2020 has passed us by, and the time has come for all businesses to look ahead. No one wants to slip behind the curve in a time of rapid technological progression — take your eye off the ball for just a few months, and your rivals can leap ahead of you. By turning your thoughts to the rest of 2020 while it’s still fresh, you can lay the groundwork for the months ahead.
There are plenty of things to look out for. AI is steadily becoming a favorite, continuing its growth across industries, and then there’s the ever-changing social media landscape — within a decade, it’s gone from a novelty to a staple, and from that to a profit-driver that you can’t afford to ignore. Will Instagram continue its influencer dominance? Will another platform capture the zeitgeist as we march towards 2021?
If you’re looking for general impact, though, look no further than the rise of the omnichannel approach. This year, businesses throughout the world will be searching for ways to step closer to the ideal of omnichannel marketing, sales, and support. Let’s run through the trends to follow:
Hybrid retail that’s flexible and experiential
The end goal of the omnichannel strategy is to reach people wherever useful. If someone is interested in what you’re selling, or eager to get some support, then you should be there in some sense to take advantage of the opportunity to impress. And while there are numerous viable avenues online, you shouldn’t disregard the enduring significance of offline retail.
What we’re seeing now is the revision of old tactics to suit the modern-day. People still like to shop in actual physical stores, but they expect online-style convenience. This is what’s known as hybrid retail: taking the ingredients of classic retail and getting them to sync with online systems. (For instance, you can get a cash register that automatically updates the back-end of your online store, or integrate smartphones into your customer experience.)
When I talk of flexibility here, I’m alluding to pop-up shops and other ad-hoc uses of such POS systems. If you want to reach people wherever there’s an opportunity, having the option of grabbing a tablet and taking to the streets (perhaps during a public event, or even a holiday) really frees you up to expand your brand. If you’ve never taken the in-person route, it’s absolutely worth trying — the feedback alone will be hugely valuable.
Increased cross-system connectivity
With each passing year, the number of options in the software world (more pointedly the SaaS world) grows more intimidating. There are so many systems out there, and the standard is so high that you could plausibly choose any one of the top 50 email marketing systems (for example) and get very similar results. This adds complexity to the prospect of using an omnichannel strategy: there are so many possible combinations that must work together.
This is why third-party integration systems are getting so much attention. Expecting your newest tool to integrate with hundreds or even thousands of other systems is unrealistic — the APIs may be out there, but it would still take a long time to figure out the details. But if each of your systems integrates with an intermediary, you can get everything working together smoothly.
As these systems get better, and software developers become more willing to provide time-saving APIs, businesses that want to go omnichannel will have more options. If you’re not already using some kind of integration system to improve your cross-system connectivity, now is a good time to investigate the possibilities.
Seamless cloud-enabled personalization
Personalization went through a rocky patch with the casual [Fname]-style tactic becoming frustratingly common in email marketing, but that was an issue with execution, not a concept. Complaints only flow when personalization is done poorly: when it’s handled well it isn’t generally noticed on a conscious level, but it has very positive effects on the whole.
With systems communicating so effectively, and cloud storage ensuring that data can be retrieved extremely rapidly, personalization can be achieved on a new level. It can spread far beyond simple copy, affecting page layouts, theme preferences, pricing (useful for B2B clients), and — most importantly — product and service recommendations.
Now envision a rich Amazon-style recommendation service being extended across all accessible channels: a shopper could see a personalized product lineup in a tweet, for example, or in Google Shopping. This will depend on the channels supporting such things, but I expect it to happen at some point (particularly if it’s made a chargeable extra).
What’s more certain is that chatbots will see much broader use throughout 2020, because they can already offer complex personalization that extends outside stores (whether virtual or physical). A company’s chatbots across various platforms can share a database — data is incredibly valuable, and when one chatbot learns something, they all learn it.
Wrapping up, I expect each of these trends to play a significant part in the growth of omnichannel activity in 2020. It might not be a realistic goal yet, but it’s a good aspiration to nurture, and we’re certainly getting closer.
Bonus — useful tools for everyday usage:
Integromat — is a powerful automation tool that connects your apps and services to work smarter, not harder.
Funnelytics — an incredible tool that helps you build the best marketing funnel mapping.
Notion — is a note-taking and collaboration application with markdown support that also integrates tasks, wikis, and databases.
Emailoctopus — an email marketing service for users of the cloud-based email-sending service Amazon SES. Its features include app integrations, blog automation, responsive templates, real-time analytics, and more.
Serpstat — is an all-in-one SEO platform for SEO, PPC & content marketing.
Manychat — visual bot builder for Facebook Messenger with broadcasts, analytics, scheduled posting and many other features!
Crello — the simplest online image editor. A simple but powerful tool to create awesome designs for any social media format — posts, covers, graphics, and posters using the best software on the web. It’s easy! A lot of animated designs.
Webflow — all-in-one web design tool that allows users to design, build, and launch responsive websites visually.