Thoughts on Social Media, Television, Media, Startups & Technology.

Trends to Watch in 2015

Trends to watch in 2015

Mobile Wallets Go Mainstream

Mobile Wallets Go Mainstream

It will finally become possible to step out of the house with nothing but your smartphone this year. Whether it’s payments, loyalty cards, reward programs or ID’s, in 2015 you’ll see more people whip out their smartphones vs. digging through wallets and purses.

With iPhone activations at record levels: and Apple Pay (the credit-card replacement that made its debut in the fall of 2014) having shown us that using an iPhone to pay at a store can be simple and secure: more and more merchants, banks and consumers in the U.S. are finally buying in and catching up with the rest of the world.

Your phone is on its way to sending your overstuffed wallet to the grave. Apps are replacing door keys, loyalty cards, licenses and even proofs of insurance, 2015 will be a breakout year for this mobile tech.

The “Internet of Things” becomes the “Internet of Shared Things”

The “Internet of Things” becomes the “Internet of Shared Things”

In 2015, the Internet of Things and the Sharing Economy will begin to mesh even further, creating a whole new world of goods/services/product sharing.

To be blunt: The Sharing Economy cannot continue to move forward and grow without the Internet of Things (IoT), and the Internet of Things will never “grow up” and blossom into full blown consumer products without setting its roots in the Sharing Economy.

Companies (be they part of the Sharing Economy or Internet of Things) need to create more frictionless services for consumers, and they will.

It’s already happening in many cases, but 2015 will be a breakout year.

The rise of the Sharing Economy over the past couple of years has broken a number of traditional business models. The Sharing Economy used to be limited in practical use, but as mobile tech has advanced and consumer trust has increased, entirely new marketplaces with people sharing almost anything you could imagine have now emerged.

More importantly: this tech has made the fulfillment of immediate or impulsive needs possible, convenient and cheap.

The market is nowhere near saturation, and the potential market looks HUGE.

Companies that can create platforms that leverage IoT data and leverage that data into sharing economy platforms will make it possible to completely transform how and when goods are consumed and by whom.

With IoT, sharing becomes easy, fluid, seamless and cheap. As more of our everyday objects become connected and “smart”, there will be new ways of creating value from them in 2015.

On-Demand Services Race Forward

On-Demand Services Race Forward

Closely related to both IoT and the Sharing Economy but even more reliant on mobile technologies and much, much more consumer facing, “On-Demand” services and goods will become more of a norm in both urban and suburban locales.

Uber, AirBNB, Lyft, WunWun, TaskRabbit, Postmates, Amazon Prime Now. Tech has made the fulfillment of immediate or impulsive needs possible. Consumers are getting incredibly used to the convenience and are happy to pay for it.

Where there is a demand it will be filled, 2014 saw many companies break into new markets, 2015 will see more markets and more services do the same.

Hyper-Personalized Reward Systems

 Hyper-Personalized Reward Systems

Whether it’s 1. fast-laning (ordering ahead, preferred customer lines, mobile self-checkout), 2. deploying beacon technology from companies like Estimote, or 3. just offering simple rewards: all of these methods will be leveraged and blended to make retailers (and e-tailers) services and offers a lot more personalized.

Brands have to reach customers with timely, relevant and authentic offers FAST in order to drive sales in today’s market. The companies that automatically identify patterns, segment customers and create highly personalized offers (both in, out of store and online) and get their customers checked out quickly will win (and so will the consumers that they serve).

In 2015, consumers will become even more accustomed to “having control” – brands that cannot deliver those desired experiences will lose out. To counter, and appease this trend: expect brands to leverage reward systems & mobile technologies further than they have in the past, and to winning results.

Proximity marketing, loyalty cards, fast lanes and special offers will all be used to create that “WOW” experience for an increasingly fickle and frugal consumer. (See next point: “Get Great at Customer Service or Get Lost”)

Get Great at Customer Service or Get Lost

Get Great at Customer Service or Get Lost

Globally in 2013, 66% of consumers switched brands or business due to poor customer service, a 4% increase on the previous year. Some 82% of those who switched said the brand could have done something to stop them. –Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey

In 2014, a quick glance of headlines from websites like The Consumerist over the year will tell you that statistic got worse. With social media becoming an ever more pervasive destination for consumers to voice their concerns, complaints and horrible experiences…. brands can no longer “gloss over” customer service.

As Tony Hsieh would say: deliver WOW through service or be prepared to lose your business to those who can.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Fashion & Tech Go Vogue

Fashion & Tech Go Vogue

Watches, Clothes, Glasses… you name it, everything is getting wired and connected. This year fashion designers will fully embrace lining their wares with tech, and the first that do will reap the benefits.

