These 16 innovations are rewiring the expectations of YOUR customers!


The innovation tsunami NEVER stops...

We’re almost into the second half of 2016 – scary, right? And the first half of the year has brought a tsunami of innovations. New products, services, apps, devices, content, pricing tactics, experiences (both physical and digital), customer service initiatives, sustainability and ethics programs, business models…

We’re all living amid wave after ever-faster wave of innovation. Feeling OVERWHELMED yet? ;)


But there is a way to turn the innovation OVERWHELM into OPPORTUNITY!

Yes, the constant innovation onslaught can feel overwhelming. But the (not so secret) secret at the heart of trend-driven innovation is that it’s possible to flip that picture on its head, and turn OVERWHELM into OPPORTUNITY!

How? By interrogating the innovations around you for the new customer expectations they create. And we’re about to do just that, with 16 of the most expectation-raising innovations from 2016 so far.

Your customers are evolving AGAIN.

If you want to know where they're heading tomorrow, start looking at the innovations being launched TODAY.

You want actionable foresight on where your customers are heading next. Regular readers will already know where we stand on how you can find it ;)

Since the year began, we’ve seen thousands of consumer-facing innovations pour in from every corner of the globe via TW:IN, our global network of switched-on spotters.

Why should you care? Because game-changing innovations create new customer expectations. And once created, new expectations spread across markets, industries and demographics. Eventually, they’ll spread all the way to your customers – and to your door!

And that’s why we’re about to dive in to 16 of the most expectation-rewiring innovations of 2016 so far. Your job is simple: for every innovation, strip out the underlying lesson for YOU about how customer’s expectations are changing. And yes, we’ll share our thoughts on that subject, too ;)

This isn't a prize-giving!

We're not saying these are THE 16 innovations that will set the consumer arena on fire in the near future. But the expectations they're helping to create WILL do much to shape consumerism in the coming months and years. So remember, keep thinking expectations!



Meet your competition in the race to exceed customer expectations.



Clock highlights gender wage gap

Consumers continue to look to brands to expose gender inequality and empower women. It’s a trend we’ve been tracking for a while ;) The innovation below combines playfulness with sharp social commentary. So what’s your brand’s play?

Studies show that women in the US who work full time earn 79% of what their male counterparts earn. In April 2016, MTV created the 79% Work Clock to highlight this gender wage gap. An online tool lets users calculate when 79% of their working day is over. Users can then set their 79% Work Clock to sound an alarm at that time, reminding them that they are no longer being paid for their work. MTV gave away hundreds of clocks to workplaces across the country.


Ping An

World's first 'face recognition loan platform'

Does engaging with your services require effort? The expectation that you use technology to make the process easier and faster is only accelerating. Especially when your customers see innovations such as this…

In April 2016, China-based insurance company Ping An announced the world’s first ‘face recognition loan’. The brand’s face recognition technology will fuel its new Biometric Authentication Platform loans service, which allows users to complete an online loan application in six minutes. Ping An say the facial recognition technology is more accurate than the human eye, and is able to adjust for the aging process. They say the platform will make them the fastest loans service in China.


Air France

Finish watching in-flight movie at home

Not every problem is earth-shattering. But what happens to the expectations of your customers when they see Air France paying attention to the smallest details, and ironing out a long-standing wrinkle in the customer experience?

Celebrating Air France’s partnership with the May 2016 Cannes Film Festival, the airline’s Cinema To Go program gave long-haul passengers the chance to watch movies that won awards at Cannes. For passengers who weren’t able to finish watching their movie during the flight, Air France supplied a code so that they could view the end at home on any connected device.


Pause & Swish

Customers sent 'discount' cash before purchase

In FIVE TRENDS FOR 2016 we wrote about PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS: innovative pricing plays that surprise consumers into a new realization of the value you’re offering. So how about this clever play on loss aversion…

In April 2016, Swedish electronics company Pause partnered with mobile payment app Swish to introduce Honest Discounts, a novel twist on traditional discounts. The brand uses Swish to transfer cash to a customer. But the offer comes with a condition: the customer only gets to keep the cash if they purchase a selected item from Pause. The customer has the option to purchase the product at full price and keep the money, or to decline and send the money back.


The Pink Bra

Bra helps underprivileged Pakistani women detect breast cancer

The expectation that brands should do some good in the world is nothing new. But by cleverly leveraging a local custom to tackle a real local issue, this innovation is helping push that expectation to new heights…

Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia: 40,000 women died from it in 2015. But there is a powerful taboo around speaking about the disease. Launched in April 2016, The Pink Bra helps underprivileged Pakistani women detect breast cancer early, by leveraging the local habit of tucking money inside a bra. The bra contains pockets lined with raised outlines that act as guides for a breast self-examination. Illustrations inside the bra give instructions, and there is a hotline to call for free medical advice. The accompanying #GiveAPinkBra campaign saw affluent women pledge to gift the bra to underprivileged women around them.



