First published in December 2003 | What concert to see tonight? Whom to casually meet
or date within the next hour? Which Southern European
city to fly to for the weekend? Consumers soaking up the
entertainment economy are increasingly taking advantage
of a burgeoning physical and virtual web of no-frills
airlines, always-on phones and PDAs, affordable hotels,
last-minute/find-and-seek websites, and so on.
TRENDWATCHING.COM has dubbed this trend of acting on a whim PLANNED SPONTANEITY: making spontaneous decisions to go somewhere or do something is becoming the norm; often the only thing consumers are willing to plan is to be... spontaneous!
And whereas these individual acts and purchases are fast becoming commonplace, focusing on the interconnectedness of a much larger web of instant gratification options and services will reveal some interesting insights into future consumer behavior. Sound slightly vague-ish? Then consider these random yet telling numbers:
Local PLANNED SPONTANEITY
Each month, over 45 million Americans log on to dating websites (comScore Media Matrix). For example, Match.com, the subscription-based online dating site, claims more than 857,000 paying subscribers and 18+ million members. Competitor Lavalife.com boasts 4.5 million members, who exchange over 1 million messages a day. Many of these virtual dates are about instant 'physical' gratification: on any particular night, thousands of Lavalife members are logged onto the section. (source: Columbia News Service).
In Europe, chat and SMS dating are becoming the preferred way for teenagers (and increasingly, 20 and 30-somethings as well) to meet other love-seeking individuals: from sites like and www.tmf.nl (the popular Dutch equivalent of MTV) to , there's no stopping the already massive USD 16.3 billion Western European SMS market from becoming the glue that holds together an insatiable need for mobile grouping and disbanding, be it for 24/7 romantic encounters, spontaneous dinners and parties, or the gathering of instant mobs that create or crash impromptu parties.
International PLANNED SPONTANEITY
• Low fare airlines are now popping up faster than you can say 'obsolete national carriers'. From EUR 12 roundtrip flights on easyJet and Ryan Air, booked online in two minutes, to the still evolving easyAsia trend. Soon, even the decidedly 'full fare' Gulf region will fly the cheaper skies: Air Arabia, a new airline whose maiden flight took off on 28 October, will be the first Arab airline to focus on online booking and value for money. Based at Sharjah International Airport in the United Arab Emirates, the airline will connect cities such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Beirut and Damascus.
Low fare airlines facilitating the movement of bodies could well be the biggest drive behind globalization after the invention of the Web took care of the movement of bits. Booking on a whim has never been this good. (Sales statistics from Site59, an industry leader in last minute technology and content, show that 58.3% of consumers book within three days of traveling. 4.8% of consumers book and travel on the same day, 21.2% of people book one day in advance, 18.1% book 2 days in advance, and 14.2% book 3 days in advance of traveling.)
• And consider the next leg of spontaneously planned trips: where to stay when you actually GET to your destination. In comes easyJet's plan for easyDorm, a chain of low-cost hotels. This is, of course, the perfect addition to easyJet's fleet of PLANNED SPONTANEITY planes, rental cars, and internet cafes. Starting in London next year (New York and Paris could be next, source: USA Today), easyDorm will concentrate on providing accommodation, and will not offer restaurants or other services. Rooms will consist of pre-fabricated fibreglass units (nothing to break, no dirt accumulation), and come with a shower unit, a lavatory and floor mattresses inspired by Japanese tatami style bedding. Yet another node in a world catering to the 'right here, right now'.
The above is just the tip of the iceberg. A massive, 24/7 iceberg that allows consumers and businesses to constantly hook up, meet and have fun, on a local and a global level.
And new trends within this emerging trend are already popping up: for example, the low fare product is rapidly evolving from McDonald's style service to an IKEA-infused look, feel and comfort level. Witness the success of a new breed of 'classy' low fare airlines like JetBlue and Delta-owned Song in the US (the latter even opening up a stylish six-week store in SoHo, New York), which in some ways are already making RyanAir and easyJet's bare bones approach look old-fashioned.
Is there more to PLANNED SPONTANEITY than low fare airlines and SMS-obsessed teenagers? Yes. Will TRENDWATCHING.COM be expanding its coverage of this instant gratification and entertainment-driven trend in upcoming issues? You bet. From changing some of the last-minute pricing models, which actually depend on incentivizing early booking or purchasing, to the inability of most reservation engines to handle true last-minute or even last-second transactions.
For now, may we recommend that you assess the goods and services you currently offer and map them against PLANNED SPONTANEITY. If they are difficult to tailor to last-minute needs, or difficult to locate whenever/wherever a last-minute consumer might want them, plan for some spontaneous strategy development ;-) But first study corresponding trends like MASS CLASS, HOME-TROTTING and ONLINE OXYGEN to see how big the picture can get. To be continued.
