Opportunities aplenty in 2010 for those obsessed with satisfying consumer needs in new ways
Published in January 2010 | First of all: It’s going to be another interesting year. Has the global recession really, officially ended? And if so, will the aftermath cause pains for years to come? Whatever the outcome, we find ourselves spotting more recession-proof opportunities than ever before. Why? Consumers, recession-stricken or not, still value innovations that are pragmatic, or exciting, or those that save them money, or entertain them.... oh well, you get the picture. Time to get busy again!
As this is all about trends, and as 'trends' still mean everything from global warming to Spring 2011 skirt lengths, we need to clarify that:
Forget the recession: the societal changes that will dominate 2010 were set in motion way before we temporarily stared into the abyss. More »
Urban culture is the culture. Extreme urbanization, in 2010, 2011, 2012 and far beyond will lead to more sophisticated and demanding consumers around the world. More »
Whatever it is you're selling or launching this year, it will be reviewed 'en masse', live, 24/7. More »
Closely tied to what constitutes status (which is becoming more fragmented), luxury will be whatever consumers want it to be over the next 12 months. More »
Online lifestyles are fueling and encouraging 'real world' meet-ups like there's no tomorrow, shattering all cliches and predictions about a desk-bound, virtual, isolated future. More »
To really reach some meaningful sustainability goals this year, corporations and governments will have to forcefully make it 'easy' for consumers to be more green, by restricting the alternatives. More »
Tracking and alerting are the new search, and 2010 will see countless new INFOLUST services that will help consumers expand their web of control. More »
This year, generosity as a trend will adapt to the zeitgeist, leading to more pragmatic and collaborative donation services for consumers. More »
With hundreds of millions of consumers now nurturing some sort of online profile, 2010 is a good year to introduce some services to help them make the most of it (financially), from intention-based models to digital afterlife services. More »
2010 will be even more opinionated, risqué, outspoken, if not 'raw' than 2009; you can thank the anything-goes online world for that. Will your brand be as daring? More »
Ruthless capitalism went out of fashion way before the crisis hit
This year, prepare for ‘business as unusual’. For the first time, there’s a global understanding, if not a feeling of urgency that sustainability, in every possible meaning of the word, is the only way forward. How that should or shouldn’t impact consumer societies is of course still part of a raging debate, but at least there is a debate.
Meanwhile, in mature consumer societies, companies will have to do more than just embrace the notion of being a good corporate citizen. To truly prosper, they will have to ‘move with the culture’. This may mean displaying greater transparency and honesty, or having conversations as opposed to one-way advertising, or championing collaboration instead of an us-them mentality. Or, it could be intrinsically about generosity versus greed, or being a bit edgy and daring as opposed to safe and bland.
As always, the future is unevenly distributed: one only needs to look at the Googles and the Amazons and the Zappos and the Virgins of this world to get a feel for 'business as unusual'. So not surprisingly, the trends in this briefing all touch on doing things differently, driven by changing consumer preferences and desires. Time to study and learn from those brands that you think are already mirroring today's more diverse, chaotic, networked society, and then outdo them ;-)
A defining trend for 2010, 2011, 2012, and so on: urbanization on steroids. We'll let the numbers speak for themselves:
Where will this lead us? We’ve dubbed this extreme push towards urbanization ‘URBANY', representing a global consumer arena inhabited by billions of experienced and newly-minted urbanites. The significance?
A forever-growing number of more sophisticated, more demanding, but also more try-out-prone, super-wired urban consumers are snapping up more ‘daring’ goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.
And thanks to near-total online transparency of the latest and greatest, those consumers opting to remain in rural areas will be tempted to act (and shop) online like urban consumers, too.
This of course creates fertile grounds for B2C brands keen on pushing the innovation envelope in any possible way. As Alex Steffen, editor of WorldChanging stated:
“I’m certainly not saying that all innovation is urban, or that the suburbs are brain dead or anything. I am saying that compact, wired and wealthy urban communities seem to me to be becoming the epicenters of innovation these days, and that is going to change what innovations emerge.”
Oh, and don't even get us started on the growing consensus that cities could actually be the most sustainable form of human settlement. But we'll save that one for a future briefing.
