5 Ways Tech Will Change Commerce In 2020

This article first appeared in Forbes.

For the first time in 2019, more than half of the population was connected to the internet, according to data from Euromonitor International. This connectivity will continue to expand in 2020 as more emerging market consumers come online for the first time thanks to affordable internet access available through mobile phones. Mobile internet access has been one of the greatest innovations, putting the world at consumers’ fingertips. Of course, the internet is but one type of technology.

Technology drives constant innovation, inspiring several trends that continue to reshape the world. These technologies are also converging to fundamentally change the way companies and consumers interact during commerce interactions. Below is a look at the five digital trends that Euromonitor International expects will redefine commerce the most in 2020.

Privacy Pushback Spreads

Some consumers expect brands to tailor products and services to them, yet consumers must surrender more of their personal information so companies can optimize such an experience. This commercial trade-off has become top of mind for consumers off the back of privacy regulations that have gone into effect in developed markets around the world. These pro-privacy regulations are giving consumers the power to push back on data-hungry companies.

Some corporations have taken note of these shifts in consumer perceptions. At the risk of alienating their existing user base or in an effort to attract privacy-conscious consumers, some companies are aligning their brand positioning with such pro-privacy messaging. Others are launching more privacy-oriented products or services, which either enable consumers to evade tracking or provide a viable option to a mainstream product that may impede on privacy.

5G Steps Into The Spotlight

It’s been nearly a decade in the making, but 2020 promises to be the year that 5G becomes a reality. Mobile operators in many developed markets began rolling out 5G to select cities in recent years, with much more comprehensive rollouts expected in 2020. In fact, all of the world’s leading economies, including China, South Korea, Japan, the US and several European countries, are moving forward with 5G deployment.

The arrival of 5G will fundamentally change mobile computing. It will open the floodgates in terms of download speeds that are approximately 10 times faster than what consumers have through 4G LTE connections. Movies will download in seconds and songs instantaneously. The greater bandwidth and faster download speeds that 5G promises is necessary to support development in areas like the Internet of Things, AR/VR and autonomous cars. About 40% of industry professionals surveyed by Euromonitor International in November 2019 expect 5G to lead to more efficient and personalized m-commerce experiences and better access in densely populated areas like sporting events, which they view as the most likely use cases for 5G in 2020.

Passive Commerce Gets Boost

As society approaches the Internet of Things era, the relationship between consumers and companies will evolve, leading to an eventual rise in automated household tasks and even machine-aided commerce. While still largely conjecture, industry observers will likely point to 2020 as the turning point. This year, major manufacturers like Samsung and Whirlpool will begin selling connected appliances across all price points, which Euromonitor expects will ultimately drive automated purchases. Long replacement cycles aside, the industry will start to clear the first hurdle that has held back passive commerce – getting these devices into consumer homes.

Automated purchases are positive for companies since subscriptions generate reoccurring revenue streams. This is only true, though, for the brand and retailer of record. For those on the outside looking in at a consumer’s subscription with another brand, there will be fewer opportunities to influence a purchase decision and engender a lifetime of loyalty. The forthcoming era will change the way consumers browse in some categories and even go so far as to lead some shoppers to bypass all the steps in the traditional marketing funnel.

Last Mile Arms Race Intensifies

Delivery and logistics have become competitive fronts for retailers, foodservice operators and third-party platforms, among other companies. Increasingly, consumers have a broad set of ways they can obtain goods or have goods brought to them. With a few clicks, customers can have nearly everything, from sushi to lipstick to running shoes, delivered to their doorstep, sometimes in under an hour.

Flashy, experimental delivery technology, such as drones and granting access to delivery personnel to enter the home while the consumer is away, has captured most of the headlines. In 2020, however, comparatively low-tech solutions, such as lockers, click and collect and hyperlocal delivery services, will see the most growth. Last-mile delivery has become a new competitive front for retail and foodservice players as companies look for new ways to get goods to consumers as quickly, conveniently and cheaply as possible.

Staying True To Oneself

With less time to spend consuming traditional media types, brands are turning to digital marketing to reach consumers. Online has become the default billboard of today. Brands have new tools for reaching consumers particularly via social media, but these tools have potential risks as well. Examples of such pitfalls range from partnerships that do not align with brand values to overstepping consumers’ privacy expectations, with the threat for any misstep to go viral.

Digital channels, particularly social media, give marketers unprecedented access to consumers, but many brands struggle to establish trust with consumers and remain true to their values. Since an increasing amount of online content is sponsored or otherwise artificial, consumers may question the authenticity of messaging in the digital channel. In 2020, brands will face renewed pressure to stay true to their identity when deploying digital marketing by opting for transparency with consumers. Doing so will build the trust that is so fundamental to the consumer decision-making process.

A Look Ahead To 2020

Digital connectivity will continue to change how consumers live, work, play and shop. In some ways, 2020 will be a key year as parts of the digital economy begin to mature. The arrival of emerging technologies like 5G mobile network connectivity will give way to more advanced use cases. These advancements will continue to up consumer expectations. Consumers will remain king, demanding companies to be forthright about how data is collected and how companies represent information online. In an era of endless choice, the ability to deliver a more meaningful consumer experience will be the key differentiator for companies looking to compete in the digital era.

To learn more, please watch the webinar “Top 5 Digital Consumer Trends in 2020“.