2019 Revisited: 10 trends in media

Late in 2018, we identified 10 key trends for 2019. What have we learned in the past year, and what did we miss? Almost all predictions have happened (must be that crystal ball we bought last fall). Stay tuned for our 2020 trends coming soon!


Contextual Commerce

What we said:
Contextual Commerce will allow brands to sell in places people go to be entertained. It will be most relevant for fashion & technology, especially low-cost impulse purchases, and in particular with the inclusion of rapid delivery.

What happened:
The year saw many examples of brands selling via social media and video. For some major brands in the US, the biggest event was probably the introduction of Instagram Checkout in March. While this still has not been rolled out more broadly outside of the US, reportedly brands are doing well with the feature (and Adidas has reported a sales boost because of it).

For rapid delivery, companies like Shopify are handling fulfilment for brands that are selling via social, providing a growing alternative to Amazon.

Did we get it right?

More news of brands selling via social channels seems to land every week, including Kroger on TikTok, Facebook introducing shoppable ads, and Google making YouTube more shoppable. It’s not as easy or as prevalent as in China yet, but we’re getting there.


Experiential eCommerce

What we said:
Experiential eCommerce will allow brands to let customers try before they buy. It will be most relevant for products customers are less familiar with, and also products that can be personalised or configured. It can work well for expensive items. Influencers can become sellers, but there will be pressure on them to perform.

What happened:
This year, more brands and influencers are experimenting with selling through live streams. Kim Kardashian took part in a live stream for China’s Singles Day in November (reaching 12m viewers). While in the West, Amazon co-opted Twitch into its own Prime Day for the first time. Twitch streamers got to choose their favourite Prime Day bargains, and sell them in a 2-day event, appropriately called Twitch Sells Out. Amazon is also testing its live shopping streams at Amazon.com/live, but still appearing as a trial (for example Oprah did not appear for the 1-hour stream devoted to her Christmas picks).

Did we get it right?

We’ve also seen more shoppable augmented reality, from brands like Nike, Ikea, and Kohls, and in South Korea a new 5G service lets people use their phones to see detailed 360° versions of products being shown on shopping channels.


Games in Messaging

What we said:
The inclusion of gaming into messaging will make messaging much stronger as a channel, commanding more of people’s time. As a medium, it will be most relevant to brands with a ‘playful’ persona.

What happened:
Facebook has continued to add games to its Messenger app, making communication more fun. More importantly, messaging is now a vital part of gaming, with messaging now a part of almost every game, and new services like Discord, a messaging and Viop service specifically designed for gamers.

Did we get it right?

WeChat has opened it’s in-messenger games platform to developers globally and has 400m users, nearly 40% of the platform’s active users. We don’t see brands create their own games for these platforms yet — the focus has turned to commerce rather than gaming.


Life as a Service (LaaS)

What we said:
Brands are following the lead of companies like Netflix, Spotify, Harry’s and others in trying to encourage customers to see them as a service to subscribe to rather than a product to buy.

What happened:
To say the least, subscriptions were huge in 2019. Lots of new categories and players tried a subscription model, making commerce more of a service, including Fender guitars (pay to get regular new lessons for songs to play), A barbershop (a regular haircut and shave with drink included), and the Camp toy shop (shop out of standard times, and use the store act as a creche). Meanwhile, Apple moved more into services, with bundled access to games (Arcade) and TV (TV+), in addition to its Apple music offering.

Did we get it right?

‘By Invitation’

What we said:
Brands are encouraging their biggest fans to become even more involved by inviting them to have a deeper connection, through their own apps, or private social media communities. The creation of a self-selecting ‘by invitation’ community is most relevant to brands that are desirable, niche, cult, or used by early adopters.

What happened:
Instagram got rid of one of the main ‘by invitation’ mechanisms late in 2018 when they made it possible to share with close friends, rather than create ‘finsta’ accounts. Some are using this feature to monetise their social media followings, including Jenny Gyllander’s ThingTesting Instagram page, where she reviews new direct-to-consumer products. She charges to be part of her close friends’ network, with advance notice of new products and invites to events. There are now 600 people in her waiting list to join. We also saw other attempts to let superfans be in the know, including Samsung partnering with restaurants to create secret menus on a page that only Samsung devices could visit. New York store, Conservatory, requiring people to visit in person to get an access code so that they can shop online.

