January is the perfect time to turn our attention to the big trends that will impact us and our Clients in 2018.
Our team, led by Social Media Manager Christian and Senior Account Manager/Shopper Marketing Guru Harry, have taken a look.
2017 was the year of the Chat Bot in social. We saw brands taking their first steps into Artificial Intelligence with great success. No content manager wants to answer the same questions from users over and over again, so this year we’re expecting to see more complex responses programmed in. The benefit? The more chat bots are used, the more time dedicated to delivering truly engaging content. And with Facebook’s recent algorithm update pushing social engagements with friends and family above brand stories, we’ll need to really get our thinking caps on to ensure reach and engagement rates remain high.
As with Chat Bots last year, we saw the hugely successful introduction of Instagram Stories. This simple addition added on a huge 18 minutes of Instagram use per day, up to 28 minutes. Stories are here to stay, but it’s another Instagram feature we’re expecting bigger and better things from this year. Augmented reality and face filters are already extremely popular but in 2018 we believe brands are going to really own this space. On Snapchat you can pay thousands for a branded filter. Expect to see Instagram offer the same service but at a fraction of the cost this year
"Augmented reality and face filters are already extremely popular but in 2018 we believe brands are going to really own this space."
2017 proved again that in the world of retail – convenience really is king. The rise in popularity of virtual assistance and voice enabled devices such as Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home demonstrated that shoppers are still on the look-out for seamless solutions to aid them in their purchasing journeys. A point that’s very much reflected in the work we do here at Mercieca – solution led thinking to make the lives of shoppers (and our clients) less complicated! I expect to see more of this trend take shape in 2018. In a recent survey, 35% of UK online grocery shoppers said the ability to add products to their grocery order through voice command technology is appealing, and I’m curious as to how brands will be able to integrate more freely with these smart devices to help lock in loyalty with their shoppers.
That’s not to say that traditional bricks and mortar stores are old news – just look at the recent blurring of on/offline channels with Amazon’s experimentation with cashless physical stores or their recent acquisition of Whole Foods. Whilst encouraging shoppers into a retail space may be harder than ever – I think this year we’ll see even more focus from brands and retailers alike on customer experience in-store paired with an omnichannel approach online. Retail spaces will continue to become more specialist destinations, tailored to shopper’s own preferences with the help of NFC, iBeacons, VR, AI and in-app loyalty data. E-commerce stores, subscription services, apps, and mobile optimised websites will still appeal to those looking to save time and money – but integration is key. This year is an exciting time for retail, where the boundaries of customer experience (in and out of store) will continue to be connected.
"This year is an exciting time for retail, where the boundaries of customer experience (in and out of store) will continue to be connected."
Food and Drink
Whilst many of us are in the midst of a dry (or at least for some a “damp”) January, the year ahead will see a real shift towards the consumption of lower, or even zero alcohol, drinks and cocktails. This week we’ve witnessed Budweiser’s Prohibition Brew partnering with Dinerama in Shoreditch, alongside a sampling campaign with TimeOut magazine. We’ve also seen in recent months the growing success of non-alcoholic spirit brand Seedlip – who I imagine will spearhead this growing category in 2018. As millennials turn to a healthier lifestyle by drinking less, non-alcohol alternatives are big news in the drinks sector, and it’s a movement I predict will stretch far beyond the ‘New Year, New You’ resolutions we’ve all been making this month.
This healthier switch can be seen across food trends for this year too. As the modern, always-on, connected life becomes increasingly stressful, brands offering more balanced and flexible products / portion sizes will continue to flourish. Mintel highlights that consumers will change the definition of “permissible indulgence” from the rare feast to habitual better-for-you treats.’ As such, more consumers will be searching for ingredients, products, and combinations that address nutritional, physical, or emotional benefits. Expect to see more plant based / protein products, free-from, reduced sugar, and more convenient pack formats on shelves and shopping lists this year.