5 TRENDS FOR 2016 are different.
Instead, we’re all about consumer trends. Regular readers will know that trends emerge as innovators address consumers’ basic needs and wants in novel ways.
As trend watchers, that’s why we look for clusters of innovations which are defining (and redefining) customer expectations. These innovations – and the trends they represent – show what consumers will want next, and present you with actionable innovation opportunities in 2016.
But readers who are serious about understanding the direction of consumerism across multiple dimensions will have already spotted that these trends don’t sit in splendid isolation. They are a handful of near-future fragments of the Bigger Picture – more on how to handle that below. But each one is also a killer opportunity to take to your team right now.
Read, think, argue. Then get going, and make a start on new products, services and campaigns that consumers will love in 2016!
Only the worthy will be served.
So what’s next for status? In 2016, consumers will embrace a new twist on a traditional form of cachet: exclusivity. That means STATUS TESTS that force them to actively prove their worth to the brands they want to buy from. Yep, consumers proving themselves to brands.
We all know that many have shifted their status fixation away from ownership and towards experiences (so far, so 1998…). But when ice-cream can be delivered on demand by a taxi company, it’s clear that the doors to the experience economy have been flung wide open. And there’s little status in anything that comes easily.
Meanwhile, experienced and savvy consumers have become more comfortable with the idea of brand-led demands that ultimately serve customers’ best interests. And STATUS TESTS do just that, by allowing consumers the chance to prove skills, creativity, good taste, [insert status marker of choice here]. And, what’s more, to join a gated community of others who’ve done the same.
Ready to devise your own STATUS TEST? See how these brands did it.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF STATUS TESTS
One-touch ‘Netflix and chill’ button has to be made by userThe more stringent the TEST, the greater the STATUS. And difficult tests are a great way to bring a likeminded community together, around your brand. In September 2015, Netflix unveiled The Switch, a button that automatically switches on the TV, launches Netflix, silences the phones, dims the lights and can even order takeout! The button was debuted at the NYC Maker Faire, and Netflix released a step-by-step online tutorial showing people how to make their own, and a list of all the kit needed. Netflix recommended those hoping to make the button have ‘a solid understanding of electronics and programming’. The brand also encouraged makers to share their own product hacks and ideas online.
WeChat users who brave the cold and explore Chinese cities earn Warmth Index pointsRunning a STATUS TEST can mean asking customers to undergo a trial to prove their commitment. In October 2015, Lee Jeans launched a campaign across 32 cities in China to promote a range of heat-retaining denim. Consumers were encouraged to get outside (even in the cold) and explore their cities while tracking their movements with the Warmth Tracker WeChat app. Warmth Index points were accumulated when users scanned QR codes at scattered locations. By collecting points, users could earn Magma Fusion denim products and access to exclusive events.
Single Tinder user turns on old-school charm to access speakeasy barExclusive access goes hand-in-hand with high-status physical spaces. One smart STATUS TEST? Find new, digital takes on that exclusivity. Milan’s iconic speakeasy bar 1930 is typically only open to a select few who know who to ask. In May 2015, the bar turned to Tinder to recreate its strict door policy in the digital world. 1930 set up a Tinder profile of a girl from 1930, asking potential entrants to ‘court me like they used to in the old days’. The profile had 4,000 matches in the first week, with applicants asked to ‘act like gentlemen’ and pick up digital handkerchiefs. In what it described as the lowest conversion ever, the bar eventually let one winner enter its premises.
Be fearless. Yes, asking customers to prove themselves to you is counter-intuitive. But the more stringent the test, the greater the status hit.
Think beyond traditional credentials and markers of brand loyalty. Who do your customers aspire to be? How can you set a STATUS TEST that lets them prove something meaningful?
For rising numbers, crowdfunding has normalized a mode of consumerism where people are not mere consumers, but a community of evangelists. Once you’ve set a STATUS TEST, those who pass are a ready-made, high-status community of like-minded (or like-skilled) peers. Foster it!
Get ready for new channels and new contexts.
That’s why you’ve probably sat through multiple brainstorms around your (or your client’s) omnichannel strategy debating “how will we use [insert latest hot new ephemeral geo-fenced live-streaming video social platform]?”
In the coming 12 months, average brands will keep pursuing that strategy. But these discussions are like having an ‘Internet of Things strategy’. They focus on the how rather than the why. They focus on technology possibilities, rather than putting customers’ needs and wants first.
Meanwhile, smart brands will focus on answering a more meaningful equation: innovative channels + nuanced contexts = right place + right time.
Taking pizza orders in novel, ultra-convenient waysWhen you consider an omnichannel strategy, you can learn a lot from Domino’s highly-regarded Pizza AnyWare initiative.
The pizza chain has continuously expanded the variety of ways that impatient and hungry pizza-lovers can place their orders. Customers can voice order using the Siri-like app Dom, by tweeting or texting the pizza emoji, and while driving home in a compatible Ford. After ordering, they can track their pizza’s arrival time via the Domino’s smartwatch app.
