Consumer Trends to Watch in 2011, Part 2

Stephen DeAngelis

December 30, 2010

In yesterday’s post, I began discussing a list of “11 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2011” offered up by www.trendwatching.com, “one of the world’s leading trend firms, trendwatching.com sends out its free, monthly Trend Briefings to more than 160,000 subscribers worldwide.” In that post, I discussed first six trends: Random Acts of Kindness; Urbanomics; Pricing Pandemonium; Made for China (If not BRIC); Online Status Symbols; and, Wellthy. In this post, I discuss the final five trends.

“7. Social-Lites and Twinsumers — In 2011, word of mouth and recommendations will be even more dependent on P2P dynamics. If TWINSUMERS (consumers with similar consumer patterns, likes and dislikes, and who are hence valuable sources for recommendations on what to buy and experience) are all about improving ‘search curation’, SOCIAL-LITES are all about discovery, as consumers become curators; actively broadcasting, remixing, compiling, commenting, sharing and recommending content, products, purchases, experiences to both their friends and wider audiences. … Why would consumers want to become curators? Because many of them are investing time and effort in building BRAND ME, via online profiles that record their opinions and recommendations. And as audiences in knowledge economies value interesting, relevant and useful tidbits, they bestow status on those curators or SOCIAL-LITES who share. Furthermore, it’s never been easier to be a SOCIAL-LITE. Rather than having to call, text or even email people personally, social networks’ streams allow users to easily broadcast information to a wide range of people without interrupting or intruding. So, consumers will talk more about brands in 2011 than ever before, and opportunities for brands that create engaging content that consumers want to share, or that have personalities that actually engage consumers will also be bigger than ever. Making it easy for SOCIAL-LITES to retweet or ‘like’ this content is of course requirement number one. Examples:

“• The STRP Art and Technology Festival which ran from 18 – 28 November 2010 in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, employed the use of RFID in museums and galleries that allow guests to rate art via RFID wristbands. Visitors used RFID wristbands and ‘dashes’ (which represent how much they liked something) to tag art, with the results collated to create a visible ‘tag cloud,’ showing the most popular exhibits, and where they were located.

“• Gogobot is an online travel community with a social lens. Users ask questions about destinations (think ‘Where’s a fun restaurant in Paris?’), not just to the Gogobot community but also to their Facebook and Twitter networks. Gogobot collates the answers, and includes pictures and links to all of the places mentioned.

“• Levi’s has integrated its online store with Facebook, allowing shoppers to socially interact with friends and create a ‘like minded shopping’ experience. From the Levi’s store, users are able to share products with friends through the Friend Store, ‘Like’ them or search for ‘Top Liked’ products within Facebook.

“• Amazon now enables users to integrate their Facebook and Amazon accounts. The feature allows Amazon to connect through to a user’s social network, then base recommendations (think books, DVDs and musicians) upon the information found in his/her Facebook profile.

“• US based Mombo analyzes Twitter feeds from users all over the world and assigns ratings on movies based on the collective opinion of Twitter users, with each tweet being analyzed by the site’s ‘sentiment analysis’ engine. Users who sign in with Twitter will get movie recommendations based on what they and their friends have tweeted about.

“• Storify helps its users to curate content that they find on social networking sites. Users cut and paste pieces of content (including pictures and video) from various sources on the web and put it all together in order to communicate their desired message.

“Warning: Social customs and behaviors are still evolving. But the connections that consumers establish with one another are personal and therefore valuable (and not all about brands!). And SOCIAL-LITES still operate in a social sphere with intrinsic importance to participants. As such, brands need to tread carefully, treating consumers with respect, and be completely transparent. Get it wrong and you’ll find 2011’s SOCIAL-LITES can be bitchy as hell 😉