Preparing for URBANY and more sophisticated consumers is one thing, running with this trend is another. So here's a hands-on sub-trend to get you going: URBAN PRIDE.
Basically, in thriving mega-cities, whose economic and cultural power already often surpass that of entire nations, inhabitants’ identities will be closely tied to a city's culture, its brand, its heritage, its 'being'. This means that for big brands, delivering city-specific products, services and communications that truly incorporate a city's character, will be a great, human and fun way to pay respect to urban citizens around the world.
So, this year and beyond, you basically can’t go wrong to appeal to urbanites’ pride. Some random examples:
Live reviews from aboard the maiden flight of BA’s new all-business service between London City and JFK
We recently highlighted NOWISM*, and while that mega-trend in its entirety should be on your radar for the next 12 months, let’s dive into one sub-trend that will be truly disruptive: the rise of REAL-TIME REVIEWS.
In short, with even more people sharing, in real time, everything they do**, buy, listen to, watch, attend, wear and so on, and with even more search engines and tracking services making it easy to find and group these ‘live dispatches’ by theme, topic or brand, this year will see ready-to-buy consumers tapping into a live stream of (first-hand) experiences from fellow consumers.
* Consumers’ ingrained lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences. Consumers are also feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak.
** As more people are reviewing and contributing, the sheer mass of opinions will lead to a real-time stream of information, findable and viewable to all. In addition, online access and device convergence will allow more on-the-spot reviews. Twitter is the much-deserved poster child for real-time reviews: it has established itself as the real-time snapshot of what people are thinking/feeling/experiencing and yes, reviewing, around the world.
Next: Just because they can (Twitter's Direct Messages come to mind), consumers who will need more specifics after reading a review, will want to get in direct touch with the reviewer. And because of the self-selecting nature of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, these direct conversations will actually be welcomed by the reviewer, too. By posting reviews for his peers, he or she is almost angling for a follow-up. This will lead to real conversations between like-minded customers and potential buyers, without the brand even being able to monitor what's being said about its products, let alone being able to respond.
So expect numerous services to capitalize on this burgeoning ‘global brain', and its endless real-time reviews and verdicts. Just one example:
Oh, and how to deal with REAL-TIME REVIEWS? Either outperform so reviews will be positive, or adopt a radical 'beta-mindset' (re-read our FOREVERISM briefing for more on this) which means you involve customers in your development processes from day one, eliminating the possibility of out-of-the-blue bad reviews upon launch.
Luxury. Is it a family of six? Owning a SUB instead of a SUV? Needing nothing at all? You decide.
This year, luxury, and what it means to a bewildering number of ‘consumer segments’, will remain in flux.
So how will luxury brands fare over the next 12 months? What will define luxury over the next few years? The answer is ‘luxury will be whatever you want it to be'. After all, what constitutes luxury is closely related to what constitutes scarcity. And, beyond the basic needs, scarcity is in the eye of the beholder, especially those beholders who are desperately trying to be unique. Now that there are so many more ways to be unique than just buy the biggest and the most expensive, how about luxury constituting:
Anything commissioned? Providing 'access'? Secrets? Stories? Time with one's loved ones? Time for oneself? All things local? Peace and quiet, if not escape? Eco-friendly? Human-friendly? Animal-friendly? Caring? Empathy? Perks? Craft? Friends? Having a larger-than-life perspective? Households of six or more? An audience? Eccentricity? Appointment-only? Relevant information? Extreme personalization? Not having or wanting to consume? Being opinionated? Anything premium? Fuck-you money? Curation if not the absence of any kind of choice? Philanthropy? Bespoke goods and services? Knowledge? Skills? Frugality? Health? Etiquette & manners? Or a mix of any of these?
