Four retail and consumer shopping predictions for 2024

Uriel Tannen, co-founder of AI-powered furniture discovery platform Flitch looks ahead to the trends that the wider retail industry may see in 2024.

“A combination of more freely accessible AI-powered tools, the cost-of-living crisis and a move to more conscious consumerism means value and experience are more important than ever for today’s consumer. At Flitch, we have a bird’s eye view of the UK’s furniture industry including what consumers are searching for, their budgets and their preferences. Beyond product, here are some macro trends we expect to change shopping behaviours in 2024.”

AI-fuelled expectations will lead to more human-powered research before purchase

According to The Times, searches for “AI interior design” are increasing by almost 5000% year on year – and this will only continue to rise in 2024 as AI continues to inspire renovators. However, AI-generated imagery is both a blessing and a curse. It is great for ideation and inspiration when starting a project, but it can also fuel unrealistic expectations for consumers – whether that’s by creating beautiful bathrooms that have no regard for the conventions of plumbing, or by generating beautiful furniture that doesn’t exist! At Flitch, our stylists are experts in recognising and sourcing items from the British furniture market. In fact, they were born out of a desire to provide a human eye to the design frustrations of our technology-driven age! So, they are very adept when it comes to finding a close match for a piece of furniture that has found its way into your AI-generated inspiration.

Instant, personalised recommendations through visual selection

Personalised recommendations are not new. Whether that’s a size or style recommendation based on previous purchases or reminders of an item you might be running low on, our usage data has been harnessed to improve the shopping experience for many years. However, instant recommendations are where we need to be in 2024. And we’re not just talking about filtering results. If retailers want to increase product discovery and entertain their customers at the same time, visual quizzes that help you build a picture of their preferences are the best way forward. At Flitch, we harnessed the power of AI many years ago, training our furniture style quiz algorithm to visually deconstruct and learn the distinguishing features of items. This allows it to ascertain what furniture items reflect a user’s personal taste and then offer instant recommendations. Flitch users simply pick their favourite options from a series of furniture images so that the algorithm can start to understand their preferences and trawl through over 100+ retailers to find the perfect item to match. This is, in many ways, like a conversation starter between a brand and consumer; a way of learning more about them to serve them personalised inspiration.

 Retailers will explore new ways of reaching customers at the consideration phase

Consumers are advertised to from the second they wake to the moment they go to sleep. There are scarce channels left through which they can’t be targeted by brands. Whilst awareness is important, marketing budgets need to work hard to convert. Therefore, we expect to see more retailers engaging with customers further down the sales funnel in 2024. Meaningful interactions will be more important than ‘impressions’ – and therefore marketeers will spend time reaching the customers more likely to convert. Flitch is a great example of this as it enables retailers to connect with well-informed customers further down the furniture selection process. These customers have actively engaged with their products, providing a more cost-effective return on investment for brands to target them, compared to conventional paid marketing channels, which have seen rising costs.

 The death of the marketplace?

We anticipate more consumers will shift from marketplace shopping to “source”, where quality and customer service are guaranteed. An item of furniture can be a large investment, and nothing beats the pedigree and reassurance of buying from an established furniture retailer. Recent years have created a disillusion with once popular marketplaces thanks to more complicated delivery and return systems, less transparency around sellers, reviews that are often gamed, and a general scepticism towards the practice of drop shipping. There will always be a place for those buying second hand items online and the risk associated, but for new items, marketplaces may take a back seat in 2024.

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