The concept of Social-Lites (i.e., people “actively broadcasting, remixing, compiling, commenting, sharing and recommending content, products, purchases, experiences to both their friends and wider audiences) sounds very similar to the concept of “Mavens” discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point. Gladwell writes that Mavens are “people who control word-of-mouth epidemics.” I believe, however, there is a significant difference between social-lites and mavens. Gladwell notes that “the word Maven comes from the Yiddish, and it means one who accumulates knowledge.” Social-lites have opinions whereas mavens have knowledge. One of the people interviewed by Gladwell for his book was Linda Price, a marketing professor at the University of Nebraska. She told Gladwell, “A Maven is a person who has information on a lot of different products or prices or places. [The Maven] likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests.” Gladwell concludes:

“What sets Mavens apart … is not so much what they know but how they pass it along. The fact that Mavens want to help, for no other reason than because they like to help, turns out to be an awfully effective way of getting someone’s attention.”

The concepts of social-lites and mavens are not mutually exclusive, but I’ll take someone with knowledge over someone with just an opinion any day of the week. Mavens are generous with their knowledge and generosity is what highlights the next trend as well.

“8. Emerging Generosity — In 2011, GENERATION G(ENEROSITY) will continue to give. Consider EMERGING GENEROSITY, which is about brands and wealthy individuals from emerging markets (yes, especially China) who will increasingly be expected to give, donate, care and sympathize versus just sell and take. And not just in their home countries, but on a global scale. It’s a profound cultural change and a consumer demand that their counterparts in mature markets have had a few years to getting used to. Some fun stats:

“• 86% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests. 78% of Indian, 77% of Chinese and 80% of Brazilian consumers prefer brands that support good causes, compared to 62% of global consumers. 8 in 10 consumers in the India, China, Mexico and Brazil expect brands to donate a portion of their profits to support a good cause. (Source: Edelman, November 2010.)

“• The number of millionaires in India in 2009 grew 51 percent, to 126,700. (Source: Merrill Lynch, June 2010.)

“• 88-year old Yu Pengnian became China’s first billion dollar philanthropist in April 2010. The Yu Pengnian Foundation today has USD 260 million of bank deposits, and a Hong Kong and Shenzhen property portfolio worth just under USD 1 billion, which is expected to contribute USD 50 million of cash each year to the foundation. (Source: Hurun Rich List, October 2010.)

“• In September 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a dinner for China’s ultra-rich to promote philanthropy. The event was similar to their efforts to get US billionaires to pledge to give away at least half their wealth, although the two denied that they were recreating the pledge or pressurizing people to give, merely using the event to answer questions and discuss issues around developing a culture of philanthropy. (Source: Washington Post, October 2010.)

“In 2011, any brand or individual doing exceptionally well, will be expected to join GENERATION G. Thanks to shifts in power and a relentless TRANSPARENCY TRIUMPH, the ones who don’t know how to give will have no excuses left, and nowhere to hide ;-)”

According to most reports, Chinese billionaires didn’t step up to the table during their meeting with Gates and Buffett. For more on the Gates/Buffett effort, read my post entitled Wealthy Philanthropists: People We Love to Hate. In addition, not everyone agrees with the folks at trendwatching.com on the issue of corporate generosity. For the other side of the story, read my post entitled Dissing Corporate Social Responsibility.

“9. Planned Spontaneity — Two years ago, we highlighted NOWISM: consumers’ lust for instant gratification being fuelled by ever quicker, more accessible real-time products and services. We also noticed that NOWISM was part of a larger cultural, social and technological trend towards greater spontaneity. With lifestyles having become fragmented, with dense urban environments (URBANOMICS!) offering consumers any number of instantly available options, and with cell/smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making (or sticking to) rigid plans, 2011 will see full-on PLANNED SPONTANEITY. Expect to see consumers in 2011 rushing to sign up to services (the PLANNED part) that allow for endless and almost effortless MASS MINGLING with friends, family, colleagues or strangers-who-may-become-friends-or-dates (the SPONTANEITY part 😉 What’s next? Look beyond Twitter, and expect (younger) consumers voluntarily opting in to passively and continuously share their location*, in return for truly smart suggestions about what they could be doing or who they could be meeting up with. Will consumers accept their mobile data being collected, aggregated, analyzed and shared? If the benefits are interesting, fun or life-enhancing enough, then most likely yes.