Hotel Banks & Pimkie
Guests can choose curated items from in-room “Mini Fashion Bar”2015 saw new channels appear everywhere. Washing machines and other domestic appliances became retail channels via Amazon’s Dash Buttons. One other innovative new approach to distribution:
May 2015 saw Antwerp’s Hotel Banks unveil the Mini Fashion Bar: an initiative created in partnership with French fashion brand Pimkie. Rooms were 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.
Bored mobile users engaged with timely content notificationsNew contexts mean new opportunities. Just look at how knowing people’s locations has unlocked and transformed mobile commerce. Now, even newer and more sophisticated contexts are just around the corner. ‘Attention’ is just one example:
In September 2015, Barcelona-based Telefónica Research published a report showing researchers are able to tell from a smartphone user’s mobile activity whether the user is bored with an 83% accuracy rate. Participants were then sent notifications recommending content on Buzzfeed. Those users that had been identified as being in a ‘bored’ state were more likely to read the suggested content (unsurprisingly!).
Start by asking why customers might embrace you using a channel. Next, challenge whether existing channels really satisfy the deep needs and wants of your customers. Could you create any new ones? Finally, imagine entirely new contexts you could leverage (perhaps even those that customers aren’t yet consciously aware of).
Bring all those together and deliver CONTEXTUAL OMNIPRESENCE:being in the right place at the right time.
Your next marketing initiative?
One suggestion for 2016: turn inwards, and start by ensuring your internal culture is something to flaunt, rather than hide.
Why now? Consumers have long been concerned about purchasing goods produced by vulnerable workers in developing countries. Now, rising inequality and growing job insecurity in affluent countries means their empathy is expanding to white-collar workers, too. Who knew people cared so much about Amazon’s highly-paid developers, marketers and middle managers featured in the NYT’s controversial exposé?
So, take inspiration from the examples below, and in doing so allow customers to celebrate supporting your brand, as you support those who work for you.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF INSIDER TRADING
CEO announces USD 300 million diversity fundDuring his keynote at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich announced plans to greatly increase the diversity of the Intel workforce. Citing the pervasive lack of diversity in the tech industry, Krzanich said he wanted Intel to lead by example and pledged USD 300 million ensure its workforce would reach full representation of women and minorities by 2020.
Taxi app launches worker welfare fund for drivers in ThailandWhile Uber continues to trigger social concerns and face legal challenges with regards to its treatment of ‘workers’, GrabTaxi (a taxi booking app which operates across South East Asia) expanded its GrabLife driver welfare program to Thailand in May 2015, after launching a similar fund in Singapore. The initiative sees the company deposit 14% of the THB 7 (USD 0.21) journey fee it receives into the GrabLife fund. Drivers who meet the quality and loyalty criteria are then eligible for life insurance, income protection and crisis support. Further benefits include English language lessons and educational scholarships.
#OptOutside campaign closes stores and pays employees to take Black Friday offIn October 2015, REI announced that all of its 143 stores would be closed on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), to allow staff and shoppers to spend the day outside. The outdoor apparel retailer’s 1,200 employees were still paid for a day’s work, and both staff and shoppers were invited to share their shopping-free time using the hashtag #OptOutside on social media. A co-op with more that 5.5 million members, REI’s profits topped USD 2 billion in 2014, with Black Friday in the top 10 of the retailer’s highest-grossing sales days.
Indian ecommerce giant offers employees adoption allowanceJuly 2015 saw Flipkart unveil a policy giving staff members adopting children a one-off allowance of INR 50,000 (USD 787). Employees of the Indian online retailer (often referred to as the ‘Amazon of India’) can use the fee towards any expenses occurring during the adoption process, such as legal or agency costs. According to government guidelines, the cost of the entire adoption process is RS 46,000.
REI used the retail industry’s focus on Black Friday to make a compelling point about its brand values. Intel is focusing on diversity, a big issue in the tech industry. GrabTaxi is differentiating itself by addressing drivers’ concerns about working in the gig economy.
But whichever questions you ask, consumers will expect the answers to be more than just lip service: note how all the companies in all the examples featured took concrete (and costly!) steps to support their initiatives. Which aspects of your internal culture would you splash on a billboard?
AI is about to destroy the world
make life amazing.
Put another way: all those tech trends you’re obsessed with are fine, but can you use them to deliver something people actually want?
In 2016, rising numbers of consumers will demand that brands use increasingly powerful and accessible artificial intelligence technologies to put truly smart products and services into their pockets, homes, inboxes, and more.
The underlying motivations that drive embrace of BENEFICIAL INTELLIGENCE are ancient. Save me time! Save me money! Make me a better person! Make everything easier!
But now that seemingly every big brand is trumpeting their AI efforts – Toyota announced a USD 1 billion investment in November 2015 – consumer expectation that AI should be deployed to make their lives better will rapidly increase, too. Meanwhile, even small developers are now able to leverage big AI resources. IBM’s Watson Developer Cloud lets developers access cognitive computing; it’s used by 77,000 developers globally.
