Personalization Trends That Should be Top of Mind in 2019

by Drew Burns

posted on 01-16-2019

You know what I love best about this time of year? It’s pouring over the top predictions for 2019… and coming up with my own. Here are the key trends in personalization and optimization of the customer experience that I see ahead for 2019.

1. Consumers will prefer to use their voice to engage, research and buy

An Adobe Analytics report from September 2018 found that after the holiday season, close to 50% of U.S. consumers will own a smart speaker. Of those that have a smart speaker, 71% report using them at least once a day, with nearly half using them to search for and research products.

Voice is clearly a rising channel for customer engagement. It seems like not long ago that smartphones were in this position. While the mobile first approach for most companies will remain firmly in place, many companies will focus on providing engaging experiences on and making it easier to research and buy via voice assistants and smart speakers. Personalization will be key to doing that.

A few things to consider from a personalization standpoint: A survey by discovered that that we’ll prefer authentic human voice over a computer-generated, synthetic voice. But as always, test to discover the preferences of your visitors, or let AI decide what voice or smart speaker experience each visitor likes best.

2. Marketers will loosen their grip and really begin personalizing with AI

A May 2018 survey by eConsultancy showed that almost three quarters of digital marketers surveyed already use or have plans to use AI to personalize offers in their online advertising. A full 81% currently use or plan to use AI for audience targeting.

This gung ho attitude about using AI has a lot to do with major improvements in algorithms, greater computing power, more available data to feed the algorithms, and a customer expectation for highly personalized experiences. It doesn’t hurt that companies that use AI to understand customer intent for personalization are predicted to see an increase in profits of 15% by 2020.

We’ll see much greater use of AI-driven personalization as marketers begin to easily derive insights about what visitor attributes machine learning models consider important when delivering a given experience or offer, or what audiences it determined were valuable and how large those audiences are.

3. Facial reactions will influence personalized experiences and recommendations

When my kids were younger, it didn’t take much to figure out when they liked or didn’t like a food—long before the words came along. The big smile for apple sauce, and the frown or scrunched up face for pureed carrots. Our facial expressions say a lot about how we feel about something. I see facial expressions being added as a new data stream that a recommendations or experience optimization algorithm will ingest when determining what product to suggest or experience to deliver.

Think about what that might look like. You go to a media website, and based on your facial reactions to the various suggested movies or articles, past viewing behavior, search terms, and other key variables, the site suggests new movie options. I actually recently wrote about this when discussing some work that Adobe Research is doing around it in the augmented reality (AR) space.

4. Dynamic websites will continue to be trendier than ever

Single page applications (SPAs), such as those developed using the Angular and React frameworks have been gaining popularity for the last two or three years. I see that trend continuing. That’s because these web pages in many cases can offer a better user experience; rather than reloading an entire page, they only modify the elements on the page that need to change as the user interacts with them. In addition, these sites are easier to build and debug, don’t require as much bandwidth, and don’t tax the browser or server as much as websites built as multi-page applications.

Just as customers expect highly personalized experiences, they also expect highly responsive websites. I think we’ll see more companies offering single page applications, dynamically populating them with personalized content based on user interactions with the page as well as data from other feeds.

I think we’ll also see companies getting savvier about recognizing the use cases where SPAs really do offer a better experience, and not just using them because they’re the cool new trend in web development. The general rule: use them for pages with highly dynamic content, not static content like blog sites. They’re also best if you have a single product or idea on which you focus.

5. Marketers will embrace personalizing AR experiences on mobile

It seems like a lifetime ago that Pokémon GO obsessed smartphone owners, but that was just a two and a half years ago. The app was the first time mainstream smartphone users really got immersed in an AR experience. Since then, several AR developer platforms have been made available, such as Apple’s ARKit, Google’s ARCore, and Facebook’s AR Studio. Coupled with that, the number of phones that can leverage the capabilities enabled by the Apple and Google AR developer platforms has been steadily growing, and is projected to reach 2.2 billion in 2019.

eMarketer predicts that in 2019, mobile will account for $93.25 billion in ad spending. Display ads and offers within AR apps could be a great way to invest those dollars. In fact, in-app purchases are already a proven model for mobile with Pokémon GO—to the tune of $2 billion to date.

The possibilities for personalizing ads, offers and experiences within AR apps are huge. One cosmetics company already offers an AR mobile app that lets users try on different makeup, showing them how they would look applying different colors of lipstick, shades of eyeshadow, and other cosmetics. As the user tries on the makeup, the app allows them to click and add the item to their shopping cart or even pop-up offers for items they’ve spent time trying out.

Hello 2019!

While 2018 was a fantastic year, particularly with the tremendous strides in AI-driven personalization, I’m excited about all the possibilities for this year. You’ve read some of my predictions. What do you see in your crystal ball for 2019?

Topics: Digital Transformation, Personalization

Products: Experience Cloud, Target