MARCH 2004 | Two months ago, we explained how online dating, urban positioning and international low cost travel were all part of a burgeoning virtual and physical network enabling people to be spontaneous in an almost planned manner. Here are four more new ideas that build on the PLANNED SPONTANEITY trend:
Emeryville-based WaveMarket, a specialist in combining blogging, time-location context, communications and community, has introduced the following new services that will spur the reach and depth of PLANNED SPONTANEITY:
'WaveSpotter' turns cell phones into location-enabled broadcasting and viewing devices. Users can zoom around the map-based interface and interact with location-based content, like other blog posts, or even yellow page listings relevant to their location. Use it to immortalize when and where you proposed to your spouse, where you sighted a celebrity, or just where to get the best donut in town.
The 'WaveBlog' service is a company-hosted super blog serving as a multiple channel informational clearinghouse. So, if you want to know where the hippest place in town is tonight, just check out the entertainment channel. Or, for how to get there, there’s a traffic channel. The number of posts, pages, and channels hosted by WaveMarket is unlimited, but it’s all organized by place and time so you can get to where you want in just seconds.
Last but not least, 'WaveAlert' is a wireless operator infrastructure that enables wireless operators to notify their customers when they are near something important to them, from a speed trap to a good friend who happens to be in their area.
Sounds ambitious? It doesn't hurt that WaveMarket is backed by Nokia Venture Partners, Intel Capital, and Telecom Italia. And they also did quite well by closing a recent deal with SK Telecom, Korea’s leading mobile operator, which purchased WaveAlert software to power the first-ever location-based alert wireless service. The Asian carrier will deliver the first products to the Korean market in the next calendar quarter. Which European carriers to follow?
Across the pond, in Copenhagen, location/community start-up Hvem er ibyen (Danish for 'who's in town') has developed a positioning service that should gel with the SMS generation worldwide.
When entering a participating bar, club, coffee shop, lounge or restaurant, Hvem members scan their free ID-card at a terminal, which then automatically notifies a pre-selected group of friends about their whereabouts by sending them a SMS/text message with the card holder's name, the time and the venue he or she just entered. The same information can also be tracked on a dedicated website, only accessible to the same group of friends. In Hvem's own words: "They know where you are, and you know where they are – and then it's easy for you to go party together!"
Accommodation costs often ruin the PLANNED SPONTANEITY fun that comes with scoring a 9 euro flight on ryanair.com, especially if you want to stay at a happening boutique hotel, mingling with trendy locals and fellow jet-setters. But a new breed of affordable-yet-chic-and-well-designed hotels may be emerging: TRENDWATCHING.COM spotted new Hamburg-based 25-hours Hotel, where very stylish rooms start at EUR 90 per night.
In their own words, "25-hours Hamburg was designed with a consistent orientation towards current design trends, as well as providing moderate accommodation prices for a group of hotel guests that maintain a spontaneous lifestyle."
The hotel's open spaces, aptly named the Lobby, the Day & Night Bar, the Common Living Room and the Roof Terrace, have been modelled to form the backdrop for a permanent get together. PLANNED SPONTANEITY Hamburg-style has never been more stylish and affordable!
As predicted by TRENDWATCHING.COM (and by others, of course ;-), new players in the low-cost airlines/buses/cruise ships/accommodation revolution -- which is still very regionally inclined -- are now eyeing the long-haul market. Claiming 'first to market' status in this new arena is US-based RivieraJet Airways. Still in its final planning stages, RivieraJet will operate on transatlantic routes (like Florida to Nice or Rome), modelling itself after no-frills yet comfortable US domestic carrier JetBlue.
The airline plans to grow its network by developing three strategic gateways on the US East Coast, with one located in the Northeast, one in the mid-Atlantic region and one in southern Florida. It will offer flights to "major destinations" in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Benelux. Godfather of low-cost, long haul flights Freddy Laker (yes, someone did try to do this more than 20 years ago, but got sabotaged by the big boys, in what was then a virtually monopolized market!) is also on board, as an Executive Advisor. We won't know whether RivieraJet will 'fly' until this summer, but somehow we suspect 2004 and 2005 will see quite a few long-haul PLANNED SPONTANEITY initiatives.
The global network enabling PLANNED SPONTANEITY -- from online dating sites and positioning services to low cost airlines -- is still expanding rapidly (almost daily, we hear of yet another low-cost airline revving up its engines in markets previously controlled by backward state regulation). So keep a close eye on related changes in consumer behavior and do some spontaneous strategic planning yourself: customers expecting instant gratification 24/7 may soon become the norm!
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