by Joe Pendlebury (@theuxchap)

The 2017 UX Hype Bandwagon. A One-Way Ticket to Nowhere?

Last call, for retailers boarding the “2017 UX Hype Bandwagon”. Delays, expected. Destination, unknown. Please, mind the gap. Doors closing.

Every year, usually around late-November to early-December, blog posts, survey results, and LinkedIn Group debates, begin to emerge, surrounding Tech, Web, UX and E-Commerce trend predictions, for the year ahead. To coincide with this, you’ll also see CEOs and CTOs representing some of the larger-scale retailers, publicly announcing their key areas of focus, for investment too.

ABOVE: A VR fitting room experience in the form of a digital panel at a mall in France, co-created between Carrefour and Clear Channel France (Image Attributed to Clear Channel France)

On the UX side of things, the so-called, “Industry Experts”, seem to be hedging their bets on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Chatbots, as being among the “biggest” UX trends of 2017. Surprisingly, Visual Search, Voice Search and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), weren’t as widely mentioned, as you would perhaps expect them to be.

Is this all media hype, leading to potential investment in another “fad” flop? Or, could it be an opportunity to lead a game-changing, profit-making movement, in the way we shop? We’ll soon find out, as 2017 unravels.

Don’t Hop Aboard, Just Yet

What I would urge every retailer to do (and the sole reason for writing this post) before hopping aboard the “2017 UX Hype Bandwagon”, is to seriously evaluate their online and offline (brick and mortar) offering.

ABOVE: App reviews are a great, free source of valuable customer feedback.

More specifically, identify what the current pain points are for your customers, and what they would like to see by way of improvement to, and across, these channels. These findings should act as a key contributor, in determining what to invest in, how much, and the order of priority. Hopefully, you’ll have already done this!

For example, if stock availability issues are a recurring complaint, consider the benefits of investing in a real-time, inventory management system and / or deploying RFID technology and tagging, across all products, sold across your brick-and-mortar stores. That way, you know the whereabouts of all your stock (on the shop floor and in the warehouse), and your customers will in turn, gain confidence in the accuracy of stock levels being represented online — as well as, allow you to display instore stock inventory levels, online.

Likewise, if your web analytics suggests a consistently high bounce, or exit rate, on your Product List Pages (PLPs), customers may be struggling to use / find what they want on those types of pages, so consider conducting an audit of your on-site search functionality, product taxonomy and general, Information Architecture (IA). Could it be, that your “Hamburger Menu” approach to mobile navigation design, is detrimentally impacting findability?

Ask yourself these questions. What is the business case for investing in something like VR? How does the perceived ROI, stack up against that of functionality, your customers are telling you, they want, and have been, for some time (a common frustration, often expressed through App Reviews)? Likewise, how do costs compare, for staffing resource, development, etc.? Carefully weigh up all of the options.

For many, such investment plans would have been drawn months ago — well before these 2017 predictions, were released. Even so, plans will inevitably change. Do your research, and adapt your plans according to what your customers are crying out for — not what the media suggests you should be investing in.

You know your customers better than anyone else. Just be mindful that what works for one retailer, doesn’t necessarily mean, it will work for all.


ABOVE: Chatbot functionality that helps Very customers with account-related queries, in their iPhone app.

For some, the likes of AI and VR, will prove to be a huge success — eventually.

But much like Personalisation was hyped up to be one of the biggest UX trends of 2016, it seems that only a handful of the leading retailers, have really embraced it. How do you forecast Return on Investment (ROI), on something so broad, and relatively new? In turn, how do you sell this up the chain, to the C-Level Execs? It’s not easy.

For many, it’s a waiting game. Sometimes it’s better to watch others make the first move, and learn from their mistakes — or success, as it may be.

As fun and exciting as it may be to think about these new, predicted trends for 2017, don’t get too caught up in the hype and lose sight of the bigger picture, like the continued growth in mobile (and multi-device) usage for shopping. The rewards here, are for the taking.

Originally written and published to on December 30th 2016, by Joe Pendlebury.

One Last Thing…

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