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Map out ecommerce, and polar opposites quickly start to emerge. There's influence and distraction. There's art and technology. There's the transactional and spiritual. There's plurality and homogeneity.
It’s how they meet that determines where we’re heading.
That comes through in Visions 2022, a new report on consumer and culture trends from the retail and ecommerce media network Future Commerce.
Visions 2022 brings together 15 content creators, leaders and artists for candid conversations around the future of commerce. The report grapples with the forces that are shaping digital shopping, and our lives with technology more broadly. Overarching themes emerge: When it comes to customer experience, the report posits that web commerce is poorer for having a single dominant platform in the ecosystem. When it comes to trends and internet culture, it points out how algorithms are growing more powerful, and considers what will happen when people take steps to subvert them.
The 100-page report aims to broaden how we think about commerce, creating a space for ideas where Aristotle, John Keats, Glossier Founder Emily Weiss and the Wendy’s Twitter account exist side-by-side. It also expands how to think about a trend report, offering visually captivating design and a thoughtful, original composition. Download the full report to take in the experience on its own terms. The series also includes a companion podcast and video series from the recently-held Future Commerce Visions Summit.
For a primer, here’s a look at key takeaways from each section:
The homogenization of experiences
In search of what works to drive results, ecommerce professionals seek best practices. But this has resulted in a digital landscape where ecommerce websites and platforms increasingly look the same. As a solution, Visions proposes “dork mode,” a design pattern that champions ways to allow loyal customers to engage with a brand in ways that feel like an “Easter egg.”
Keeping up with the Joneses
Fads run on familiar cycles in fashion, but they also apply to the software that businesses use to power ecommerce and the economy more broadly. Increasingly, decisions on which platforms and features to use are made with career paths and not product effectiveness in mind.
Plurality of identity
With the knowledge that our digital interactions leave a footprint, pseudonyms are increasingly being embraced by creators and commentators alike. This allows a person to have different behavior “modes,” and take on different voices in different channels.
The sacraments of commerce
Brands and religious groups are behaving in similar ways. Brand actions are becoming sacraments, while “cult brand enthusiasts” seek out the brands that deliver them in search of a higher form of consumerism that brings enlightenment. Algorithms guide the way.
The celebration of insincerity
With algorithms prizing engagement and meme culture growing, the irony of previous generations has given way to insincerity online. This has led brands to play a bigger role in public discourse through social media, but also removes nuance and action.
The profitability of distraction
The current media era brings a contest for attention that is increasingly divided between devices and channels. Tools like livestreaming and social commerce can embed ecommerce within these channels, yet it’s also worth remembering that in-store shopping and advertising are still growing ways to motivate buying.
Underlying social media is a hype culture that prizes products that many want to exist, but can’t or don't want to actually own. “When the solution is so perfect, so elegant, so impressive; but the problem is so banal, that’s romanticism,” the report says.
Our sh*tty robot future
The rise of automation in recent years has resulted in robots that don’t replace their human creators, but rather work alongside and often frustrate them. It points toward a semi-autonomous future in which interactions and tastes are shaped by machines. The report says that this will give way to a group of New Luddites, who rebel against the recommendation engines.
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A new AI Sandbox is the testing ground for generative features that could be soon rolling out to Facebook and Instagram ads.
Meta is bringing advancements in AI to its advertising tools, as the Facebook and Instagram owner seeks to improve performances for brands.
With AI advancing rapidly, the company is seeking to harness generative capabilities for social media advertising that has been an engine of ecommerce over the last decade.
Here’s a look at a series of new tools that Meta rolled out this week:
Meta rolled out a “testing playground” for new AI features. The idea is to provide space to learn what works, and create tools that are easy to use. The work is beginning with a small group of advertisers, and will roll out more widely in July. Some features may roll out more widely later this year, according to the company.
Initially, Meta is testing the following capabilities in the sandbox:
Text variation: This generates multiple versions of text, allowing advertisers to test different messages.
Background generation: This creates background images from text inputs, allowing rapid testing.
Image outcropping: Creative assets can be adjusted for different aspect ratios across Stories, Reels and other formats.
Advantage is Meta’s suite of automation and personalization tools for advertising. This week, it rolled out a series of features that are focused on expanding AI within this product set. These include:
Advantage+ audience: This product will provide a new way to reach people. Here’s how Meta describes it:
"Instead of using an advertiser’s audience targeting inputs as hard constraints, such as Men, 18-35 years, who like baseball, advertisers who use Advantage+ audience will add their audience inputs as suggestions to guide who sees an ad,” Meta writes. “This allows our ad system to find more people outside of those suggestions if we think they will be interested and likely to convert.”
Those "hard constraints" have long been key to Meta's targeting tools. The new product signals that their reach could extend. While intriguing, keep in mind that this is still in pilot mode, so it won't bring a paradigm shift just yet. The tool is currently in testing with a select group.
One-click Advantage+: Businesses will be able to switch from manual campaigns to AI-powered Advantage+ shopping campaigns with one click by clicking “duplicate” on a campaign in Ads Manager. The feature will roll out gradually within the next month.
Video creative: Advertisers will now be able to add video creative to catalog ads, which promote a variety of products. This includes the ability to upload brand creative or customer demos. Meta will then apply AI to show the “best” video to people Feed, Stories, Watch and Reels.
Performance comparisons: A new automatic report will allow a comparison between manual campaigns and Advantage+ shopping campaigns. This will enable a better understanding of how AI has a positive impact on performance.