Rise of the Mobile Shopper

Consumers are spending more and more time on mobile screens, whether for socializing, gaming, watching video, reading the news or, increasingly, shopping. “The most significant shift of the past twelve months in how we shopped has been the rise of mobile as a go-to way to shop,” notes U.K. department store John Lewis in its second annual report on How We Shop, Live & Look. Mobile traffic to its website passed desktop traffic on Christmas Day 2013 and never looked back; more than half its web traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets. Meanwhile Branding Brand, which powers m-commerce sites and apps, reports that in the U.S., this tipping point to mobile shopping was reached in August. (Just four years ago, by contrast, Branding Brand says only 4 percent of online retails visits in the U.S. came through mobile.)

At the same time, John Lewis emphasizes that mobile must be considered in context. Brick-and-mortar remains important for its customers, with 70 percent of transactions still occurring in the stores. (Our data point last week focused on the continuing importance of physical stores.) Online ordering coupled with in-store pick-up has also become popular, for instance. Consumers want omnichannel shopping experiences, and the retailers that succeed will be the ones that can integrate online and offline seamlessly. As IBM notes in its Retail 2020 report, Amazon and other online retailers “are forcing traditional retailers to rethink their value propositions and embrace multichannel retailing as the only way to survive. Traditional retailers don’t have much time to get it right.”

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Twenty-five years after the Web was born, the BBC imagines what it will look like by 2040.

-NPR’s New Boom series on Millennials explores why this generation is so individualistic, their views on environmentalism, their take on marriage and children, and more.

-Facebook IQ research breaks out Millennials into distinct groups by age and attitude, reports Campaign. And Adweek takes a look at Exponential’s breakdown of the Millennial generation into 12 groups.

-MediaPost reports on Telefonica’s second Global Millennial Survey, which finds the generation optimistic about the future but concerned about education.

-Time picks the 25 most influential teens of 2014.

-The FT spotlights “techno-hippies,” Silicon Valley innovators focused on counterculture goals more than profits.

-The Wall Street Journal examines how TV metrics are tracked as more viewers watch in new ways, and Ad Age looks at the question of measurement in an “over the top” TV era.

-Reporting on the New Establishment Summit, The New York Times takes a look at how Silicon Valley is stirring up Hollywood.

-A new comScore report highlights how Millennials are watching TV, via Re/code.

-Bain & Co.’s annual global luxury study indicates growth will stabilize in 2015, as Reuters reports.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: The future of shopping, techno-hippies and extreme fitness” »


With Apple set to launch its Pay system next week, observers are asking whether it will push mobile payments into the mainstream in markets like the U.S. that have so far been unenthused about adopting the digital wallet. In developing regions, however, many people have been using mobile money for some time, embracing a tool that is uniquely valuable for those with little to no access to financial institutions, as we noted in one of our 10 Trends for 2014, Mobile As a Gateway to Opportunity.

According to The Opportunities of Digitizing Payments, a recent report from organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, more than 2.5 billion adults worldwide lack a formal deposit account. In countries like Kenya, where Vodafone’s M-Pesa started, mobile money services—which let people send and receive funds and make bill payments through basic handsets—have been a godsend. M-Pesa now handles more than $1 billion in transactions a month in Kenya and has expanded to 10 markets, including India and, most recently, Romania. Nine countries have more mobile money accounts than bank accounts, according to the GSMA. And as smartphone prices drop further, these services will be able to offer consumers increasingly sophisticated financial tools.

Watch for similar services to make inroads in developed markets as well. In the U.S., T-Mobile launched Mobile Money in early 2014, targeting the un- or underbanked. It combines a money management app, prepaid T-Mobile Visa card and an ATM network. Among other things, users can pay bills, set up direct deposit and deposit checks by smartphone; T-Mobile customers pay no fees. And Walmart recently partnered with Green Dot Corp. on GoBank, a mobile checking account with a linked debit card. GoBank waives monthly and minimum-balance fees with qualifying direct deposits and doesn’t charge overdraft fees.

A digital payments infrastructure is “one of the most exciting, important and challenging projects the world will undertake in the years ahead,” writes payments expert Irving Wladawsky-Berger in a Wall Street Journal blog post. “Let’s hope that initiatives like Apple Pay will help propel forward the complex evolution toward mobile digital payments.”

Image credit: T-Mobile

McDonald's AmEx

Technology has greatly improved loyalty programs over the years, making it easier for brands to issue rewards points and for consumers to manage and use them. The next step is to truly turn loyalty into currency by making it just as easy to pay with points. For instance, when booking online, members of Virgin America’s Elevate frequent flyer program can click to see the cost of flights in dollars or Elevate points. And starting this week in New York and Chicago, American Express cardholders will be able to pay with points at McDonald’s restaurants. The process is simple and fast, forgoing codes or prior registration: The payment screen displays the option for diners who use an AmEx card, along with number of points required, and the cardholder presses a “yes” button to proceed. The program will roll out across the U.S. in the next few months.