Smart mirror generates personalized skincare advice

Technology has become – for many – as ubiquitous and necessary as oxygen. So why doesn’t every object in the home, in retail spaces, and on the street reflect that?

Unveiled in Korea in February 2016, the LTE Magic Mirror can analyze skin and offer individuals customized beauty tips and product recommendations. Developed by LG U+ in partnership with furniture maker Hanssem, the smart touchscreen mirror uses high-definition cameras to analyze pores and wrinkles, and takes external factors such as weather conditions into consideration. All of the skincare tips were developed by dermatologists. The USD 880 price includes a two-year subscription to LG U+’s Home IoT service, which generates the recommendations.


Alaska Airlines

Flight delayed to allow passengers perfect view of solar eclipse

The epic quest for social status is the primary driver behind so much consumer behavior. Which means smart brands will take any opportunity to give their customers a once-in-a-lifetime moment. But how many are thoughtful and flexible enough to go as far as this?

When the sun, moon, and earth aligned in March 2016, an Alaska Airlines jet was in the perfect position for passengers to view the total solar eclipse. Planning for that moment began in March 2015 when US astronomer Joe Rao realized that a scheduled Alaska Airlines plane would be almost perfectly-placed, but a little early. Alaska’s director of onboard brand experience and the fleet director pushed back the journey time of Flight 870 by 25 minutes to give passengers the perfect view of the eclipse.


Caterpillar Cat S60

First smartphone with thermal imaging camera

The INFOLUST that so many consumers feel (see The Bigger Picture below for more) is founded in the digital superpowers that technology grants: think transparency, convenience, customization and more. So where next? Well, X-ray vision is no longer the stuff of comic book legend…

The Cat S60 is the world’s first smartphone to feature an integrated thermal camera. Announced in February 2016 (and available to purchase in Europe from June 2016), US-based Caterpillar Inc.’s phone detects heat, can measure temperatures from a distance of up to 100 feet, and can see through obscurants such as smoke. Caterpillar will also enable third-party developers to create apps that use the thermal camera.


Ben & Jerry's

Political debate in a São Paolo ice-cream store

We first spotted the trend for RECONCILIATION BRANDS – that is, brands that bring people together to heal divisions – in crisis-hit South America. But when consumers see examples such as this, they’ll wonder why the brands in their market aren’t doing more to promote social harmony.

With Brazil deep in crisis around the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, Ben & Jerry’s invited people to debate political issues in a São Paolo store in April 2016. The US-based ice cream brand brought people who love one another face-to-face to discuss contentious issues they could not agree on over an ice cream. The campaign also featured on social media using the hashtag #‎amoréprogresso — meaning ‘disagree with love’.



Social network connects coders with employers

In almost every market and across every domain of shared concern or interest, consumers now expect instant, effortless connection to relevant others. How are you helping?

Launched in Kenya during March 2016, Tunga is an online social network that connects young African programmers with tech companies looking for help with software. Created by Dutch social innovation organization, Butterfly Works Foundation, the platform allows companies to list their requirements, inviting the African coders who match their needs to follow them and begin working together.


Didi Chuxing

Customers of taxi hailing app give test drives to one another

The next evolution for P2P consumerism? Smart brands are leveraging networks of connected peers – or PEER ARMIES – to enrich the customer experience of even offer something entirely new.

In January 2016, China-based taxi hailing app Didi Chuxing (formerly Didi Kuaidi) reported 1.4 million requests across 90 days for a new service that allows users the chance to arrange a test drive of cars from a range of manufacturers, including Toyota and Mercedes. Users can send a request for a test drive, and a nearby owner of the relevant car will deliver it. Users can complete purchase of a vehicle through the app, and can then earn cash back if they lend out their new car for test drives to other Didi Chuxing users.



Cortana scans emails for intentions and sends reminders

Consumer expectations around AI are evolving fast (for more see BENEFICIAL INTELLIGENCE in our 5 TRENDS FOR 2016). And nowhere is this playing out more clearly than in the realm of digital personal assistants. Think Amazon’s Alexa, the forthcoming Google Assistant (announced at Google I/O in May), and Microsoft Cortana…

In January 2016, Windows announced a series of updates for Cortana, the personal assistant for Windows 10. Initially available within the Windows Insider Program, the new features allow Cortana to scan emails for intentions – for example ‘I’ll buy flour tonight’ or ‘I can feed your cats this weekend’ – and then automatically sends reminders when the time arrives. Cortana also learns individual work habits and helps users avoid meeting clashes and other schedule issues.



