From AI to VR and the purchasing patterns of Gen Z (who’ve eclipsed millennials by $3 per year), these are the top business trends to consider in 2018 as the economy embraces everything digital.
WhatsApp? Must-have business apps in 2018
Apps can speed up, sort and automate business – essential in today’s digital world where instant is the baseline expectation. WhatsApp has recently launched ‘WhatsApp Business’ created especially to keep customers connected to their favourite brands. Packing features like customised business profiles containing essential information, quick greetings, automated messages and metrics, it lets your customers stay in touch and in the loop 24/7.
Keeping track of every business expense is essential for tax. Expensify lets you automate every step of the expense reporting process from management and receipt tracking to business travel. Clocking up over 5 million users worldwide, the app lets you snap a photo of your receipt using the SmartScan feature and takes care of the rest – removing spreadsheets from the picture.
Today almost every digital platform requires a password. LastPass not only pulls up your password for every site you visit, but records the URL in its ‘vault’ too. You won’t have to crack codes ever again.
The key feature of these apps? The automation of complex and time-intensive processes.
Artificial intelligence and virtual reality
AI is completely shifting the way customers shop in 2018. Where it stands out for brands is creating a stronger tie to stores. While supermarkets and department stores have reward cards, AI prompts customers to use them – sending alerts when new stock arrives straight to their phones.
Consider a customer purchases a bottle of olive oil through an AI-powered shopping assistant app every 15 days. Through AI the app will start to alert them when it thinks you’re about to run out, or it might recommend a new brand to freshen things up. In this way, simple statistics add up to intelligently influence spending.
AI serves a dual purpose: creating a leading customer experience or efficiency across companies. It lets customers personalise their e-commerce shopping, receive automatic price drop alerts and order shopping via AI-powered assistants like Google Home.
At the moment, virtual reality (VR) headsets have captured attention with their potential for entertainment, but VR for business is the wave of the future. Imagine your customers putting on a headset, dialling up your VR site and experiencing your products. Test driving cars, trying on clothes, exploring a rental apartment – all of it can be experienced like in real life using VR. IKEA has a VR showroom where customers can rearrange furniture, change colours or swap designs to get the results they want.
As cheaper, consumer-grade VR equipment is available customers, 3D VR experiences will become as critical to brands’ success as website.
Gen Z spending patterns
Taking over the mantle of young consumers from Millennials is Generation Z – anyone born post 1998.
This sector has never known a world without digital devices and they live in the online space. An international study found that 74% of Gen Z spend their spare time online – five hours or more a day. Their approach is ‘I want it and I want it now’ and if a site or app is too difficult or isn’t fun, they’ll quickly leave.
Retail and brand agency Fitch says Gen Z expects the world to be open 24/7 – which it essentially is through ecommerce. They decide what they want through constant online scanning and are wary of who they take their cues from. They expect businesses, brands and retailers to cater to them and if they don’t feel appreciated they will shop elsewhere. The way to embrace this sector of shoppers is instant convenience, automation to create a presence 24/7 and turning a brand into a constant experience.
A few tips to sell to Gen Z from Forbes: don’t create ads – create value. Gen Z’s filter for advertising content is x10 of millennials. Tell them why they should care in eight seconds or less. Build a presence in multiple places, because their attention is split among three screens.
Gen Z have fewer concerns about privacy and are prepared to give their personal details up in exchange for a valuable deal. They don’t want to just be consumers but part of the brand. Businesses that can offer this kind of consumer-centric experience will attract Gen Z – good luck!