Did we get it right?

Smart Out Of Home

What we said:
The new capabilities in out of home will be a big opportunity for clients with a large portfolio of brands, but also for small, niche brands who will be able to use OOH tactically for the first time. It is also perfect for testing new marketing messages and strategies.

What happened:
We saw lots of brands using the new digital capabilities of out of home. HBO ran a very ambitious campaign for Watchmen, featuring countdown clocks, and augmented reality integration. Pokemon Go arranged to digital posters to all ‘crash’ and get taken over by Pokemon to publicise a big event in New York. Unlike in 2018, one of the Cannes Outdoor winners for 2019 included smart targeting, but we expect the capabilities to feed into the creativity next year.

Did we get it right?

Out Of Home also proved a perfect medium for very agile brands like GSK’s Piri allergy products, who were able to include triggers like pollen counts in their targeting.


Design From Data

What we said:
New products and services are being created and modified as a result of data being processed and analysed at scale. Design from Data is likely to bring the biggest benefits to established brands with a large amount of data, or access to partner data.

What happened:
Data and measurement are being used to design products and services more than ever. This year one of our trends is the rise of ‘Own Label’ — platforms like Netflix, Airbnb, and Deliveroo taking the data they have and cutting out the middle man by creating products for themselves based on what they know is likely to work.

Did we get it right?

We are also seeing the rise of new measurement companies, including Spate, which helps beauty brands make decisions by telling them what people are searching for within the category, including new colours and ingredients.


Targeting Post-GDPR

What we said:
GDPR has brought new challenges in how marketers use data to target customers with advertising and has driven new ways of thinking. Brands will need to revise their measurement and attribution modelling to understand the effect of new parameters like emotion, in comparison to audience targeting. Brands also need more agility to be able to respond quickly.

What happened:
GDPR has ushered in a new way of thinking, with some partners leaving the European market altogether and privacy concerns being top of mind in agencies and publishers

GDPR is continuing to have an impact on marketers, and its influence is spreading beyond Europe, for example, in the California Consumer Privacy Act, which comes into force on 1st January 2020. It can be argued that GDPR has had a good effect on targeting, as it has meant that advertisers have had to clean up their data and that as a result, data is of much higher quality. But targeting now has a new threat — the fact that two major browsers, Apple’s Safari, and Firefox, are more actively blocking cookies.

Did we get it right?

We see more contextual advertising as a result of GDPR, but we also see more advertising on sign-in platforms. Spotify’s new focus on podcasts means that it can advertise to signed-in users, targeting both on the user’s ID, but also the context of the podcast itself.


Expanding Connectivity

What we said:
Faster connectivity will mean even more content, even more choice, and even more competition for attention. User experience will become even more important, as people will skip more often. Brands will be able to monitor more data from more devices and include this in more of their decisions.

What happened:
5G has arrived and is already seeing take-up. In South Korea, there were 3.5m 5G accounts by the end of September, and it looks likely that there will be more than 5m by the end of the year. We are monitoring for new services coming out of the fast connectivity, and we have already seen an augmented reality app for TV shopping. In the US many sports stadiums are being connected to 5G so that fans can enjoy extra features in their seats.

Did we get it right?

We also see lots of plans to help global connectivity through satellites, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX planning more than 40,000 to boost global broadband. Connectivity has never been more important.


Digital Detox

What we said:
Global Web Index found that 19% of those surveyed in the UK and US had been on a digital detox, and 70% had tried to cut down on screen time. If screen time falls, consumers will become more selective over the services they use, the content they consume, and the brands they engage with.

What happened:
Digital Detox was the only one of the ten trends that did not happen. We have not seen a decline in usage of digital media, and it seems that the lure of content is just too great.

Did we get it right?

However, we have seen initiatives to reduce the addictive nature of social media. Most notably Instagram making the number of ‘Likes’ on a post invisible to users, to reduce the peer pressure. While there may not be a lot of detoxing, this feels like a positive step.

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