So don't worry about missing out on the next big thing in luxury, focus on defining it. How? By finding and coining the right (status) trigger for the right audience. Just declare that the end is nigh for anything that’s getting a little too affordable, too accessible, too polluting, or just too well-known. Then introduce something very different (if not the opposite), appealing to the in-crowds who are ready to jump ship anyway ;-)
P.S. We’re not saying ‘traditional’ luxury is going to disappear. Case in point: LIMITED LOCATIONS, a (F)LUXURY sub-trend that ties in nicely with aforementioned URBAN PRIDE:
We know you all know about limited editions as an enduring luxury-strategy; it is an easy way to appeal to consumers’ need for exclusivity and scarcity, amidst a 'Sea of Sameness'. So why not introduce LIMITED LOCATIONS to extend the scarcity theme to the distribution channel?
This year, just sell something special, something premium, something desirable in just one (geographical) location. Which means forgoing a chain-wide rollout or selling to all from a borderless e-shop. The limitation this will put on distribution opportunities will be compensated for by enthusiasm, PR and premium prices.
For shoppers, it brings back the thrill of (literally) having to go places to pick up something for others or themselves. Think about it, what better cure for retail blandness than to turn a Stockholm or Istanbul flagship store into a true destination again? Or what if every one of your stores/outlets/venues had its own unique experience and assortment?
Like aforementioned URBAN PRIDE, turning locations into destinations is something that will mainly benefit bigger brands, helping them become less cookie-cutter, less bland, as niche brands almost practice LIMITED LOCATIONS by default.
Examples from brands already having fun with LIMITED LOCATIONS:
More people than ever will be living large parts of their lives online in 2010. Yet, those same people will also mingle, meet up, and congregate more often with other ‘warm bodies’ in the offline world.
In fact, social media and mobile communications are fueling a MASS MINGLING that defies virtually every cliché about diminished human interaction in our ‘online era’.
So, forget (for now) a future in which the majority of consumers lose themselves in virtual worlds. Ironically the same technology that was once seen to be—and condemned for—turning entire generations into homebound gaming zombies and avatars, is now deployed to get people out of their homes.
Basically, the more people can get their hands on the right info, at home and on the go; the more they date and network and twitter and socialize online, the more likely they are to eventually meet up with friends and followers in the real world. Why? Because people actually enjoy interacting with other warm bodies, and will do so forever. A list of MASS MINGLING facts and drivers:
Next for MASS MINGLING will be even more impromptu, temporary meet-ups of strangers, mobs and crowds with similar interests, hobbies, political preferences, causes and grievances. Many of these (temporary) meet-ups will revolve around generating public attention, or getting something done. And here too, Twitter will lead the way (tweetmobs, anyone?).
The opportunity is obvious: Anyone involved with anything that helps people get and stay in touch, that gets people from A-Z, or that accommodates those people before, during or after meeting-up with others, should not only rejoice in MASS MINGLING, but make it even easier for customers to meet up in any possible way, too.
Now, there are thousands of MASS MINGLING examples as it is, so we'll stick with just one fun one that is still in 'concept':
The numerous green opportunities we highlighted in our ECO-BOUNTY briefing are still up for grabs. From ECO-STURDY to ECO-ICONIC to ECO-TRANSIENT. So what else is building in the Green Arena? How about ECO-EASY:
While the current good intentions of corporations and consumers are helpful, serious eco-results will depend on making products and processes more sustainable without consumers even noticing it, and, if necessary, not leaving much room for consumers and companies to opt for less sustainable alternatives to begin with.
Which will often mean forceful, if not painful, government intervention, or some serious corporate guts, or brilliantly smart design and thinking, if not all of those combined.
Think anything from thoroughly green buildings, to a complete ban on plastic bags and bottles, to super-strict bluefin tuna quota — anything that by default leaves no choice, no room for complacency, and thus makes it 'easy' for consumers (and corporations) to do the right and necessary thing.
Some recent, random and hands-on ECO-EASY examples, from governments to B2C brands, to get you going (or better, to copy or build on):
Consumers weaving their web of instant checking, tracking and alerting
If INFOLUST (consumers lusting after relevant information) is the enduring mega trend, then TRACKING and ALERTING are its du jour sub-trends.
First of all, TRACKING & ALERTING is the new searching, as it saves consumers time, makes it impossible to forget or miss out, and thus ultimately gives them yet another level of control. Count on everything being tracked and alerted on (there's more than FedEx packages!): from friends (MASS MINGLING!) to enemies to fuel prices to flights to authors to pizzas to any mentions of oneself.
