As the world of consumer products turns its attention to CES in Las Vegas this week, The Mars Agency’s Brian Hutchinson provides his take on the tech that will dominate commerce marketing in 2024.
I had a hard time deciding on my predictions for the retail technology space in 2024. Why? Because change, iteration, innovation and invention are happening at such an incredibly rapid pace, even in just the last few months, that it’s hard to get a handle on where things will go.
AI is a Sure Thing
There is no doubt that artificial intelligence, machine learning and generative AI will be a focus in 2024. This technology is fundamentally changing the retail landscape. But strategies here should be forward-focused and long-term rather than simply trying to gain first mover advantage — because it provides a perfect example of my dilemma: innovation within AI is moving so quickly right now that the ownable space you think you’re carving out will be outdated before you’re finished. Take Gemini, Google’s new generative AI model, which is taking AI beyond its current capabilities into new, uncharted territories.
My plan for 2024, then, is to take a measured approach, learn and share knowledge, and focus on the long term. AI will impact nearly every aspect of how business is done going forward — improving communication, efficiency, productivity and creativity.
While AI may be the most popular topic of discussion and discovery at the moment, there are other innovative technologies that should gain major traction in the retail and commerce marketplace this year. Looking back, 2022 was the year of Web3, NFTs and the metaverse, and AI, gen AI and retail media were all the rage in 2023. And 2024 is going to be an interesting transition year for some of these technologies.
The Metaverse Lives
Is the metaverse dead? Not at all. It’s just that the promise of the metaverse couldn’t be fully realized with the technology that was available in 2022. However, we’re about to get a better glimpse into that promise in the entertainment and gaming arena through the competitive activities of Epic Games/Fortnite and Roblox.
Both sides have made major recent announcements: Epic is partnering with LEGO to create a kid- and family-friendly part of the Fortnite universe, which should capture stronger share among younger demographics. Roblox is going in the opposite direction, trying to capture older consumers with buying power by incorporating commerce and opening its platform to both branded experiences and content outside its own universe.
Outside of gaming, I also expect to see a pretty dramatic increase in immersive content and experiences from brands, especially in the areas of XR (augmented, virtual and mixed reality) and spatial computing. This is where storytelling can happen, where brands and retailers can create engaging, immersive content in a frictionless and seamless way. At the same time, I believe that consumer acceptance and adoption of these technologies — especially WebAR — will continue to increase.
We’ll also see the merging of different technologies, such as the creation of AR-based immersive shoppable experiences — where you no longer have to do a click-to-cart, then exit the environment to complete the purchase.
Brands and retailers should be activating in this medium, but not just because it’s the bright, shiny object in the room. Instead, make sure to adopt the “N-E-I” principle: Navigate, Educate and Inspire. Any commerce- or marketing-focused experience should deliver on one or more of these pillars. Otherwise. It’s just a cute experience — and cute doesn’t get products into shopper carts.
What’s in Your Future Wallet?
Finally, there’s one technology that isn’t getting much buzz yet but, in my opinion, is a sleeper that people should be waking up to in 2024: the power of the digital wallet.
Tools like Apple Wallet and Google Wallet can deliver a marketing trifecta:
- First-party and zero-party data collection.
- A new media and communications channel.
- Very soon, an authentication tool for proof of identity and age.
So, what will 2024 bring for the world of commerce and retail? I expect it to be one of those years that brings quite a bit of change, where technology will create unintended consequences that have huge implications. Up to this point, we’ve seen a variety of innovations developing on their own; in 2024, we’re going to see these technologies begin to intersect with one another — and that’s when things will really get exciting.
About the Author
Brian Hutchinson is VP-Production Services at The Mars Agency, where he leads all efforts in production, execution and innovation at retail. He has more than 20 years of experience leveraging the latest technology to bring in-store campaigns to life for some of the world’s largest brands and retailers.