Going forward, digital wallets will let brands easily integrate points with payments, allowing consumers to carry loyalty points and spend them as desired. AmEx is experimenting here too by integrating with Uber: Those who register an AmEx card can pay with points when using the app to order a cab. In the “fast-emerging future,” theorize professors Edward Castronova and Joshua A.T. Fairfield in a New York Times column, “virtual assets of all sorts—traditional currencies, but also bitcoin, airline miles, cellphone minutes—are interchangeable.” As they explain, “It’s all bits anyway.” In tandem with the emergence of multiple new ways to pay, the concept of what a currency can be is rapidly evolving.

Image credit: McDonald’s

Data point_10.13.14

Shopping is increasingly an omnichannel experience, with online and offline as complementary and connected components. Amazon’s announcement of plans for a physical store, in Manhattan, taps into a trend we outlined last year, the Living, Breathing Website, in which e-commerce brands expand into physical spaces, offering huge (online) inventories via relatively small stores. That’s because while e-commerce sales will reach $1.5 trillion globally this year, according to eMarketer, physical stores will remain key to the shopper journey.

A recent 12-country study from WPP shopper-marketing agency Geometry Global finds that two-thirds of Internet users visit brick-and-mortar stores to inform their purchases. As this chart shows, of those who do so, the most common reason is simply to see the product in real life; a minority of shoppers mention in-store assistance and customer service. Meanwhile, Geometry found that six out of 10 use mobile devices in store for research (comparing prices, looking for product information) or to photograph a product. This behavior is most common in fast-growing emerging markets, with China (94 percent) and India (87 percent) topping the list, and least common in the U.S. (35 percent) and U.K. (31 percent).

“The path to purchase is complex, as people gather information and opinions repeatedly and fluidly in both digital and physical retail spaces,” Geometry notes. Clearly, an omnichannel strategy is no longer optional as consumers across markets demand speed, convenience, consistency and transparency.

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Adweek sifts through recent studies to outline ways that brands can “get Millennials to like you.”

-In Interbrand’s latest Best Global Brands list, tech companies dominate the field, via The New York Times.

-A new Pew study compares optimism and pessimism across economically advanced, emerging and developing nations, along with other differences and similarities.

-McKinsey outlines key trends shaping China’s economy and offers a guide for doing business there.

-The New York Times reports that average American families make less than they did 15 years ago, dubbing the trend “the great wage slowdown of the 21st century.”

-New York takes a broad look at drones, detailing projects and experiments, and considering the pros and cons of a drone-filled future.

-Pew canvassed experts to explore how super-fast gigabit connections will influence Internet activities and applications in the future.

-Adweek asks digital executives to predict 2015 mobile trends.

-Digital marketers are data-mining consumers’ social media photos on behalf of big brands, reports The Wall Street Journal.

-Semiautonomous vehicles will radically reshape the nature of driving, proclaims The New York Times.

-The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the rise of food delivery startups catering to time-pressed consumers.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: The ‘gay divide,’ Best Global Brands and the future of food” »

StitchSilicon Valley’s laser focus on ideas geared to young consumers has been a hot topic since a New Yorker essay last year (“the hottest tech start-ups are solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand”) and a New York Times Magazine piece (“Silicon Valley’s Youth Problem”) last March. But as VentureBeat points out in reporting on an “Uber for the elderly,” many Millennial-oriented ideas can easily be tailored to older demographics. And considering how rapidly the globe is aging, startups and established businesses alike would do well to focus on Boomers and well beyond.

Lift Hero, the ridesharing service for elderly passengers, requires drivers to be certified as emergency medical technicians and has them escort customers from door to door. Customers can book over the phone as well as via an app. Meanwhile, Stitch is a service that tailors a very youth-oriented idea to an older audience—it’s been termed a “not quite Tinder for senior citizens.” The app helps “mature adults” find companionship, from dates to activity partners. Lift Hero participated in 2-year-old incubator program Aging 2.0, which is part of Generator Ventures, a new seed-stage firm focused on tech that serves the needs of the elderly. Watch for more innovative ideas that extend hot startup concepts to the needs of elderly populations.

Image credit: Stitch

Stephanie CoontzStephanie Coontz, a professor at The Evergreen State College in Washington state and director of research and public education at the Council on Contemporary Families, has written widely on marriage and family life. A recent New York Times column, for instance, explored “the new instability” in family life due to rising socioeconomic inequality coupled with greater gender equality. In researching our recent report Meet the New Family, we talked to Coontz about some of the ways families around the globe are changing and what’s driving these shifts. 

As more people forego marriage and long-term partnerships in some cases, do you see a rise in finding familial fulfillment through friends?

One of the things I think is important to understand about that is a lot of people are not eschewing romantic relationships, but people move in and out of romantic partners. You have a significant uptake in “living apart together.” A lot of the increase in solo living is because of the delay in the age of marriage and then later, divorce. But most people transition through several of these family archetypes. They’re not just set in stone.

What do you mean by “living apart together”?

About 7 percent of California couples are in this. It’s frequent enough in the Nordic countries that they have this phrase for it. It means that these people are in a committed relationship but do not live in the same house. They may take turns staying at each other’s house, but it’s different than just dating. It’s a very committed relationship, but they don’t feel like living together.

