You’re in His DMs. I’m in Her UTMs. We’re not the same.

It’s Always Groundhog Day in Hell
February 2, 2024
In eCommerce, we relive the same discourse 

Welcome to Friday, futurists!

Before we get down to business, we want to remind you that we’ll be in Palm Springs for eTail West’s 25th anniversary from February 26-29. If you’d like to join us, we’re offering you 20% off. Hit this link to attend.

FC’s own Phillip Jackson will also keynote EEE Miami with an exclusive on-stage interview with Shark Tank’s Daymond John. If you’re in South Florida, or you’re looking for an escape from the cold, check out the lineup and book your ticket right over here.

Harold Ramis’ 1993 cult classic Groundhog Day featured an at-the-height-of-his-powers Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over again.

Futurism and trends analysis can feel a lot like Groundhog Day, too; at least according to Matt Klein. “Little has changed in the past five years,” he said upon release of his annual Meta Trends Report.

This must-read analysis of the trends reporting industry (read: machine) analyzes seventy reports by their general attitudes towards the future, their thematic content, and how prominently those themes are presented when stacked against other, similar reports. 

His findings revealed what we all know instinctively: it’s easier to recycle the same metajargon over and over than it is to generate new and creative hypotheses.

“Even if we are unfairly impatient, organizations which are proclaiming to be able to identify and analyze change are, semantically, just discussing the past.” This is most evident to us when asking ChatGPT about the “future of commerce”; it regurgitates tactical SEO acronym-laden fodder:

  • eCommerce and M-commerce (mobile commerce) Growth
  • Omnichannel 
  • Personalization and AI
  • Social Commerce
  • Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
  • Voice Commerce

What in the WikiHow is this?? Like, barf. These trends are exactly the same as they have been for ten years. This merry-go-round discourse is due to the nature of search engine optimization, and the role that Google. Each of these terms sit neatly in a Venn diagram of search, creating a self-fulfilling SEO prophecy.

I have a very, very different take on the future. I asked the same of our own private GPT, Alani, which you can access as a monthly subscriber to Future Commerce Plus

But who searches for those? Originality isn’t discoverable; in fact, it’s a form of hell. Banishment and torment, forever cut off from the loving deity that is Google (God-gle?).

In a recycled trends future, it sure feels like we’re at the end of history because there never seems to be anything new to say. Social media—LinkedIn especially—is its own filterbubble version of the 1993 film; where “Top E-Commerce Voice” CIO Bill Murray reshares “Top Social Media Voice” CMO Andie MacDowell’s post about retail media networks.“Don’t drive angry,” I shout to Brian, while we all drive off a proverbial meta-discourse cliff.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and that’s why we continue to change the conversation here in these pages. We encourage you to challenge the narrative and change the conversation with us. Or as Apple said: Think Different™. (Today, Phillip? On this, the day of the Vision Pro launch?)

Or maybe film’s trailer said it best:

“What would you do if you were stuck in the same day... over and over? Anything you want and everything your heart desires.”

My heart doesn’t desire recycling the same conversations.

— Phillip

“These Trends are Trending.” Ego-nomics, consensus collapse, and post-nostalgia top the list of new and interesting insights we found in the annual report from ZINE. The 2024 update contains reference to Klein’s essay for Future Commerce, “Betty Crocker’s Egg is a Myth,” which was featured in this year’s MUSES Journal.

Image credit: Tracksmith

Negging Your Way to a PR. Tracksmith crossed the finish line once again with its newest campaign: “The PR Bonus.” Runners who demonstrably prove that they’ve set a new “personal record” in the spring season will earn a $100 credit (with no stated minimum) towards a future purchase.

Our Take: Tracksmith’s campaign is in line with other prior behavior-driven discounts and merch exclusives; in years past they’ve run “turkey trot” discounts—you qualify if you show you podium placed in your local turkey trot—or their marathon majors qualifier-exclusive merch.

However, this campaign is also when I discovered that I was a “lapsed” customer to the brand. According to the UTM Source of the campaign, as a customer, I am in the Klaviyo segment “​​Tracksmith - Global List [Lapsed Purchasers]”. Understanding how a brand sees you, and how they market to you, gives you insight into how much care and attention they put into their marketing and automation programs. 

For instance, while Tracksmith seems to maintain a segment of inactive customers, they do not actively remarket to them. I haven’t received a reactivation campaign or a winback automation in recent memory. I have noticed, however, that their newsletter email volume has dialed back; a common tactic to preserve a subscriber list’s size of an audience which opens infrequently.

I’m unsure what to make of this, but “lapsed” feels like a neg; but it’s certainly true. My last purchase with the brand was indeed over 180 days ago, so it makes sense that I should sit in a discrete segment. I am, however, a longtime membership subscriber to Hare A.C., their digital community.

In a relationship with a brand, you may be in their DMs. But I’m in their UTMs. We’re not the same.

Pictured: Amazon’s new generative AI tool allows a customer to ask it questions. 

Eenie Meenie Miney Doofus. Amazon’s new AI’s called Rufus. Yep. Despite the name paying homage to Rufus the Amazon office dog, which died in 2009, it raises other concerns. Namely, why they decided Alexa was an unfit brand for the new feature. Alexa has been available in-app from Amazon since 2017. The trend feels more like a clever reframe of existing features, but implicitly distances Amazon from the Alexa brand—which is actually a native AI product—in favor of a minor press release.

Aesthetic Solutions. “Friend of the pod” Santi Ruiz’s new piece for Regress Studies points out the desire for mimesis to drive change in the world. Using examples from social media, Ruiz makes the case that real-world problems require policy and action, rather than entertainment. Presumably, these problems could have all kinds of solutions: political, spiritual, personal, psychological, military, virtue-ethical. But what they call for instead are aesthetic solutions.”

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