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23 MARCH 2019
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Thursday, 20 December 2018 15:36
Feeling strong? Here are the predictions for 2019

Making predictions for the coming year is always fraught with danger, but this year it is even more complicated – for myriad reasons ranging from political and economic through to technology and changing behaviours. However, there is no shortage of people prepared to take a gamble. Here is a selection of those that caught our eye:
1.    There will be a continued rise in digital-only banks: to cater to a new customer base with starkly different financial attitudes. Large banks will launch their own digital-only subsidiaries to stay competitive.

2.    AI will play a growing role in tackling payments AML and fraud, with the predictive abilities of ML helping detect hidden flaws and combating fraud quickly. These two from Amit Bhute, SVP and global head of payments at Virtusa.

3.    Tech-savvy millennials have driven – and continue to drive — a seismic shift towards an uptake in digital banking. According to the latest data available, there are 71 million millennials in the United States, with 68% using their smartphone in tandem with their wallet to handle transactions – according to 2019 Technology Predictions report from GP. Bullhound.

4.    The transition towards digital banking will continue to be facilitated by payment services like PayPal and Venmo, which have seen a combined 24% increase in transaction volume from $6.1 billion to $7.6 billion from 2017 to 2018. This should continue to grow as most millennials conduct at least some of their banking-related activities via digital channels, such as checking account balances, transferring funds, and performing account maintenance.

5.    Changing banking model: There are some areas in the banking ecosystem that remain uncapitalised by larger players, which leaves start-ups to grow at rapid rates until traditional players realise the opportunity. Brex, which recently reached unicorn status in under two years, is changing the face of credit cards by issuing them to small start-ups and charging based on company revenues or credit history.

6.    Data breaches will continue accelerate in frequency, with few solutions offered to prevent them due to the complicated nature of data storage and handling in big businesses. Lest you forget, the biggest reported breach in 2018 was from Aadhar in India, in which 1.1 billion records containing private information in India residents, including their 12-digit ID numbers was hacked. Next business was Marriott Starwood hotels, which lost 500 million records of guests including phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, reservation dates and some payment numbers and expiration dates.

7. Loyalty programmes will continue to get hyper personal, according to Ko de Ruyter and Debbie Keeling from Motivforce, but an important strategy is the use of personas. Personas are semi-fictional representations of your members based on primary research (surveys, interviews and focus groups) and behavioural program data. There are several reasons why persona development for your loyalty programs is important. Well-crafted personas depict your members in a way that no other representation of user data can. They improve program comms enabling your team to ‘connect’ with members and operate more efficiently. They ease the process of making member-related decisions. They lead to program efficiency improvement and help design better rewards and finally they assist with bringing your members in focus.

8. It will be necessary for businesses to unify the member journey and experience because Loyalty programs are increasingly becoming omni-channels as our research shows that omni-channel members are more profitable than single-channel users. Members expect a consistent experience every time. Whether members access your program on their laptop, tablet or mobile they expect a unified and consistent journey. And when your members go physical (for instance during a recognition event), this needs to align with your digital presence and successful programs will need to offer a seamless experience throughout. This means a laser focus on your members’ journey, charting all moments of truth. This takes the notion of an omni-channel program to the next level. Through a unified member journey your members will get a sense of your brand with every encounter they have with your program. Why not engage in cross-platform storytelling to drive home the core values of your program and brand?

9.  “So much of retail is a gimmick. Just ask 2018,”writes Bryan Pearson of LoyaltyOne, who adds: “Massive sums are invested in immersive experiences that quickly lose their spark and in digital features that fail to make the experience easier. So more than 5,000 stores closed in 2018. In their valid bids to wow shoppers, many retailers just added complexity. “Shoppers, however, want simplicity, and the unexpected efforts that will likely make a difference are those rooted in simply understanding the shopper’s path.”

10.  “Shelves will become storybooks, with experiential concepts and stories generated by category and brand,” predicts Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, in a wonderfully dreamy, fairy tale way.

11.    At least one top grocery company will convert its stores into click-and-collect/delivery warehouse spaces, predicts Sean Cheyney, vice president of global business development for Triad Retail Media, a retail media agency and consultancy in St. Petersburg, Florida.

12.    Pay with points: Retailers will allow their customers to pay for purchases using reward points from third-party credit cards and reward programs.  This is an important one, which accounts for the rise of companies keen to create a marketplace. Amazon.com allows payment with points through a partnership with American Express. When members save their American Express Membership Rewards card information on Amazon.com, the online retailer has access to their points balances and accepts them to pay for purchases.

13.    Sustainability will become a strong theme, with more major brands, from REI to Burberry, offering secondhand (or recycled) apparel as they pursue sustainability as well as more affordable fashion. Aldo Bensadoun, executive chairman and founder of the international shoe brand The Aldo Group Inc., expects retailers to next entrench the practices of a circular economy across operations. “The transformation of our industry presents opportunities for future leaders to reinvent how they do business to ensure the viability and, more importantly, the sustainability of retail. Tomorrow’s retailers should endeavor to operate with positive intent, while remembering that the consumer is queen and king, at the heart of everything they do.”

14.    Consumers are changing channel – and increasingly ignoring email. At the same time, they are tired of Twitter, and suspicious of data use by Facebook. So there is a growth of good old fashioned postal mail and a widening of social media channels. Michael Cohen, general manager of Zero Gravity Labs, a Toronto-based innovation and experimentation group said: “Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage Business Chat and Google Business Chat will all become the channels that help retailers engage in a meaningful dialogue while email starts to take a back seat,” he claimed. The warning is that it is more intimate and usually reserved for friends. “Businesses will need to adjust their approach and tone accordingly.”

15.    Self check-out will become the norm, together with automatic “Amazon Style” automatic payment. Canadian supermarket chain Loblaw is testing the technology at a handful of stores, and even outfitting the stores with digital scales for produce that is charged by weight. “We expect more retailers to explore solutions similar to the Amazon Go experience but require a less tech-heavy approach,” says Bryan Pearson of LoyaltyOne.

16.  Analytics technology, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) will have a firm position in 2019, but there differences in opinion about how this will shake out. Ko de Ruyter and Debbie Keeling of Motivforce think Ko de Ruyter and Debbie Keeling suggest that there is growing understanding of the loyalty marketing potential in chatbots, programs are starting to experiment with building bots on popular messaging apps, including Messenger, Viber, Kik, Telegram and others. The chatbot landscape is growing rapidly and the shift to assistive technologies (which also include in-home assistants) has a lot to do with the speed and direct correspondence customers have become used to due to social media platforms and messaging apps. In turn, customers can now contact programs directly and demand immediate responses that come with a white glove approach. Chatbots are now able to perform a concierge role, not only by answering complex questions or pointing out attractive incentives for point investment, but also by coaching and motivating members in their online learning journey.

17.     Voice can smooth the journey too, so expect more use for loyalty. It is predicted that 50% of searches will be done by voice by 2020.

 
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