Posted 1/6/2014 12:00 am
Updated 9 months ago
“Predictions are difficult, especially when they are about the future!” So said Niels Bohr, 1922 winner of the Nobel Prize in physics. That particular witticism, however, does not deter the annual exercise of predicting outcomes for the year ahead. Here are a number of consumer-related trends gleaned from aggregated sources we may see play out in 2014.
We Americans have long been called a mobile society. Today, technology is catching up in a fast-paced and dramatic fashion with our comings and goings. And nothing speaks more clearly of this progress than the smartphone. It is now everywhere, as we are. It is an appendage.
Mobility is synonymous with connectivity, allowing us to connect through the Internet and self-directed apps with virtually every aspect of our daily lives, including entertainment, current (meaning instant) and historical information, health care, finance and education. It will continue to proliferate in 2014.
The smartphone can break news, increase social interaction, take blood pressure, pay bills, deliver shopping coupons, stream live and recorded events and connect the user with everything and everyone, everywhere. Marketers in 2014 will use mobility via the smartphone for more advertising and promotion, as well as tracking consumer behavior allowing the instant delivery of personalized information at retail. All while cannibalizing the use of laptops and desktops.
Consumers, a number of surveys reveal, want the retailer or service provider to be involved in their shopping experience. They appreciate and have come to expect a certain level of expertise from retailers, and are disappointed when they don’t get it or “feel” it. Personalized campaigns directed to the individual consumer, based on his or her historical shopping behavior, will continue to increase, custom-tailoring information, offers and recommendations from third parties of a like consumer mind. Marketers know a personal approach to the consumer helps to build loyalty to the brand.
Value is more than price. It is the totality of the experience and interaction between the consumer and the purveyor. Value is personal, cultural and economic. In 2014 and beyond, consumers will look for more value in products and services. They will expect to be offered the right choice for them, based on previous experience, which they will rely on the retailer to understand and appreciate. Consumers will also be driven to a certain extent by ethical values of the producers of the products and services they consume: a trash bag that holds more so that less plastic ends up in landfills or a discounter that pays employees a living wage.
Successful consumer brands will rely on the promotion of their identity and attributes alongside positive public causes, with equal attention to product, price, promotion and distribution. Rather than paying a naming-rights fee for a sports venue, consumer brands will opt to help fund projects for the greater good, whether in support of the environment or helping to improve access and outcomes in health care.
It’s not just Angie’s List. It will become more and more about using social media to attach third-party recommendations to products as consumers search the Web for brand information and comparative shopping. Your experience with brand X will inform my selection process. Likewise, mine will inform others, as personal promotion proliferates exponentially via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and the like. All on our smartphones.
Perhaps the most pervasive trend for 2014 will be attention to privacy. NSA-leaker Edward Snowden has focused our attention on privacy issues, as the federal government and marketers scramble to reassure consumers their information is protected. But how can it be, if we are being tracked and followed through the use of multiple technologies at our disposal? Consequently, encryption technologies will proliferate, with the objective of providing consumers an enhanced level of trust as we go about our daily lives, connected to everything and everyone, everywhere.
Craig Douglass is a Little Rock advertising agency owner and marketing and research consultant. He is president of Craig Douglass Communications Inc.