*According to Jeff Jonas at IBM, mobile devices in the US are creating approximately 600 billion geo-spatially tagged ‘transactions’ a day (that’s every call and text, not just web connected smartphones!)

“For consumers, knowing where they are and what’s/who’s around them is the key to PLANNED SPONTANEITY. That’s about to get a whole lot easier, as geo-location becomes a key feature of social networks and web apps (from existing providers adding location information, such as Facebook’s Places, Twitter’s locator, and Google’s Hotpot, to dedicated services like Foursquare, Gowalla and Brightkite). Examples:

“• Geomium takes data from local review sites like Yelp and Qype, and combines it with social information to not only allow users to both see which of their friends are nearby, but also to find nearby event and venue information and deals.

“• LikeOurselves lets individuals with shared interests find each other via mobile groups. The service also allows users to quickly create a group and locate members within 20 miles of their location, enabling on the fly meetups.

“• Fast Society is a New York-based startup that has returned to Twitter’s roots, aimed at simplifying communication between friends on-the-go. The service is SMS-based, and groups last between 3 hours and 3 days, increasing the spontaneous nature of the offering.

“• Unsocial aims to be a facilitator for people to meet others that share the same profession or industry. Unsocial works using a location-based algorithm – by opening the app and logging in a user is able to press the ‘People’ button, after which the app will display relevant matches nearby.”

I suspect that parents are going to be very skeptical of any software that permits “users to … see which of their friends are nearby.” Pedophiles have found a way to use every new technology to carry out their nefarious activities. That said, the rising generation appears addicted to social media and this trend will likely endure.

10. Eco Superior — The number one challenge for governments, consumers and businesses (recession or no recession) in 2011 remains the quest for more environmentally sustainable societies and economies. When it comes to ‘green consumption’, expect a rise in ECO-SUPERIOR products: products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way. Think a combination of eco-friendly yet superior functionality, superior design, and/or superior savings. Why the need for ECO-SUPERIOR? The number of consumers actively seeking out ‘green’ products is reaching a plateau, as mainstream consumers start to question the value and efficiency of going green:

“• While 40% of consumers say they are willing to purchase green products, only 4% of consumers actually do when given the choice. (Source: Journal of Marketing, September 2010)

“• 58% of global consumers think that environmentally friendly products are too expensive, while 33% of global consumers think that environmentally friendly products don’t work as well. (Source: GfK Roper, September 2010)

“• While the volume of green products available to US consumers increased by 73% between 2009 and 2010, only 5% of products were not found to include some ‘greenwashing’ claims. (Source: Terrachoice, October 2010)

“Expect to see a number of leading brands in 2011 switch from purely marketing their products’ sustainability and eco-friendliness (with its niche reach) and taking aim right at the heart of traditional alternatives: stressing the superior quality and design, increased durability and/or lower running costs of products in ways that will appeal to even the most eco-skeptic, self-centered or financially-challenged consumer. ECO-SUPERIOR examples? How about the Ovopur, a well-designed natural and environmentally friendly water purification device, or the Stealth Toilet, which contains a flushing system that only uses 0.8 gallons of water per flush – saving the average family approximately 20,000 gallons of water each year, or the Renault DeZir; a ‘green’ concept supercar that travels from 0-60 in five seconds, or Philips’ 12-watt EnduraLED bulb. … Meanwhile, our ECO-EASY trend, which we highlighted in our 10 trends for 2010, is still going strong. This is what we said a year ago: ‘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”. Here’s just one ECO-EASY example that recently caught our eye:

“• In September 2010, Italy’s famous Cinque Terre national park announced that the use of plastic water bottles by tourists and visitors was forbidden in an attempt to preserve the coastline from pollution and litter. Instead, visitors will be able to purchase reusable metal flasks which they will be able to fill up with still or sparkling water from public fountains.”

