A Muddy Future
I’m not sure how many folks out there are familiar with Adobe. Not adobe, the mud bricks used for millennia. I’m talking about Adobe. They’re a software company known mostly for the .pdf file format, the Adobe Reader program that’s required to read .pdf files (that somehow installs something else every time it updates), and the photo-editing Photoshop software responsible for half the world’s celebrities and every single one of my selfies with the Pope.
In addition to expensive software, Adobe also generates analytics and has a staff of prognosticators reviewing the analytics to spot trends. And after one of the strangest years any of us has ever lived through, Adobe’s team of analysts have identified some trends that should continue into this year. Curious as to what they are? Read on…
Online Shopping Will Continue To Grow
During Cyber Week 2020, the five-day window that starts on Thanksgiving Day and continues through Cyber Monday, consumers spent $34.4 billion shopping online. That was a 20.7% increase over Cyber Week 2019 (the increase from Cyber Week 2018 to 2019 was only 13.4%). As more retailers updated their online storefronts in the wake of COVID lockdowns, as more consumers became accustomed to it, and as technology has only made it faster to search and easier to pay, expect eCommerce to continue to flourish.
Also due to COVID-related precautions, consumers were exposed to contactless experiences… and liked them. From Apple Pay and Google Pay routing payments through hovered phones and watches, to automakers offering virtual test drives, to entertainers putting on virtual shows, we are getting accustomed to not having to touch anything or be anywhere.
Making A Show Of Solidarity
During the latter half of the 2010s, more and more social issues came to the forefront. That did not slow in 2020, even with the pandemic. As regular folks become more concerned about the social impact they have, expect companies to follow suit. Whether or not they make any fundamental changes internally for the better, we can all expect to hear about what they’re doing.
Bots & Automation
Nobody likes talking to the automated attendant on the phone, especially when it can’t understand us no matter if we press “1” or say “one” to get to the next menu. However, plenty of us have smart speakers in our home that we use to get the weather, turn on the lights, and queue up songs.
We like automation that is helpful. So companies are dedicating a lot of resources to artificial intelligence research to make those bots more helpful.
One other thing to watch here. As we get more accustomed to audio-based technology—back-and-forth communication with a bot—these service providers (Google, Amazon, etc.) are going to find a way to monetize it. Think radio ads, but smarter… and more tailored. Just as companies spend thousands of dollars on their visual branding (did you know TGI Friday’s trademarked their stripes, and police that mark fiercely?), we’re probably going to start to see (hear?) more companies develop “signature sounds” to ease their recognizability in the audio world.
Watching. Always Watching.
The Mayo Clinic recommends a limit of two hours of daily screen time. If we weren’t already watching more TV than that, the lockdowns and work-from-home policies put in place in response to COVID made us all a little more familiar with streaming and binge-watching.
We can expect a lot of attention to be paid to streaming services in 2021 and beyond. We’ll surely see more streaming options, more content available on them, and… let’s be honest… higher prices.
Advanced analytics show that 75% of us tried a new website, service, or brand in 2020. And with the continued rise of online shopping and a global market, it is simultaneously easier to try something new and harder to find a brand or model that you used before.
Seriously. Go to Amazon right now, search for headphones, and see how long it takes to find a brand you had heard of a year ago.
Consumer loyalty is a fickle thing, and consumer reward systems of the past are not working. What good is collecting points if you can’t use them? Watch for these systems to get overhauled or abandoned in 2021.
Focus On Your Health. Focus On Yourself.
Everyone had to make health decisions in 2020. Government leaders, to varying degrees, as well as businesses and individuals. But past the immediate focus of protection from the pandemic, a lot of us became more focused on our health.
Peloton, the smart bike company, experienced record growth as folks killed time riding bikes with people on the Internet. Or invested $2000 in a really sleek clothes-hanger… one or the other. Bikes, dumbbells, kettle balls, and all sorts of fitness equipment were sold out for much of 2020.
The message was we can do more, and we need to do more.
That messaging extends to luxury items as well. Unable to access the small luxuries of good meals out, or any sort of traditional experiences out, folks indulged in what luxury was accessible in 2020 and will continue to do so. Expensive liquors experienced a sales boom. Luxury watches boomed—the more expensive the watch, the higher the sales boom in 2020.
We can expect that to continue this year.