Trend watching has the potential of being a combination of navel gazing and crystal ball massaging. But it’s a requisite exercise because we’re an industry driven by what’s next in an attempt to satisfy our consumer’s voracious appetite for newness. We live in a world of constant connectedness and with everything ostensibly being available online. Finding trends that give your brand a competitive edge become one part curation with the second part being the lens used in the application of the information. In an effort to look further and dig deeper for inspiration, below are trends from big data to old-school good manners that are worth consideration.
Designing websites that adapt to screen size may be one of the most empowering web tools of the last ten years; however, responsive design is far more complex. Customization has gone from a trend to a consumer expectation with brands developing product and marketing strategies addressing the demand. Online is no different—users want experiences that not only respond to the device they are using, but their location, time of day, the content they have already consumed, and events happening in real time. The next generation of the web will require not only a more responsive design, but also a responsive philosophy that can respond to any situation, anywhere, for any user, inside and out. Publishing is leading the way, and given that the development of original content has become requisite for brands, in effect brands of the future will become publishers.
OLD-SCHOOL CUSTOMER SERVICE
There are plenty of new technologies, clever ideas and even trends that can help brands offer better customer service. But it goes beyond the potential of drone delivery. Customers want to be recognized, listened to, valued, and cared for, and this is where few companies hit the mark. The American Express Service Study tested 1,620 consumers under laboratory conditions and found that 63% said they felt their heart rate increase when they thought about receiving great customer service. For 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved. Customers have a choice of where to shop and which brand’s product they choose to purchase. Chances are if you create a real connection and make them feel “loved” you have a customer for life. Personally, thank-you emails, even if they are personalized, rarely get noticed, but send me a handwritten note and you have my attention.
DATA SCIENTISTS: THE NEW HOTSHOTS
Brands and marketers understand intuitively to capture as much information as possible about customers and their behavior but often the potential is not maximized. Technology along with the information consumers are willing to share makes the amount of data available astounding. Simply put, because of big data we have the potential to know radically more about our businesses allowing for more informed decision-making and performance. The challenge is making sense of the information. Data scientists are the people who can connect the dots, providing meaning to the piles and piles of information companies collect and keep. They make the big data actionable. Eventually, smart brands have a sixth sense for it.
AGELESS VS. CHASING YOUTH
Millennials, millennials, millennials … not to disparage the opportunity this demographic presents, but as an industry we largely have a default setting that our consumers are perpetually chasing youth. However, in the middle of this century the American life expectancy at birth will be 88 years old, and by the end of the century living to 100 may become the norm. There are privately funded research centers like the Buck Institute to leading universities and even Google, who founded California Life Company (Calico) in 2013 specializing in longevity research. How we age physically, our perception of aging and “owning” what that looks like, is changing. The trend is not driven by finely segmented demographics or a conversation around the discretionary spending of Baby Boomers, but rather an acceptance and confidence in looking our age. The fashion industry is ahead of the game on this trend with retailers recognizing the “grey market” and designer brand using “older” models who are taking the spotlight, looking gorgeous and confident. Just last year 70-year-old Catherine Deneuve fronted the Louis Vuitton SS14 campaign; Vivienne Westwood used 60-year-old musician Leslie Winer and The Row’s pre-fall lookbook presented adult women in the line including beauty brand owner Linda Rodin. While casting older models is not the norm, it is refreshing to see women 60+ represented as chic, sophisticated, confident, and aspirational.