This is the third of these posts from consumer trends reports (see two previous posts, Skift’s "Megatrends Defining Travel in 2015" and Sterling Brands' "On the Future: A Forecast of Near Future Trends") – and maybe after this I’ll take a little break – but December, January, and February are full of year-end and year-ahead predictions. It makes for a great time to look outward, dig in to some of these trends, and think about how they will find their ways into libraries.
TrendWatching.com does what other firms do, scans for the most promising consumer trends, insights, and business ideas and shares them through consulting and free reports. Their 10 Trends for 2015 report does a nice job of bringing together some interesting consumer trends and tries to go a little further by providing innovation opportunities that might capitalize on the trend.
So, what does Trendsatching.com identify as top trends shaping consumers in 2015?
1. Instant Skills – All the gear, AND the idea.
The Instagram effect. Consumers want the satisfaction of producing high quality objects, but, for most, without the burden of too much work or effort. What products can provide consumers with that sense of instant skill and quality with minimal time investment or learning curve?
2. Fast-Laning – The end of the line for the waiting line.
Time-starved users will develop loyalty for brands and institutions that provide accelerated or enhanced service options. TrendWatching believes that truly innovative brands will design fast-laning solutions that benefit all customers. A multi-tiered service model probably doesn’t align with the mission and values of libraries. Could this be an opportunity for libraries to promote a counter trend that promotes equity and open for all? Or can we take this as motivation to provide new accelerated or enhanced services for everyone? Or maybe some of us will start to experiment with these multi-tiered options.
3. Fair Splitting – Mobile wallets find their (shared) value.
Assuming the rise of mobile payments, what will consumers want to do next to personalize their buying experience? Starbucks has integrated tipping options into their mobile app and other apps are making peer-to-peer money transfers available for tipping service workers wherever you go. Libraries may not be as concerned about mobile payments, but this trend can be taken as further evidence that consumers are comfortable with mobile and willing to do new things with it.
4. Internet of Shared Things – New connections. New behaviors. New opportunities.
The collision of the Internet of Things and the Sharing Economy could help make sharing more spontaneous, useful, and fun. As more objects become connected, the opportunity to spontaneously and easily share objects will likely increase. Car sharing might take a step forward, as networks of sharers can have greater insights about the location and availability of an individual car. Room sharing might also become more nimble with keyless entry allowing users to come and go and monitoring systems allowing users to check on the exact availability of rooms in smaller increments of time. For libraries, this might lead to new ways to alert users about wait times and space availability or to better connect users to the availability of specific resources.
5. Branded Government – Time to get behind corporate-powered civic change.
Businesses and brands will become more involved in civic transformation. Whether stepping in where governments and public authorities have not made effective change or leveraging resources in partnership with governments, forward-thinking businesses will increase their good will with consumers by helping to enact social change.
6. Post-Demographic Consumerism – Demographics are dead! Long live demographics!
This is something that most of us are already seeing and experiencing – individuals are constructing their own identities and seeking out community around a myriad different characteristics instead of simply aligning with society’s traditional demographic categories or segments. This seems to be a clear call for organizations to avoid prescriptive solutions and to instead seek opportunities to collaboratively develop programs and services with their intended audience.
7. Currencies of Change – Because good behavior should no longer (just) be its own reward.
A little reward can go a long way – even if we’re rewarding people for things they already have to do or should do. That system of reward leads consumers to develop deeper loyalty and appreciation for brands or organizations. Libraries provide lots of opportunities for self-fulfillment and development. Can we find easy opportunities for rewards, incentives, or other recognitions that would further the intrinsic motivation of our users?
8. Sympathetic Pricing – Pain point-targeting discounts.
Brands and organizations, eager to show their connection to users, will design discounts or services that respond to the pain, problems, or difficulties that their users are experiencing. Libraries that are particularly aware of the needs of their users might already be doing this – academic libraries that extend hours and provide relaxation activities during midterms and finals or public libraries that offer programs or opportunities to erase fines. Libraries that stay in tune with the rhythms of their communities and respond to them will likely be successful.
9. Robolove – 2015: Rise of the Robots.
Robots won’t become our overlords, but they could become an important part of improved customer service strategies. Robots could free humans from repetitive roles, allowing us to spend more time engaging directly with customers or work on more important tasks that are important for our organizations. In libraries, robots are already helping with sorting and retrieval allowing for faster and improved customer service.
10. Brand Stands – Get off the fence.
Brands and organizations that stand for something and speak out for it will distinguish themselves and earn the admiration of consumers. Millennials may be leading this trend, increasingly interested in business that are socially responsible and that encourage others to get involved in an issue. For libraries, this could be privacy, intellectual freedom, or equitable access to technology and information. They key will be to package the issue in a way that consumers understand and respond to.
With three of these behind us, and for those keeping a tally, what are some of the recurring themes?
- Mobile. Whether it's payment, search or booking, all three of the consumer reports we've looked at over the past couple of months have emphasized the importance of mobile.
- Sharing. Consumers have more access to sharing, peer-to-peer, or collaborative consumption opportunities. If there is something that can be shared, consumers will find ways to do it. Innovators will identify new things that can be shared and develop systems to facilitate that sharing.
- Instagram. The ability to compose, filter, frame, and share an experience is becoming almost as important as the experience itself. Consumers want an aspirational and enviable experience and they want to let others know about it.