Although I applaud sustainability efforts and environmentally friendly activities, consumers continue to vote with their wallets — price trumps idealism every time. Does that mean that companies should abandon those kinds of efforts? The answer, of course, is “no.” For one thing, governments are going to continue to regulate businesses in that direction. More importantly, many businesses are finding that such efforts actually make more sense than traditional activities. Take, for example, the matter of waste. The less waste a company produces the better it is for its bottom line as well as for the environment. It would be great if we could get consumers to start thinking about life-cycle costs rather than initial purchase prices. If we could, then product superiority could play an even bigger role in manufacturing and retailing. I suspect that more and more companies will concern themselves with the so-called “triple bottom line.” The triple bottom line (sometimes abbreviated as “TBL” or “3BL”) refers to doing business with “people, planet, and profit” in mind. As Wikipedia notes, the triple bottom line “captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success: economic, ecological and social.” Now, for the final consumer trend:

11. Owner-Less — We covered the re-emergence of fractional ownership and lifestyle leasing business models (no more dodgy timeshares!) in our TRANSUMERS briefing way back in 2006. Brands like Rent the Runway (fashion) and Avelle (handbags – formerly Bag, Borrow or Steal) and P1(luxury cars) have shown that for many consumers, access is better than ownership. Indeed, over the past few years, there have been few industries that haven’t got the ‘Netflix treatment’, from textbooks to jewelry to educational video games to calculators. For consumers, the appeal is obvious:

“• Traditional ownership implies a certain level of responsibility, cost and commitment. Consumers looking for convenience and collecting as many experience as possible want none of these things.

“• Fractional ownership and leasing lifestyle businesses offer the possibility of perpetual upgrades to the latest and greatest, the ability to maximize the number and variety of experiences, and allow consumers to access otherwise out-of-reach luxuries.

“• Owning bulky, irregularly used items is both expensive and unsustainable, especially in dense urban environments where space is at a premium. With more consumers having mobile access to online systems, it becomes easier to book items whenever and wherever they are needed (see PLANNED SPONTANEITY).

“Now, 2011 could be the year when sharing and renting really tips into mainstream consumer consciousness. Two key developments:

“• In 2011, expect to see more and more big brands getting in on the action. Take for example car sharing, one of the great successes of the OWNER-LESS trend, with car clubs springing up all around the world: Zipcar is the market leader, but similar services can be found everywhere from Australia (GoGet) to Brazil (Zazcar). Big brands, having seen the success of these smaller startups are increasingly getting in on the action: Hertz launched their car sharing service Connect back in December 2008, and now Daimler has added Hamburg and Austin, Texas following the successful pilot of their car2go pilot in Ulm (Germany). In July 2010, Peugeot launched its Mu ‘mobility’ service in the UK after successful launches in France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Customers can rent cars, scooters, vans or even bicycles.

“• Local authorities are finding that shared solutions allow them to expand their services at a lower cost, and in a sustainable manner. Public bike programs have been the global hit of 2010, with schemes launching in Minnesota, London, Mexico City, and across the Ruhr in Germany. Now, governments are exploring new forms of transportation, with Paris (who pioneered bike sharing) launching Autolib, an electric car sharing scheme in September 2011, and the New York City Department of Transportation announcing in October 2010 that they had partnered with Zipcar.

“Another big boost for the OWNER-LESS economy is that with so many highly visible transportation initiatives, all consumers are becoming used to seeing schemes in action, and more and more are feeling comfortable with the idea of sharing and renting large, expensive or often-idle objects.

“P.S. The brief introduction above only looks at brand/ government offerings. There is also a whole host of P2P sharing sites that are springing up to facilitate renting and sharing between consumers, with everything from homes to fashion, to cars (and car parking spaces) available.”

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discusses this trend [“Will Car-Sharing Among Strangers Catch On?” by Tomio Geron, 14 December 2010]. My guess is that if the trend really catches on people will prefer working through commercial businesses rather than sharing their personal items. The risks involved with sharing personal items (e.g., damage, theft, and liability) will continue to be a major barrier. Whether or not you agree with the folks at trendwatching.com, you must admit that they have provided us with plenty to think about over the coming 12 months.