Clothes available to borrow for free on Instagram

Frictionless social connection that adds real value is a baseline expectation for millions around the world. So how can you address that expectation in playful new ways that will also generate attention?

ShareWear is a global fashion-sharing project from Visit Sweden, launched in February 2016. A collection of clothes for men and women was created by Swedish designers such as Filippa K and House of Dagmar. The clothes were then distributed to people around the world, and images of the entire collection uploaded onto Instagram. The first person to comment on each photograph is eligible to borrow the item pictured for up to a week, providing they can collect it in person. People are also invited to share items from them own wardrobes by hash tagging them with #ShareWear.


Tijolos de Mariana

Crowdfunding project to rebuild town in Brazil

Your customers are now participants, stakeholders, creators. At least, they are with other brands. So how can YOU find new ways to empower them to do, rather than just buy?

An initiative to rebuild a Brazilian town with bricks made from the mud which engulfed it was launched in April 2016. Tijolos de Mariana sought USD 400,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickante, to produce the bricks on an industrial scale – rather than by hand. The factory provides local jobs in Mariana, and the sale of the bricks also generates extra income for the town.



Grocery chain accepts tax payments in cash

Brands that truly care are great at neutralizing everyday pain points. And now that US customers can pay their taxes at a grocery store, what will your customers expect to get done when they engage with you?

Ahead of the April 2016 tax-filing deadline, the US-based Internal Revenue Service announced a new facility enabling people to pay their taxes at 7-Eleven grocery stores. The service is available at over 7,000 stores across 34 states, and allows individuals to pay taxes in cash, with payments taking up to seven days to process.



New parents can pause their frequent flyer membership

Want to prove you’re a HUMAN BRAND? Why not think again about the life stages of your customers and the opportunities they provide to prove you care?

Qantas has updated its Frequent Flyer program to allow customers to pause their membership while on parental leave. As new parents typically fly less often, their status tends to drop when on maternity or paternity leave. Effective from April 2016, the Status Hold policy allows Silver, Gold and Platinum Frequent Flyers to keep their status for up to 18 months. Members can also enjoy their regular benefits, such as lounge access and seating options, even if they aren’t earning the number of points needed to retain their status.


New customer expectations don't emerge out of the blue. It's all about evolution!

The Trend Framework

16 mega-trends that provide context and structure when tracking the evolution of consumerism.

So we’ve seen 16 of the most expectation-raising innovations from 2016.

But the new expectations that these examples are helping to create don’t emerge out of nowhere. Instead, they evolve out of past expectations around convenience, technology, brand ethics, sustainability, moving beyond the merely transactional, and more. And they’ll soon evolve again!

At TrendWatching, we view new customer expectations – and the trends they fuel – through the lens of a Bigger Picture. That is, our 16 mega-trends. These mega-trends are the big, slow-moving currents in the consumer arena and taken together they form the Trend Framework: our complete picture of consumerism today and where it’s heading.

Grab a glimpse of the Trend Framework below (clients of our Premium Service have full access).

Via the Trend Framework, we’ll keep tracking the new customer expectations we’ve seen in this Briefing – as we continue to receive relevant examples from TW:IN, our global spotting network.


Put these emerging expectations in context...

Each of our mega-trends capture the evolution of an aspect of consumerism. Via YOUNIVERSE, for example, we track the evolution of expectations around personalization. In INFOLUST, we look at the on-going consumer quest for increasingly perfect information.

When you view emerging expectations – and the trends they fuel – through the lens of a relevant mega-trend, that means you get invaluable context on where the expectations have come from. And, crucially, where they are heading next!


Time to start MEETING some expectations...


Start a new journey.

The innovations above are a snapshot of some of the key new expectations hurtling towards you NOW. So gather your team, and start asking some questions. What do these expectations mean for us? How can we adapt what we're seeing here, and launch great new products, services and campaigns that will serve these expectations? Our free CONSUMER TREND CANVAS tool can help!


Want to take it to the next level?

At our upcoming 2016 Trend Events in Singapore, Sydney, Chicago, London and Amsterdam you'll hear about THE trends that will shape consumerism in 2017 and beyond. And hear from innovators in the field already putting those trends into action!


New expectations can come from anywhere!

Today, customer expectations cross geographical borders faster than ever. So why not broaden your (G)LOCAL trend sources and subscribe to our free Asia, Africa and South & Central America Trend Briefings?



Brew some coffee and start ideating around these emerging customer expectations. Maybe we'll be featuring YOUR innovation soon!