that provide access to a good or service so long as the customer needs it.
From streaming content to meal prep, Millennial and Gen-Z buyers love this approach to commerce. Plus, access to consistent, in-depth data afforded by subscription services makes it possible to conduct detailed analysis and tweak the business model to the best effect. Thus, the recurring billing model should be a central focus for businesses in the next decade.
There was a time at which you could simply post a few images on your product pages, give a brief description, and call it a day. That’s no longer the case.
The rules governing what a website is and does are changing rapidly. New concepts like visual commerce enhance how consumers interact with products. They can click images to see a garment on a model, a product information video, etc. This offers the closest possible analogue to an in-store experience, which is increasingly vital as shopping channels merge into one.
Of course, providing this kind of experience likely demands significant back end changes to your site. Fortunately, these changes can be accomplished with relative ease through the use of API-based commerce.
4. New Technologies
The market is many things…but static is not one of them. New technologies come along constantly, influencing every other trend. So, while this may be a distinct category, it overlaps intimately with every other trend we’re going to see.
We’re gradually developing more applications for artificial intelligence, for instance. These changes will, in turn, impact our approach to the customer experience and business practices, which influences customers’ expectations. The same goes for the use for IoT tools in online retail.
Technologies are, in many ways, an event horizon for market forecasting. We can guess at how new tools will change the market, but we can’t be entirely sure.
Balancing Innovation and Security
One thing of which we can be sure: bad actors will look to manipulate new technologies and practices to their advantage.
Over the next decade, successful innovations will be those that best address these four core concepts, while also ensuring security. There’s a need to strike a balance between optimizing experiences and ensuring protection against abuse, but there’s no “one-size-fit-all” approach to do that. Especially with increased customization and specialization, each individual merchant demands a customized strategy.
While it’s hard to derive any universal solutions, your guiding principle should remain: think dynamically. Account for changes you anticipate…and for ones you don’t. Develop an adaptable, multi-layer approach to security, fulfillment, and customer interactions. This way, you’re better prepared to handle new developments you didn’t anticipate.
Going with an API-based system, for example, is a means of ensuring adaptability. You must take that concept, and apply it to every facet of your organization. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing you can do to adapt to commerce in the new decade.