Written by Sam Brigstock, Strategist @ MullenLowe Profero

As consumers in the digital age, we’re all too familiar with the traditional add to basket e-commerce experience. The functional processes of browsing, adding to a basket and checking out have remained relatively static for years. While new channels of inspiration might appear from time to time, rarely are they smoothly linked with the ability to buy.

But while recent years have seen growth of tech such as AR and visual search, now we are starting to see these technologies paired effectively with platforms and brands to enable smart new ways to discover, be inspired and — ultimately — buy.

Expect to see many more interesting sources of inspiration and smart ways to purchase in 2019.

Inspiration on tap: the top line

From: functional ‘add to basket’ e-commerce

To: richer ways to discover and buy

2019 Tipping Point: visual discovery and shopping merge

Tipping point

Platform innovation is the big driver of change. 2018 saw tech like Google Lens go from 250,000 recognised items at launch in 2017 to over 1 billion. Snapchat added the ability to match products with Amazon listings and AR tech was integrated with Facebook Messenger. Add to this mix an increased spend by businesses on AI efforts, increased penetration of AR tech (over 15% of the US using AR monthly — eMarketer), and improvements in the capability of visual search and machine learning, and you have a concoction ready to bring exciting new capabilities to consumers.

For brands this represents both opportunity to engage consumers with innovative new trial, sales and discovery experiences, as well as new advertising channels. AR ad revenues are predicted to top $2 billion by 2022 (eMarketer) as more people use the tech day to day.

A new wave of seamless experiences

We’re already seeing examples of brands testing out these opportunities. In December 2018 Adidas launched a virtual storefront that could be imposed, using augmented reality, onto one’s surroundings. The resulting virtual store allowed users to browse and even try on shoes by selecting a pair and watching as they virtually appear on your feet.

L’Oreal took the trial element one step further with their NYX brand allowing users the chance to have a one-to-one consultation via video calling with the ability to superimpose various makeup elements on either the consultant or customer. The ability to adapt and preview looks with such ease and versatility provides a very personal and engaging experience. In this example users were also able to purchase make-up at the end of their call.

EasyJet used visual search technology to match Instagram snaps with destinations and take users direct from the image to the corresponding flight on their app. How’s that for direct to destination?!

What can brands do to keep up?

Firstly, and at a bare minimum, keep a beady eye on the horizon. As devices become more powerful and enabling technologies develop, opportunities for brands to play with new tech and new channels will continue to appear.

Secondly, look for opportunities to embed AR in a way that’s relevant to your brand and consumers’ experience. Can you digitally taste an ice cream? No. But can you use the technology earlier in the purchase journey, to inspire and engage with a broader campaign idea, before driving to purchase? Absolutely. As consumers come to expect more from the brands and products they interact with, AR inspiration will become just another intuitive part of the journey.

Lastly, condense journeys wherever you can. While this sentiment in itself is nothing new, it is worth the reminder at a time when new tools and capabilities may, if not used properly, convolute a user journey. If a great new discovery tool takes three app swaps and a lengthy checkout process to reach a conclusion it’s likely not going to work.

In summary, look to 2019 as an opportunity to continue to explore and build on the “add to basket” journeys we are all used to. Surprise, delight, but remember: don’t get in the way.

This article is part of MullenLowe Profero’s 2019 Experience Transforming Trends.

The report covers seven areas that the agency believes will make the biggest impact on how consumers interact with digital experiences in 2019 and can be found here.

 

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