In 2015 Apple will pave the way with the Apple Watch, and from there on out the market as a whole will take off. (Don’t believe me? Some thought the first iPod, iPhone, and iPad were jokes too).

Designers are creating apparel, accessories and fitness wear that can do everything from monitor your heart rate to charge your smartphone. One day soon: your clothes will know you’re cold, and fire up some heat to warm you, or know you’ve lost a little weight and automatically slim up your fit.

 

The market is emerging and fashion designers that embrace and understand tech will lead the way.

New technologies are breaking through on the garment manufacturing side of things as well. Digital printing, recycled synthetics, smarter online measuring tools that allow for on-demand customization and smart tailoring, fiber-optic fabrics and 3D printing, all these new technologies will change the world of fashion this year in BIG ways.

Look for more choice, more tech, and more personalization: all transforming once mass produced “uniform” looks, into mass produced “personalized” looks that provide even more value.

(I want my Marty McFly shoes)

Streaming: Pricing Wars

On-Demand Services Race Forward

Streaming, be it video or music, has become a mature market. And there are new players entering the game on a daily basis, mouths frothing at the potential revenue to be had.

In 2015, a lot more of the stuff you really want to see or hear, will be available online without cable TV, and without having to pay for full and everlasting “ownership” of content.

The content walls of broadcast TV are crumbling, expect more live events, news and sports to be streamed this year making the market(s) as a whole ripe for disruption. With that, three things will emerge:

  1. Incumbents in the market will have to slash prices to fight off new competition.
  2. Exclusive deals and content will be used to draw even more consumers.
  3. Cutting the cable cord is becoming a very real option for many: leading to an increase in the overall size of the market to be had.

2015 will be a stellar year for the consumer. Expect to get more, pay less and have more options.

Fitness & Health Tracking Matures

Fitness & Health Tracking Matures

The market will finally reach maturity this year, and will help make us all healthier. In 2015 someone out there will finally solve the “app equation” (maybe it’s you.)

Fitness bands, smartwatches, even connected workout clothes are getting packed with sensors to track everything from your heart rate to your level of sun exposure. To make any of this tech bring real value and change…. cloud-connected apps need to become A LOT better at interpreting that data and providing meaningful workout and lifestyle feedback… instead of what many currently offer: “just numbers”.

With 25% of the U.S. market owning a wearable device today and 33 percent of that market abandoning those devices less than a year in, apps that are meaningful, easy to use, and provide real value with positive feedback, are the only way to reverse the trend and bring wearable tech mainstream.

In 2015 it will happen, and companies like Apple, Google & Jawbone will lead the way.

Corporate Powered Social Change

Corporate Powered Social Change

It’s time to get real. As much as I love the role government plays in creating business opportunities, where the federal government (at least in the U.S.) has completely fallen flat is in creating/leading/championing real or lasting social change. Yes there has been progress on social issues like health & equality, but the sad reality is that often that progress is sparked by businesses and their customers (or by states lobbying for their local businesses), not by the fed.

Did we get any sort of gun control or reform after Sandy Hook? Not really – BUT we did get a number of large brands come out and say “Guns are not welcome in our stores.” Is the government making moves in food quality and safety? Some – BUT consumers are more often shaping the products & food available in stores by voting with their dollars.

Corporations and their customers can create meaningful and lasting social change. They often problem solve many of societies tough issues in unique ways that social institutions simply can’t do. Across the world public institutions are struggling to address many of the worlds social and economic issues in the face of 1. a lack of funding, 2. ineffective legacy systems or 3. poor structures.

Corporate involvement will and must happen: 73% of Millennials don’t believe governments can solve today’s issues, and 83% want businesses to get more involved. (MSLGROUP, September 2014)

Hey “corporations are people” (not really) – rather, corporations are “citizens” and like all other citizens they share duties to make an effort to improve society as a whole.

For brands, the increased involvement in social change will be driven partly by 1. the growing realization that they “can” take an active role in solving social problems and at the same time, deliver bottom-line results, and 2. by their core customers beginning to demand their involvement.

In 2015, forward-thinking brands will step up and create meaningful change where it’s needed. Look for companies to no longer simply give monetary donations to their standard charities, but will instead start identifying governmental shortcomings and either through partnerships or by working directly with communities create the real and lasting change that so many are looking for.

About Chris Zilo

Ideator, Facilitator, & Early Adopter obsessed with all things social. Passionate about communities, technology & sustainability. Tea Lover. Slightly obsessed with Star Wars. Loving Husband & Father.

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