By Jake Bronstein
On the heels of CES, I’ve been thinking a lot about how limitless innovation is – even when it feels like we’ve advanced as far as possible, there’s always an item on the showroom floor that breaks boundaries we didn’t even know existed. It made me think: what ideas seem insane right now but will become commonplace in just a few years?
As Head of Partner Innovation at BuzzFeed I’m constantly tinkering and experimenting, helping brands combine data-driven insights with out-of-the-box thinking to stay ahead of a competitive marketplace.
With the commerce world moving at breakneck speed, it’s difficult to predict too far out. Still, as we kick off 2019, here’s where I see the commerce industry heading and some burgeoning trends I’m keeping my eye on.
1) Unspeakable is in
What started with Thinxs period panties and Lola all-natural tampons is now coming to every category. Everything you used to avoid talking about publicly is fair ground for startups to proudly break the taboo, earn eyeballs, and win fans in the process. In 2019, the unspeakable truth in your industry will become the headline startups lead campaigns with. Some of my favorites include hims, fur, and TUSHY (click at your own risk).
2) Virality is personal again
Just a couple years ago, the goal of every product launch was to score a viral video. While broad sharing is still a win, a different type of engagement has also taken root. More than 90% of BuzzFeed videos have at least one "@ mention" in the comments, with users directly engaging specific friends and acquaintances in eye-catching content. Expect to see more tools looking to capitalize on this targeted, in-platform method of sharing.
3) Experience is king
The hot new product is no longer a product at all. Instead, the big winners in 2019 will be the ones streamlining the customer journey from end-to-end, highlighting both convenience and the brand at every step of the way.
Worried about hair loss? Now Keeps unifies what can be an embarrassing and drawn out process into one easy experience. It makes the diagnosis, offers the prescription, and ultimately ships the pills under its own brand-name with a great customer experience from homepage to unboxing and keeps the refills coming. Brands that emulate this model across industries will find success in 2019.
4) Shopping as entertainment
The retail-pocolypse might be overblown, but with so much online competition centered on price and convenience, we’re seeing big opportunities for brick-and-mortar retail merging with experiential. Full disclosure: this is the insight that led to the launch of CAMP, an interactive, ever-changing, toy store at a time when conventional wisdom said Amazon had won the toy game. In 2019 we expect to see others follow suit and double-down on their investments in experiential retail.
5) Big companies moving fast
In an era where constant innovation is tabletakes, industry leaders can no longer rely on their tried and true product development process. Rather than leave disruption to the newcomers, we expect to see the established players in each category acting like startups. In 2019, moving at the speed of startups will become the expectation of forward-thinking c-suites the world over.