2015's Most Expectation-Raising Innovations
These 15 innovations will set the customer expectations coming YOUR way soon!
So you want to know where consumers are headed next?
Stop asking them. Start looking at game-changing innovations.
Every CEO, entrepreneur, product designer, and marketer wants to know where consumers are heading. Most also know that the typical answer to this problem – traditional market research – is broken.
Asking customers what they want is limiting at best, misleading at worst. Indeed, if it was that way back in Henry Ford's day (yep, we're talking 'faster horses') how much more so is it now?
But even in today's accelerated consumer arena, you can know what customers will start to want. Not by asking them, but by drawing key insights from the game-changing innovations they are engaging with now.
These are the innovations that will change – in ways small and big – what customers expect from other brands and businesses. Once created, those new expectations will spread through the consumer arena – all the way to your door.
If you can see those new expectations coming, you can innovate for them. And win.
If the 15 innovations below don't steal your customers...
...the expectations they're helping to create just might – unless you respond!
Of course, an innovation – a new product, service, campaign, or business model – is not a trend. It might succeed. It might fail. It's a single data point, to be considered alongside others.
We're NOT saying that the innovations featured below will definitely be the ones that are in everyone's hands, on their minds, and changing their worlds in 2016.
But the expectations these innovations are creating – the trends they are a part of – are already sweeping through the consumer arena, and will only accelerate in the coming months.
So as you read this Briefing, be relentless about one question: what new expectations do these innovations create (we'll throw our two cents in on that one ;), and what do those expectations mean for my organization?
Condom brand matches broken-hearted Twitter users.
Where next for consumer expectations around digital-fueled social connection? Now, rising numbers will expect instant, playful, context-relevant connections delivered in innovative ways.
In March 2015, Durex France unveiled #LoveBot: a Twitter bot generating automated responses to people’s tweets. Whenever a Twitter user published a tweet featuring the broken heart emoticon (</3), the bot would respond, matching the individual with another user with a broken heart. The Lovebot then sent both users a tweet suggesting they connect.
So how can your brand meet accelerating expectations around social connection in the months ahead?
Hotel Banks Antwerp
Guests have access to an in-room clothes 'minibar'
The access mindset is maturing. Customers will embrace brands and services that embed access to the new – the latest, the most exciting or useful products – into their core offering.
May 2015 saw Antwerp’s Hotel Banks unveil the Mini Fashion Bar: an initiative created in partnership with French fashion brand Pimkie. Each room was stocked with a range of apparel and accessories, chosen according to the weather and activities in the local area. Guests could use clothes from the fashion bar and purchase items upon checkout. A dedicated fashion concierge could be contacted for additional sizes or different garments. Pimkie is set to roll out the concept to hotels in European cities including Paris, London, Berlin and Milan.
How can you meet accelerating expectations of access to a constant stream of new, exciting, relevant products?
Asiri Group of Hospitals
Soap-infused bus tickets help prevent the spread of germs
Expectations that brands and other organizations will innovate to solve shared problems are being applied to even the most ordinary of services and physical objects.
In May 2015, Asiri Group of Hospitals, one of Sri Lanka’s largest healthcare providers, created the Soap Bus Ticket. Special ticket rolls were developed using soap-infused paper, allowing commuters to use their disposable bus tickets to wash their hands and protect themselves from germs.
How could you transform the social value of an everyday consumer service or object?
New storefront sells products by over 200 startups
Waaaay back in June 2013 our PRETAIL Trend Briefing explored how crowdfunding was becoming the new shopping. Well...
In July 2015, Amazon announced Amazon Launchpad: a new storefront that aggregates and sells products from startups and successful crowdfunding projects. Launchpad draws products from 25 crowdfunding platforms, venture capital firms and startup accelerators, and also provides assistance for startups to market and distribute their products via Amazon's global network of warehouses.
So, PRETAIL is the new retail (as we, ahem, predicted ;) How can you ride this trend? Crowdfund your next product? Partner with a new project? Launch a platform of your own?
Browser extension automatically bookmarks smile-inducing webpages
We continue to see the evolution of technologies that allow intuitive interactions with technology (see our NO INTERFACE Trend Briefing for more on that). Next up – tech that responds to the user's emotional state in truly helpful ways?
Live from April 2015, Smile Suggest is a Google Chrome extension that tracks facial movements using a webcam, bookmarking pages that produce smiles, and giving the viewer the option to share these via email or social media. Free to download, the extension was created by US-based digital designer Martin McAllister.
How should expectations of ever more intuitive, ever more emotionally responsive tech transform your relationship with customers?
Taxi service goes free for 24 hours in Lagos
Access to a global brain of shared ideas, information, culture – and yes, brands – means the expectations of all consumers are as high as those in London, Shanghai or Rio.
In July 2015, Uber celebrated a successful year of operations in Lagos, Nigeria, by offering free rides to all passengers for 24 hours. The offer was open to both existing and new customers, and each customer was limited to two free rides.
Are you serving your emerging market customers the same amount of sheer delight as those in your established markets?
Exclusive apparel available only to vetted shoppers via SMS
Consumers will forever seek out the scarce and the exclusive. Now, new business models enabled by digital will see this age-old search take new forms.
Launched in the US during March 2015, Stefan’s Head is an etailer and fashion brand operating via SMS only. To purchase limited-edition apparel from the brand, customers must send an SMS to a cellphone number, and then receive a reply asking for details of their social media accounts in order to be vetted by the company. Those who are deemed worthy receive an SMS with links to purchase products every few weeks, with the site automatically saving sizing and credit card information.
