tech woman hands

In the last year, we saw the rise of new customer offerings and interfaces.

These are exciting times, and it’s clear that the battle for the relationship with the customers is really on. Here are some of the biggest trends I will personally remember most of 2019:

Money 2.0: neo-banks & blockchain

The pressure on traditional banks kept growing the past year. We’ve seen the rise of the very popular Neobanks like UK’s Monzo (3 million users), Germany’s N26 (3,5 million users) and Revolut (3,7 million users). Now, hot as these may be, their numbers are obviously still nothing in compared to the big banks. Not just when it comes to the number of users, but especially not in the amount of money that users have on their Neobank accounts, which on average is less than with traditional banks. Users are still experimenting with them, while their monthly paycheck and savings accounts are still coupled to the traditional players.

There’s a full-blown battle going on to control our money and it’s clear that both traditional banks and governments will do everything in their power to keep the status quo. There are HUGE cultural differences over here and in the US when compared to China or Singapore, which have virtually become cashless societies. Yet in the US, the ‘cashierless’ Amazon Go stores have been obliged to accept cash and the city of Philadelphia, too, has banned cashless stores.

Game of Streaming

I’m very curious as to how the cutthroat competition between Netflix and Disney+ will pan out. Though Netflix has made a lot of really successful own series and films the past years, it can’t hold a candle to the strength of Disney’s Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar brands and their merchandising. The quality and convenience of Netflix are fantastic, but Disney+ owns the true power brands. It’s going to be a thrilling show-off. It was impressive to see how Disney+ reached more than 10 million subscribers in the first 48 hours after their launch. Disney will, in my opinion, become the second largest streaming player together with Netflix.

But it’s not just video streaming, music streaming too, might go through some serious shifts, with Bytedance announcing that it will enter the market, probably causing some sleepless nights at the Spotify HQ. The battle for our eyes and ears is on.

Augmented Reality (AR) is gearing up

We’ve seen time and time again in 2019 how companies dabbled in AR to augment the convenience of their customers. Youtube’s AR ads, for instance, let viewers try on virtual makeup alongside beauty vloggers. Warby Parker launched this really cool app that combines AR and face mapping so customers can try on virtual glasses. Amazon is testing out the use of 3D body scanners to allow customers to virtually try on clothes and shop for styles that are better fitted to their body. Apple announced earlier this year that it is planning AR glasses in 2020 to come alongside an updated 5G iPhone. Lego launched eight new AR-focused sets, part of Hidden Side, a new series of sets designed to skirt the line between the physical and virtual.

Augmented Reality is in its early stage, we are at the beginning of its evolution. However, once it matures, this will become a killer new interface in customer interactions. Image the possibilities of on the go personalised content, augmented promotions, how digital reviews could become part of the offline world and so on.

The West is now the copycat

We’ve known for a while now that China has overcome its copycat years and is now one of the world’s forerunners in (technological) innovation, especially in artificial intelligence. But the last year has shown us that China is no longer content to keep to its boundaries and is steadily entering the Western market as well. Out of ‘nowhere’, Meituan Dianping, for instance, topped the FastCompany’s most innovative companies list. We can learn a lot from the company’s uncompromising obsession with convenience. Western companies often still expect customers to adapt to their delivery schedule while Meituan Dianping completely adapts delivery to its B2B and B2C customers, as it should be. And then there’s the unending victory march of Bytedance’s TikTok which by now has 500 million active users worldwide, 41% of which are aged between 16 and 24 and they spend an average of 52 minutes per day on the app. That’s one big bite out of Facebook’s audience.

Professor Steven Van BelleghemAbout the author

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at or visit