This post examines the fifth (and final) article in this Trend Watch series. Hopefully you’ve appreciated the different points of view from The Economist, The McKinsey Quarterly, Advertising Age, and Business Week.
I decided to end the series by looking at a much less traditional source, Trendwatching.com: “8 Important Consumer Trends For 2008.” The article is rich with examples that you’ll want to read. Unlike the other posts where I commented on a subset of the trends, I’ll touch on all eight mentioned in this article:
#1) Status Spheres. Excerpt: “As mature consumer societies are increasingly dominated by (physical) abundance, by saturation, by experiences, by virtual worlds, by individualism, by participation, by feelings of guilt and concern about the side effects of unbridled consumption, status is to be had in many more ways than leading a lifestyle centered on hoarding as many branded, luxury goods as possible. We’ve dubbed the above phenomenon STATUS SPHERES: a variety of lifestyles, activities and persuasions, which can be mixed and matched by consumers looking for recognition from various crowds and scenes.”
My take: Whether it’s online social networks or local book groups, consumers definitely seek out “affiliation.” So there will be a growing opportunity for firms to tap into those needs. Think of the travel industry, there’s an opportunity to offer different sets of vacation packages like ultra luxury, eco-friendly, and socially-oriented. You need to figure out if your customers are more likely to sip champagne by the beach at a Four Seasons or rebuild hospitals in rural Afghanistan.
#2) Premiumization. Excerpt: “Basically, with more wealth burning holes in (saturated and experienced) consumers’ pockets than ever before, quick status fixes derived from premium products and premium experiences will continue in full force next year. What’s new then? How about 2008 being about the PREMIUMIZATION of everything and anything. In other words, no industry, no sector, no product will escape a premium version in the next 12 months.“
My take: It will be fun to see what new things come out in 2008. If product managers are listening, here are two of the premium offerings that I’d like to see: VIP entrances at crowded areas (like Disneyland, baseball games, and concerts) and reserved seats at hot movies. But I’m not sure how much I’d be willing to pay for these (pricing is a key issue to deal with). Make sure that any new offering satisfies the three questions that I learned while working at GE: Is the opportunity real? Can you win? Will it be worth it in the end? (the mantra: real-win-worth it).
#3) Snack Culture. Excerpt: “SNACK CULTURE represents the catering to consumers’ insatiable craving for instant gratification. SNACK CULTURE thus embodies the phenomenon of products, services and experiences becoming more temporary and transient; products that are being deconstructed in easier to digest, easier to afford bits, making it possible to collect even more experiences, as often as possible, in an even shorter timeframe.”
My take: Look at iTunes; you can get a song instantly — who wants to wait until they can get to a store and then buy an entire CD?!? I even find myself watching the clips from shows and movies that I like, never mind sitting through an entire movie (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the McLovin seen from Superbad). Firms should definitely think about how they can break apart their offerings into bite-sized pieces.
#4) Online Oxygen. Excerpt: “2008 should be a goldmine for smart e-tailers, who, if they get their act together, could make billions and billions of dollars, euros, pounds, yen, kroner, lira and rand that are impatiently waiting to be spent by web-savvy consumers around the world. So in the next 12 months, spend blood, sweat and tears on improving your ecommerce presence; the pay-off will be immediate, and far more substantial than investing in Web 2.0 me-toos!“
My take: More consumers are getting more comfortable doing more things online with more access to high-speed connections, on PCs as well as on more and more mobile devices. That’s a clear formula for an increasing level of demand for online everything. In the big scheme of things, the online channel is still fairly young, so there remains enormous opportunities for companies to build online experiences that satisfy consumers’ unmet needs.
#5) Eco-Iconic. Excerpt: “Over the past few years, the ECO trend has moved from ECO-UGLY (ugly, over-priced, low performance alternatives to shiny ‘traditional sphere’ products and services) to ECO-CHIC (eco-friendly stuff that actually looks as nice and cool as the less responsible version) to ECO-ICONIC in 2008: “Eco-friendly goods and services sporting bold, iconic design and markers, that help their eco-conscious owners to visibly tout their eco-credentials to peers.”
My take: Thanks in large part to Al Gore and his movie An Inconvenient Truth, Eco is cool (who would have ever thought that “Al Gore” would be mentioned in the same sentence with “cool?”). Our world is facing a crisis, so hopefully this eco-iconic trend in 2008 (which highlights the actions of a few people) sparks an “eco-uprising” in the near future where people around the world band together and force all governments to make issues like global warming a top priority.
#6) Brand Butlers. Excerpt: “Instead of stalking potential and existing customers (which is not very 2008), why not assist them in smart, relevant ways, making the most of your products and whatever it is your brand stands for? Remember, giving is the new taking 😉 Think baby food or diaper brands opening a lounge area, including diaper-changing facilities and microwaves, for parents and their offspring at a major airport or in malls. Or a bank installing secure, high-tech lockers next to the beach, so beachgoers can safely store their belongings when going for a swim or walk.”
My take: Apple’s Genius Bar is also an excellent example of this trend. These items fit into a strategy I call “service amplification,” which is one of five disruptive customer experience strategies that I’ve highlighted in previous posts. But this can be a dangerous strategy. Why? First of all, it can require a significant investment. In many cases there’s no direct revenue stream for the service, so firms need to understand how these efforts improve other parts of their business. Another possible problem is brand dilution if the offerings miss the mark.
#7) MIY | Make It Yourself. Excerpt: “With (in particular younger) consumers having come to expect to be able to create anything they want as long as it is digital, and to customize and personalize many physical goods, the next frontier will be digitally designing products from scratch, then having them turned into real physical goods as well. In fact, expect MIY | MAKE IT YOURSELF (and then SIY | SELL IT YOURSELF) ventures to become increasingly sophisticated in the next 12 months.”
My take: Consumers are getting more comfortable with configuring their products. That’s why we’re likely to see more things like Capital One’s Credit Card Lab that allows consumers to built their own credit cards. This will be particularly important for targeting younger consumers who are particularly interested in personalizing their experiences (just look at MySpace pages). Doing this well will require multi-domain design skills; so look for some mistakes in this area as companies overstep their capabilities.
#8) Crowd Mining. Excerpt: “CROWD MINING: when co-creating, co-funding, co-buying, co-designing, co-managing *anything* with ‘crowds’, the emphasis in 2008 will move from just getting the masses in, to mining those crowds for the rough and polished diamonds. How to do that? Shower them with love, respect and heaps of money, of course. ”
My take: This trend flows from a combination of two concepts: The Wisdom Of Crowds and The Tipping Point. Companies need to understand who their customers are, how those customers relate to their brand, and how customers relate to each other. This last item is a new skill for most companies. Let me throw out a company that might be a player in this area: Google. Why? Think of customers as a set of diverse, yet somewhat interconnected Web pages. Google already knows how to sort and prioritize that type of information.
Take a look at the other posts in this series: Trend Watch #1: The Economist “The World In 2008 (Business), Trend Watch #2: The McKinsey Quarterly “Eight Business Technology Trends To Watch,” Trend Watch #3: Advertising Age “Trends To Watch In 2008,” and “Trend Watch #4: Business Week “Innovation Predictions 2008”
The bottom line: A lot will change in 2008, but some things stay the same: firms need better customer insight, there are many online opportunities, and all roads lead to Google 🙂