How can you leverage social platforms and mobile devices to create new kinds of exclusivity?
Post-purchase price guarantee
The future of artificial intelligence has generated a ton of hype in 2015. But right now, that means rising customer expectations of digital services that run in the background, making smart decisions on their behalf.
Launched in the US during May 2015, Paribus is an automated plugin which connects to users’ email, scans their online purchase receipts and files price adjustment claims on their behalf whenever it spots an opportunity. Users sign up via their mailbox – Paribus works with most email providers – and the plugin allows them to claim money back from various retailers. The plugin tracks and price matches 20 etailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Macy’s, taking a 25% commission on any savings secured.
You have a killer, intelligent, life-enhancing digital service up your sleeve for the months ahead, right? ;)
Feminist beer opens dialogue about sexist advertising
The movement for female empowerment continues to inspire new campaigns, products and services – just one aspect of rising expectations that brands and businesses should do good in the world.
In March 2015, a group of Brazil-based advertising creatives launched an amber ale called Cerveja Feminista (Feminist Beer). Created to encourage the advertising industry to discuss how women are portrayed in beer advertising and the lack of female art directors in Brazil, the label featured the symbol for gender equality. The women who devised the label also founded an activism group called 65|10 – the name was inspired by two facts: 65% of Brazilian women don’t feel like they’re represented in ads; 10% of creatives at advertising agencies in Brazil are women.
How can you prove to customers that you share their highest values?
Budget airline turns chip and candy packets into airline tickets
In a world of instant price transparency, crowdfunding perks and P2P commerce, pricing has become more fragmented, playful and innovative than ever.
In April 2015, budget airline Transavia created branded packets of chips, candy and cereal bars that double as tickets for a Transavia flight. The products were sold at participating Carrefour City shops, in Selecta vending machines at two Paris metro stations, and at an Mk2 cinema in Paris, and cost between EUR 30 and EUR 40. Customers who bought the products could use a code printed on the packet to secure a flight to Barcelona, Lisbon or Dublin.
Time to radically reframe your pricing?
Brand asks customers to print missing person posters
Rising expectations of brand engagement in social problems. Rising expectations of customer participation. Two epic trends that continue to evolve, and, in this case, combine:
In May 2015, HP partnered with Brazilian NGO Mães da Sé to leverage privately-owned printers and easily disseminate information about missing persons. The HP ePrint technology means that home and office printers can print emails that are sent directly to them. The Print for Help project makes use of this feature by having all private printers signed up to the scheme automatically print missing persons posters after someone goes missing near their location.
How can you leverage the passion and participation of your customers to do something entirely new?
Cellphone lets users enhance selfies
The endless search for status is combining with rising expectations of effortlessly brilliant results. Factor in the relentless social sharing characteristic of mobile culture, and you have fertile ground for new consumer behaviors!
Chinese mobile developer Meitu’s photo-retouching app Meitu Xiuxiu is one of the most popular in China, with over 980 million(!) downloads worldwide. In April 2015, the company launched its latest smartphone, the M4. The phone's features are focused on helping users take better selfies – including a 13-megapixel front camera and a pre-installed suite of image-enhancing apps, including features to make skin appear smoother and blemish free.
So consumers want to show off amazing results – with (close to) zero effort. Lazy? Maybe. But serve this need – in its many forms – and you'll build some powerful brand love.
Billboards display London Fashion Week catwalk trends in real-time
Real-time information is enhancing the customer experience in myriad ways. And that should be food for thought for any retailer, marketer or digital innovator.
During London Fashion Week in February 2015, UK fashion retailer Topshop partnered with Twitter to allow customers to shop fashion trends in real-time. The retailer analyzed Twitter data to find the catwalk trends being discussed on the social media platform. Using the catwalk trend's hashtag, the trends were then displayed on digital billboards in six UK cities, alongside corresponding Topshop products. Customers could also send a tweet to Topshop featuring a trend hashtag, receiving a reply including a matching curated product list.
Could an injection of real-time information render the customer experience you provide faster, more exciting... simply better?
Caesars Entertainment & WeChat
Hotel room controlled via mobile chat app
Messaging apps are already becoming ecosystems – so what's next? The messaging app as remote control for day-to-day living. Just one way in which digital technologies continue to give consumers superpowers.
During CES in January 2015, Caesars Entertainment partnered with mobile app WeChat to showcase its smart hotel rooms. At The LINQ Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, guests could use an sliding system app inside WeChat to adjust in-room lighting, thermostats, or open the curtains. The app could be downloaded by scanning a QR code placed inside the hotel room door.
So, what's your WeChat (and Line, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk, etc.) strategy?
Luxury shoemaker extends Nude Collection to suit more skin tones
To thrive in a world where high expectations are universal and consumers are creating mindsets and lifestyles of their own choosing, brands must stop thinking narrowly about who their customers are or could be.
In June 2015, Christian Louboutin extended the luxury shoemaker's range of 'nude' shoes – that is, shoes intended to match the wearer's skin color – to suit more skin tones. While the original 'nude' Louboutin was made in only in beige, the extended collection now comes in a range of five colors. Louboutin plan to add two more shades in 2016.
Yes, this is about more than shoes ;)
Want to tune into the underlying signal here? Start by asking: what is it about our product, service or brand that is holding potential customers back from engaging?