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Consumer trends to track

From bling to Twitter, London Business School marketing professor Nirmalya Kumar identifies the trends transforming the world.

By Nirmalya Kumar 14 September 2010

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01 internet goes mobile

The personal computer is running out of steam. Who wants to lug a laptop everywhere? Thank you, Apple, for the iphone and RIM for the BlackBerry (but where is Nokia?). iphone owners are much more likely to consume wireless broadband Internet; and, after two billion downloads of applications from iphone apps stores, consumers are voting that they want Internet where they are, not where the PC happens to be. Cloud computing, 3G networks and next generation smartphones are only going to accelerate this trend.


 02 Google is passé, Facebook is hot

Would you rather get 68 million results on Google to your search for ‘digital cameras’ or 68 filtered by the preferences of your Facebook network? At the end of 2009, for the first time in the US, people spent more time on social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, than on email.


 03 traditional media needs to reinvent itself

We only have two eyes and 24 hours in our days. With all the time spent on smartphones and social networking, something has to give. Unfortunately, it is traditional media. Expect to see more newspapers, magazines, music companies, advertising agencies, book publishers, book and music stores disappear, restructure or seek new business models.


 04 content explodes and democratises

Remember when TV executives, DJs and book publishers decided what the little people (that is, everyone) should see, hear and read? New content is being uploaded on YouTube at 20 hours of new content per minute — equivalent to 1200 TV stations a day. As CNN iReport (www.ireport. com) demonstrates, content has never been fresher — or less filtered.


 05 layer reality takes over

The above trends have led to iphone applications that layer mobile Internet access, information about your location, camera phone capability and social network data. point your camera at a building to obtain, through Yell, details of the nearest restaurants with customer reviews.


 06 social responsibility meets big business and big brands

After decades of moving brands from functional to emotional benefits, companies began differentiating brands on social responsibility. Consumers, especially younger consumers, are demanding it. Coca-Cola, Unilever and Wal-Mart have launched major initiatives to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Unilever estimates that, for every metric ton of greenhouse gas it emits, 10 are emitted by its suppliers and 30–60 by customers using its products. As companies start taking greater responsibility for this, it will change how products and services are procured, produced, sold and consumed.


 07 energy consciousness goes mainstream

Whatever the outcome of the seemingly continual negotiations in Copenhagen and elsewhere, consumers and companies will move faster than governments. Why? Because it makes economic sense. Energy will only get more expensive, and there are billions of dollars of new businesses to be created in alternative energy. Just watch what General Electric and Toyota are doing. Someone needs to let foot-dragging governments know that energy is going to be the brake on their economic growth unless they get smart about conservation.


 08 Brands seek value

The economic recession has led to consumers demanding value. As a result, expect to see more brands adding value lines. With this move, the market share of private labels will keep climbing. Get ready for the launch of new products that are ‘just good enough’, without all the bells and whistles attached to the name brands.


 09 Bling is in

Brands like Armani and LVMH focused on understated luxury to cater to European and Japanese tastes. Now, it is new money from China, India, the Middle East and Russia that is driving luxury consumption. And they like to wear their wealth.


 10 innovation moves east

For a long time, new global products have been developed in the image of what US consumers wanted or dreamed of. But innovation is now moving east. New cars developed by Porsche and BMW have been stretched as rich buyers in China prefer to be driven by chauffeurs.


‘Stuck in the adoption funnel’ is sourced from Marketing Science, forthcoming; available at SSRN

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