Oh, and ALERTING, when done well, is of course the ultimate in INFOLUST: relevant information finding consumers, based on (voluntarily revealed) preferences.
The real opportunity this year? TRACKING and ALERTING is something that consumers actually need and want, that delights them, that they crave. They are quite literally asking for relevant information, even giving you permission to provide them with more. What’s not to like? Learn from examples below, then start adding to the current information overload in meaningful ways ;-)
And yes, ‘Augmented Reality’ (A field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data, where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time. Source: Wikipedia) adds yet another layer of convenience to existing TRACKING and ALERTING services. It never ends.
GENERATION G(ENEROSITY). It was big in 2009, and it will be even bigger this year. In particular all things EMBEDDED GENEROSITY. It incorporates all giving initiatives that make giving and donating painless, if not automatic (after all, pragmatism is the new religion ;-).
On top of that, with collaboration being such an integral part of the zeitgeist, expect lots of innovative corporate giving schemes that involve customers by letting them co-donate and/or co-decide.
So check out these innovative, corporate EMBEDDED GENEROSITY examples that are worth copying or improving::
What insights can we possibly add to the avalanche of intelligence available on where social media is going? Here’s one modest attempt: the importance of owning and making the most (financially) of personal profiles.
And no, we’re not referring to companies / advertisers making money from personal profiles (jeez....), even though they’re dying to ‘mine’ personal data to serve up 'relevant' ads; we're putting our money on data and profile mining by its rightful owners, i.e. consumers. Hence the MYNING, not MINING. Opportunities:
P.S. We'll dedicate an entire Trend Briefing to PROFILE MYNING in the near future, so please stay tuned.
Let’s face it: this year will be rawer, more opinionated, more risqué, more in your face than ever before. Your audiences (who are by now thoroughly exposed to, well, anything, for which you can thank first and foremost the anything-goes online universe) can handle much more quirkiness, more daring innovations, more risqué communications and conversations, more exotic flavors and so on than traditional marketers could have ever dreamed of. In short; audiences in mature consumer societies no longer tolerate being treated like yesteryear’s uninformed, easily shocked, inexperienced, middle-of-the-road consumer.
We've dubbed this MATURIALISM (mature materialism), and, to go full circle, it is closely linked to BUSINESS AS UNUSUAL, to URBANY, to PROFILE MYNING, if not all trends in this Trend Briefing.
So, this year, the question is how far you can/should go as a brand, when mirroring societal beliefs that are about anything but being meek. And no, we’re not saying you have to be rude or nasty or inconsiderate; this is about being a tad more daring and diverse if you want to move with the culture.
While the ‘risqué’ part of MATURIALISM makes for fun material (we obviously couldn't resist), the trend will equally become about more mature, real conversations with customers, it will be about educating consumers about the products and services you sell, how to make the most of them (yes, STATUS SKILLS come to mind), or about displaying the same transparency and openness about your processes and actions as individual consumers now display about their own lives, for all to see.
Afraid to offend and even lose some customers when jumping on the MATURALISM wagon this year? Just think of those future, less-uptight generations you’ll definitely lose if you don’t ;-)
For many of you, this Trend Briefing is probably enough to keep you going for a couple of months when looking into and working with consumer trends. And yet, the above is just a snapshot of what we track. So if you need access to all the trends we’re tracking for this year and beyond, including endless trend examples from around the world, then please check out our Premium Membership service.
It includes full, 100+ slide/page 2010 and 2011 Trend Reports, as well as more than 12 months of password-protected access to our forever-growing Trend Database, which now contains 3,000+ trend examples.
You’ll find yourself in good (yet pretty competitive) company: Leading B2C brands and agencies, from Google to Virgin to Saatchi & Saatchi are already working with our Premium content. Many ambitious small firms have purchased too, as we’ve kept things pretty affordable. More info here »
For loyal readers, this is by now old news: the four ways to apply these consumer trends, and make some money from the innovations they spawn. Just ask yourself if they have the potential to (and if so, how):
It's as easy as that ;-)