This is the second in a series on the consumer trends to look out for in 2023. Today’s column focuses on creating luxury experiences and navigating the tension between online and in-person shopping with the aid of artificial intelligence.
The growth of hybrid shopping
An obvious downside of online shopping is the lack of tactile experience. Touching and trying items before buying does wonders for increasing consumer confidence, which is especially important for clothing and large purchases like furniture. As it stands, online shopping asks us to rely on product descriptions, still images, videos and reviews, all of which can be inaccurate or misleading.
I believe this will be the year that consumers will be given a number of solutions to help them overcome such issues.
One of those solutions is a hybrid of e-commerce and “just enough” brick-and-mortar locations to let consumers touch and experience products in person. Sound familiar? To the design industry it will: Showroom models will become ubiquitous across industries.
This won’t take much adjustment. It’s a natural segue for online shoppers, who value the convenience of online shopping but still want an immersive, real-world experience every now and then. The general public will become more familiar with hybrid shopping model, which I think is good for design clients. There will be more trust in designers’ processes and how they use brand showrooms because clients will be more familiar with the showroom concept.
Ultra-luxury, special occasion boutiques
Another trend to watch for in 2023: More brands will make an effort to be everywhere — through paid and targeted online advertising so potential customers are repeatedly exposed to their products, by asking consumers to download their apps so brands remain literally in their pockets and in touch with consumers in a gamified way, by sending very important customers exclusive invites to their showrooms and boutiques, and more.
Chanel and other luxury brands have already developed invite-only boutiques for events promoting the launches of special products. They are smaller spaces, yet metaphorically bigger, showcasing only the best, top-of-the-line products. Expect an increase in exclusive events and experiences in tiny showrooms for brands’ best customers.
Although ubiquitous in the backends of many online services consumers use every day, AI still needs to overcome the hurdle of being trusted by the general public. But the emergence of multimodal AI systems and the number of companies dedicated to tailoring systems for specific industries is promising.
Multimodal AI refers to the use of multiple types of data inputs (text, images, audio, video, etc.) that can be used in machine learning models to understand and respond to different types of information.
For example, the way consumers can search for a “blue sofa” will be taken a step further: They’ll be able to search for items of similar “feel” that go beyond the descriptor of the cushion fill or fabric name. Think of this type of communication as something in between a Google search and talking to a sales representative. With time, those interactions will more closely resemble the latter.
This has great implications for customer service. The idea is to replace the frustration often felt when interacting with a chatbot (“Please get me a human!”). A multimodal AI chat bot will know more than a human and will feel like talking to one, too.
Courtney Porter is a designer, author, host and media director. She specializes in seamlessly bringing interior designers, architects, furniture manufacturers and showrooms’ physical products and services into the digital world. She is co-author of “Green Interior Design: The Guide to Sustainable High Style” with Lori Dennis. Porter also is a host and producer of design shows. You may have caught her on “Behind the Bar,” interviewing your favorite celebrity designers or sharing her favorite decor finds on the live sales network Lit Live.