Setting Trends for 2011 – Acts of Kindness and Human Touch Top List


chess not checkersTHUNDER BAY – Looking forward to 2011, and a new decade, one of the keys for business will be figuring out the coming trends in the marketplace. Those trends will determine failure or success over the coming years. 

While the Ontario Manufacturing Association is stating that things are looking up in Ontario, the key is making things that people will want. The Ontario Government is moving quickly to offer incentives for companies in the “Green Energy” field.  

According, ‘trends’ still can mean everything from ‘Ageing populations in Central-Europe’ to ‘Spring 2012’s skirt lengths’, but this report focuses on consumer trends. Not macro trends. Trends don’t just ’emerge’ on 1 January or end on 31 December, says the report. All trends are constantly evolving, and all of the content in the report is one way or another already happening.

Major consumer trends are more like currents than one-time killer waves, there are only 11 consumer trends to track in 2011, there are dozens of important consumer trends worth knowing about and applying at any given time of the year.

None of these trends apply to all consumers, and trend watching is about applying. About innovations. It’s hands-on.

Eleven key consumer trends to watch in 2011 include acts of kindness from brands, the developed world launching products for emerging economies, and online status symbols. Here’s a brief overview of each of the 11 consumer trends which predicts will have a global impact on marketers in 2011.

1. Consumers’ cravings for realness, for the human touch, ensure that everything from brands randomly picking up the tab to sending a surprise gift will be one of the most effective ways to connect with (potential) customers in 2011. The report advises that the rapid spread of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook among consumers gives brands previously unavailable insight into their moods, wants and locations, and also provides a new direct channel to deliver acts of kindness.

2. Urbanization remains one of the absolute mega trends for the coming decade, with about the global population currently living in urban areas. Urban consumers tend to be more daring, more liberal, more tolerant, more experienced, more prone to trying out new products and services. In emerging markets, these effects tend to be even more pronounced, with new arrivals finding themselves distanced from traditional social and familial structures, while constantly exposed to a wider range of alternatives.

“Today, half the world’s population – 3 billion people – lives in urban areas. Close to 180,000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year.” says Intuit, October 2010. And, keep a close eye out for Urban Islands. Just 100 cities currently account for 30% of the world’s economy, and almost all its innovation.

3. Mobile devices and social networks allow consumers to constantly receive targeted offers and discounts, even at the point of sale from a rival brand.

  • Two billion consumers now online can exercise their collective buying power, helped by the host of services and social networks that make it easier than ever to organize and act.
  • The old ‘club’ format (think: Costco) has been given a new lease on life online, where niche communities thrive. Making some memberships limited or invitation-only, only increases the perceived exclusivity;
  • Both groups and member communities frequently use time-limited offers that encourage impulse buys. By limiting the time available, brands are able to shift excess inventory quickly.
  • With more and more consumers being able to broadcast their location, either publicly via Facebook, Twitter or other dedicated location-based services, brands can offer deals directly to consumers virtually at the point of sale.
  • Improvements in real-time information are now allowing other sectors to experiment with innovative dynamic pricing models,

4.  An increasing number of ‘Western’ brands expect to launch new products or even new brands dedicated to consumers in emerging markets. Growth in consumer spending in emerging markets far outpaces consumer spending in developed markets.

  • China’s retail sales, the main gauge of consumer spending, rose 18.7% year on year to USD 183 billion in May 2010, following a 15.2% rise the previous year
  • China’s retail sales may outstrip those of the US by reaching USD 5 trillion in 2016.
  • 52% of Affluent Chinese consumers whose annual income exceeds RMB 250,000 (USD $36,765) trust foreign brands more than Chinese ones, while just 37% said they prefer the latter.

5. In 2011, recommends that brands supply customers with any kind of symbol, virtual or ‘real world,’ that helps them display to peers their online contributions, interestingness, creations or popularity. This includes personalized social networking memorabilia as well as location-based games and contests which award virtual or real-world prizes.

6. Growing numbers of consumers will expect health products and services in 2011 to prevent misery if not improve their quality of life, rather than merely treating illnesses and ailments. Products such as mobile health monitoring devices, as well as online health apps and health-dedicated social networks, will serve the multichannel wellness needs of consumers.

  • 73% of US consumers consider being physically fit important to being ‘well’, with 74% including ‘feeling good about themselves’
  • An estimated 500 million people worldwide are expected to be using mobile healthcare applications by 2015
  • There were nearly 17,000 health apps available in major app stores in November 2010, with 57% of them being aimed at consumers rather than health care professionals
  • About 15% of those aged 18 to 29 have health or medical related apps, compared to 8% of users aged 30 to 49

7. In 2011, word of mouth and recommendations will be even more dependent on P2P dynamics. Twin-sumers are consumers with similar consumer patterns, likes and dislikes, and who are hence valuable sources for recommendations on what to buy and experience, while social-lites are consumers who consistently broadcast information to a wide range of associates online.

8. Brands and wealthy individuals from emerging markets (especially China) are increasingly expected to give, donate, care and sympathize, as opposed to 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.

  • 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 causeThe number of millionaires in India in 2009 grew 51 percent, to 126,700

9. With lifestyles having become fragmented and dense urban environments offering consumers any number of instantly available options, and with smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making or sticking to rigid plans, 2011 will see what calls “planned spontaneity.”

Brands can expect to see consumers in 2011 rushing to sign up to services that allow for endless and almost effortless mass mingling with friends, family, colleagues or strangers. A developing segment of this trend is consumers signing up for mobile services that passively and constantly broadcast their location.

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:

  • Geomium takes data from local review sites 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 quickly create a mobile group and locate members within 20 miles of their location, enabling on the fly meetups
  • FastSociety is a New York-based startup 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

10. When it comes to ‘green consumption’, brands should expect a rise in “eco-superior” products; products that are not only eco-friendly, but superior to polluting incumbents in every possible way. 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
  • 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
  • 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

11. Fractional ownership and lifestyle leasing business models have re-emerged, with services such as car-sharing and public bike programs enjoying success around the globe. For many consumers, access is better than ownership.

Emerging economies are an increasingly important source of consumer innovations, according to earlier findings from The company cites a number of statistics to support its premise that emerging economies are becoming a major source of consumer innovations that will have a global impact. For example, these economies have accounted for nearly 70% of world growth during the last five years, accounted for 34% of global GDP in 2010 and will account for 39% in 2015, and will account for two-thirds of world trade in 2050.

In addition, says emerging economies contain a growing middle class of 2 billion people who spend $6.9 trillion USD annually. That figure is expected to rise to $20 trillion by 2050.

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