Where Consumer Brands Should Place Their Bets in 2018

In a world of ever-evolving technology and countless emerging trends, it can be difficult for companies to identify what’s a fad and what’s here to stay. The continuous pressure to pioneer these changes can be daunting, and for many, budgets leave little room for error—so knowing where to invest is crucial. In preparation for the year to come, as brands begin to kick their marketing efforts into high-gear, we asked several VSAers to share their expertise on where retailers should place their bets in 2018.

Leverage AI beyond the digital UI
Retailers should begin to create the same level of personalization in their brick and mortar locations that customers have come to expect from their digital shopping experience. Increased investment in AI technology paired with the vast amount of customer data amassed through cross-channel analytics will create an even deeper understanding of buying behavior, preferences and loyalties. This will enable conversational UIs to deliver in-store product recommendations, customer service, relevant content suggestions and even easier checkout and return policies.

– Tobi DeVito | Director of Product Management

Recognize that closed-loop measurement will be even more critical
In order for consumer brands to have a true connection between their sales and marketing efforts, they will have to propel their adtech stack investments in order to close the gap. They should focus on a  customized infrastructure that supports the learnings from all customer touch-points. For example, leveraging first party data: it offers personalized experiences at scale and is a cost efficient way to avoid vendor accessibility fees. Because digital ad spending is outpacing traditional placements, ad blocking is still common, and brand safety is still a concern. Having access to your own robust customer engine allows for more efficient media placements, resulting in turn-key insights to ultimately deliver evidence-based marketing decisions.

— Meghan Grienenberger | Associate Partner, Director of Media

Lean into augmented reality in the retail space
It’s time for retailers to consider ways AR can be leveraged to drive confidence when shopping online, connect online and offline experiences, and generally delight humans with amazing experiences. Augmented reality has been around for some time now, but more recently, Apple, Google and Amazon have opened up augmented reality frameworks to developers. Because of this, we can expect to see a major spike in exposure to AR technology among shoppers across millions of connected devices. It’s still relatively early on in how the technology can be leveraged by retailers, but according to Zion Market Research, the global AR market is expected to rise up to $133 billion by 2021.

— Dan Knott | Director of Client Engagement

Promise, then deliver
Now more than ever, customers are deciding what brands means to them—not vice versa—and therefore brands need to focus on leading with a relationship-first approach versus sell-first. Today, every dimension of a company reflects its values—from workplace culture, to the tone and voice they communicate with their audiences in—so brands can no longer rely on the same marketing tactics to effectively drive sales. Rather, they are expected to make a stand and live out their values through each facet of their brand. If they fail to truly live out those promises, their efforts will simply fail. In the coming year, this will continue to ring true, so companies need to assess and establish their values and commit to delivering on them across all touchpoints. What’s more, they need to be constantly measuring the gap between those promises and their fulfillment.

— Kara Bosnic | Director of Client Engagement