Personalization, trust and AR: Sitecore experts make their 2022 predictions

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Sitecore has released its top strategic forecasts for 2022, with personalization, trust, and Augmented Reality standing out as major expectations.

Goncalo Mateus, Regional Vice President; Jill Grozalsky Roberson, Director of DX Product Marketing & Evangelism; and Paige O’Neill, Chief Marketing Officer, share their perspectives on what to anticipate in 2022.

Personalization, Trust, and Consumer Behavior

“Personalization is key, but it’s hard to achieve at an advanced level,” says Mateus.  

According to the Regional Vice President, personalization matters much more than ever today, thanks to the pandemic and changing digital behavior. He further adds: “Three-quarters of consumers switched to a new store, product, or buying method during the pandemic. 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when this delivery doesn’t happen.”

He emphasises the need of having consumer data platforms that can collect correct information across all touch points.

For O’Neill, personalized experiences are important in keeping customers from abandoning purchases. By using browsing history and AI pattern matching, retailers can find the next best fit available product, thereby better retaining customers. It also adds a bespoke experience for the retailers, which encourages a better relationship with customers.

A change in consumer behavior has also shown an increase in privacy sensitive consumers, which marketers should be careful about, especially in regard to how their personal information is collected, stored, and acted upon. Roberson adds that today’s consumers are more involved in their data management. “This data is key to marketers but treating it with disrespect and with a lack of dignity can have adverse effects. However, transparency from a brand perspective can, in fact, strengthen the relationship with consumers.  Consumers today are more focused on selecting brands that closely align with their personal beliefs and values, creating a demand for stronger personalization.”

The Rise of Augmented Reality (AR)

Mateus quotes a recent Goldman Sachs forecast that AR and virtual reality (VR) will grow into a USD 95 billion business by 2025. He goes on to say that while the creative economy—specifically, gaming, live events, video entertainment, and retail—has a high need for this growth, it will eventually find wider uses in fields as diverse as healthcare, education, the military, and real estate. He notes: “We are expecting some companies to take advantage of some audiences that are risk takers. Sitecore has been involved in some projects where companies want to untap new markets and audience groups. AR enables that beautifully. Nevertheless, the true power lies in connecting both the offline and digital world. Depending on the audiences, offline still represents a significant role in the moment of transaction. Companies cannot just forget about that.”

O’Neill adds that AR is the next marketing frontier, as it brings physical and digital spaces closer and will grow as marketers see the versatility and convenience they offer. She also mentions that AR isn’t limited to online shopping. Shoppers visiting a physical store can use their smartphones to scan a QR code to see product details instantly, see items in stock and their exact location in-store, and even “try on” a new shade of lipstick on their phone screens. AR and VR create unique experiences and convey value to customers looking for personalized options.

Hybrid is Here to Stay

O’Neill comments that the hybrid business model is here to stay and can be evident in the coming year. She says: “In the year ahead, retailers will ramp up investments in digital technologies that promote buying online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or click-and-connect as fulfillment for omnichannel shopping. This model delivers the speed consumers want but can also be slowed down by ongoing supply chain issues. New tech adoption can’t come soon enough.”

Referring to Sitecore’s Holiday Trends 2021 Report, O’Neill adds that nearly half of 400 marketers surveyed said this holiday season was the last chance to prove the value of their physical stores – the challenge to adapt has never been more clearly defined. “Consumers expect customized, interactive shopping experiences.”

Upcoming Challenges

According to Roberson, digital fatigue is the largest challenge to be faced. Consumers today have excessive screen time, resulting in them seeking downtime from internet enabled devices. A second challenge is the change in consumer behavior to be more involved in management of their data, urging the need for marketers to have a strong foundation in customer data management. She adds that brands need to strengthen their relationships with shoppers by putting them in control of their data and allowing them to control how much is shared and how it is used. Not only does this allow for positive consumer perception but it also reduces concerns about data theft while still ensuring brands receive critical data needed for creating personalized experiences.

She also highlights the requirement for a change in tactics, allowing for more creative experiences. “Marketers also need to embrace storytelling tactics to focus on empathy and how their brand fits with consumers’ values and beliefs. Brands and marketers need to look further than just product and connect with consumers through stories and thought leadership to highlight the human aspect of their company in a creative and engaging manner.”

2022 will be a defining year for the marketing technology industry, especially due to the changes in the consumer behavior that have been enabled by the pandemic in the last two years. With developing technologies shaping the change in consumer behavior, including purchasing, or browsing patterns and trust, 2022 is year of change for marketers and consumers alike.

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