Humans have limits. Their expectations do not. Maybe AI is the only hope you’ve got 😉
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF BENEFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
Email plugin protects shoppers by automatically filing price match claimsRaising USD 2.1 million in seed funding in October 2015, Paribus is an email plugin that automatically requests price match guarantee claims from a range of retailers. Dynamic pricing can make it hard for online shoppers to know if they’re getting the best price – Amazon makes over 80 million price changes per day – but retailers often offer price match guarantees. Paribus scans email purchase receipts from brands including Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy, and will automatically email the retailer when it detects a that a claim could be made. Paribus takes a 25% commission on savings and is on track to protect USD 100 million of purchases per year.
Rail algorithm anticipates train delays hours before they occurIn September 2015, Swedish train operator Stockholmståg announced it had developed an algorithm that uses big data to anticipate train delays two hours in advance.
The Commuter Prognosis, developed by Swedish mathematician Wilhelm Landerholm, gives warning of anticipated delays and so allows traffic control to intervene and prevent the ripple effects often caused by delays. Meanwhile, an app warns passengers of changes in departure times.
Machine learning service automagically crafts email responsesAnnounced in November 2015, Smart Reply is a machine learning program from Google that automatically crafts individual email responses for Gmail users. Smart Reply scans email content and suggests three responses; users simply select their preferred option and press send. Over time, the program learns the user’s response habits, and tailors future suggestions to provide more natural communication. Smart Reply was initially available in Google’s Inbox app for Android and iOS users.
Smart toy uses machine learning to ‘evolve’ with its child ownerRaising more than four times its original Kickstarter funding target in March 2015, CogniToys are internet-connected smart toys that evolve with their child owners. Priced from USD 99, the toys use artificial intelligence driven by IBM Watson (a machine learning system made famous when it won US game show Jeopardy), to understand spoken questions and give age-appropriate answers, and can interact with stories and tell jokes. In an only mildly-dystopian fashion, over time the toy’s personality will evolve based on its interactions with its child overlord.
Indeed, here’s the real secret of applying this trend: you don’t even need true AI (though it is easier to leverage than ever). Rather, this trend is about serving the expectations that all of 2016’s AI hype will create. Serve those, and you’ll delight customers. That’s the real point of this, and every, consumer trend.
So if you’re low on funds, developers or time, simply ask: what are my customers trying to get done? How can I use some smart (!) digital tricks to hack a solution for them?
Same price. New perspective.
One way? Playfully reposition your product or service in order to offer PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS that shock customers into a radically new appreciation of the value you’re offering.
Driving this trend are the new funding mechanisms and business models, digital innovations and new perceptions of value that have rendered pricing more fluid than ever. In 2015, they only accelerated – and became more visible. For just one glimpse of that, consider the music industry. Pay for music on Jay-Z’s Tidal platform? No way! Directly fund a musician on crowdfunding site Patreon? Sure – musician Amanda Palmer is now raising USD 36,000 a month direct from fans on the site.
The result? Consumers will be more open than ever to innovations that play with – and attempt to disrupt – their thinking around value. Just make it fun!
REAL WORLD EXAMPLES OF PERSPECTIVE SHIFTS
Greek Bailout Fund
Londoner crowdfunds “to save Greek economy”June 2015 saw the launch of an attention-grabbing crowdfunding campaign to aid the Greek economy. A 29-year-old individual from the UK, Tom Feeney, started the Greek Bailout Fund on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, inviting people to contribute as little as EUR 3. While conceding that it was unlikely he’d hit his EUR 1.6 billion target, Feeney said the project aimed to give Europe’s 500 million citizens a new understanding of their combined financial power to help Greece. More than 100,000 backers pledged almost EUR 2 million; their money was refunded when the campaign ‘failed’.
Budget airline turns chip and candy packets into plane ticketsIn April 2015, French budget airline Transavia reframed the value of their low-cost flights via a campaign that compared their ticket prices to casual spending decisions made in a grocery store. The airline created branded packets of chips, candy and cereal bars that doubled 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.
Gift cards are shares in publicly traded companiesUS-based startup Stockpile produces gift cards that reframe thinking around buying or gifting shares. The startup produces gift cards available to purchase at between USD 1 and 1000, which can be redeemed for shares or a fraction of a share in NYSE-traded companies. The giftcards are available to buy in leading retail chains including Lowe’s and Kmart. In October 2015, Stockpile received a USD 15 million funding round.
Dutch AIDS Foundation
Charity donations triggered by buying pills for ‘first world problems’In July 2015, the Dutch AIDS Foundation ran a campaign that encouraged consumers to re-examine their own good fortune, and consider the good that their money can do for those less fortunate. The charity opened a pop-up store in Amsterdam selling ‘medication’ for first world problems, including Snore Like A Fairy, Ability To See Unicorns, and Flowery Farts. The First World Problem Pills are 100% drug-free peppermints, and cost EUR 4.95. All proceeds from sales were donated to the AIDS Fond charity to provide HIV medication for those in need.
How can you reframe your product or service as something else altogether in order to offer a PERSPECTIVE SHIFT on the value you bring? One starter question: if you had to pick a product that’s the opposite of yours when it comes to value positioning, what would it be?
If chip packets (casual purchase, grab quickly, ephemeral) can be airline tickets (considered purchase, carefully researched, memorable)… anything goes!