Because you’ve had the breakdown of this lockstep idea that people have to transition into marriage by a certain age, people have become much more free to follow their individual idiosyncrasies. And there are people, especially ones with a certain amount of capital or economic affluence, who can afford to live in separate houses and prefer to have their separate space and yet consider themselves committed couples. I don’t think this is going to become a majority trend, but it’s an interesting little niche that has developed and probably will continue to develop at a modest pace.

How do Millennials feel about pursuing different family models?

Along with this increased freedom to follow your own path is the increasing socioeconomic inequality that is occurring, not just in the United States but across many countries in the developed world. The decline of marriage among educated individuals is actually much less extreme than among low-income individuals and much more connected to choice and idiosyncrasies.

It is the culmination of women’s increased options, the increased tolerance for non-family relationships,—but also men’s declining ability to actually offer themselves as a stable partner who can contribute, who will hold down a job and will have rising real wages like they did in the ’50s and ’60s. The culmination is not purely choice. There’s a big element of necessity in the decline of marriage among less educated and low-income people.

Continue reading “Q&A with Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies, The Evergreen State College” »

Data point_10.06.14

The global snack business reached some $374 billion globally in March 2014, according to research by Nielsen, with sales growing more than two times faster in developing regions than in developed markets. Consumer preferences naturally vary by region, as shown in the chart. North America is predominantly a savory-snack market, while Europe, Latin America and the Middle East/Africa are largely sweet. Asia Pacific consumers tend to buy mostly refrigerated snacks and are least prone to pick salty snacks.

When consumers were asked to choose a specific snack above all others from 47 options, fresh fruit came in first with 18 percent, followed by chocolate at 15 percent—though as Nielsen notes, consumers often say and do different things. Nielsen also reports that in its 60-country survey, 45 percent of respondents rated “all natural” as a very important quality in snacks, while 31 percent cited protein content.

“How we snack as a society is changing,” Nielsen’s James Russo told USA Today. “Snacks are increasingly meal replacements.” Among other things, this shift has given rise to popular snack subscription services like the European hit Graze and natural-snacks company NatureBox in the U.S. “If I’m a big food company,” noted Russo, “I have to think about how to make, market or repurpose products to a consumer who wants to eat on the go, and is using snacks as meals.”

Read our roundups in magazine form on Flipboard, via the iOS and Android app or online; click here to find our magazine collection.

-Based on Advertising Week discussions, Mashable outlines five big trends in advertising right now.

-Adweek’s mobile-focused series, aligned with Advertising Week, includes a look whether mobile can rule the ad world.

-An Economist special report on the effects of the digital revolution (“the third great wave”) includes a look at the “sweeping change” felt in labor markets around the globe and the idea that “development through industrialization is on its way out.”

-The New York Times predicts “a new era at the cash register” with Apple Pay set to launch soon and eBay spinning off PayPal to better compete.

-CNBC outlines how media and entertainment is becoming more “immersive, interactive and customized.”

-As more people use their phones to record seemingly everything, a countertrend—determination to better live in the moment—is building, observes The New York Times.

-More people are turning to social clubs to find the face-to-face interaction that social media is lacking, writes The New York Times.

-McKinsey examines why more than 60 percent of the world’s population remains offline and how to address this imbalance.

-The Atlantic argues that our relationship to ownership will undergo a “wild transformation” with the Internet of Things.

-Fast Company‘s Co.Create takes a look at how a future of virtual assistants—in the guise of wearables—will disrupt marketing.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Digital humans, social clubs and 3D food printing” »


New Trend Report: Meet the New Family

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Things to Watch

  • The #TimsDark Experiment
    October 14, 2014 | 3:46 pm

    To entice customers into tasting its new dark roast, Canadian fast food chain Tim Hortons, with the help of JWT Canada, created a surprise immersive experience. A store in Quebec was wrapped in material that blocked all light from the outdoors. Patrons entered warily and, once inside, heard a staff member (who was wearing night vision goggles) guiding them through the dark. At the counter, customers were handed a cup of the dark roast—the brand’s first new blend in 50 years—with the darkness heightening their sense of taste. When the lights came on, the patrons saw they were on camera.

    The #TimsDark Experiment has garnered YouTube views and some press attention, and shows how creatively imagined immersive experiences—one of our 10 Trends for 2014—can encourage consumers to engage with a brand.

  • Bitcoin bank Circle
    October 7, 2014 | 4:40 pm


    In late September, the startup Circle launched a web app that effectively functions as a bitcoin bank. Using a debit card or bank account, users transfer funds to Circle, which converts the money to bitcoin at no fee. Circle also insures this money at no cost. The company aims to make bitcoin more accessible via consumer-friendly design and is aiming to take on traditional banks and companies like PayPal, as The Guardian reports. Next up: Android and iOS Circle apps.

    Circle co-founder Jeremy Allaire gave a keynote at the Inside Bitcoins conference in April, citing the need for a “killer app” to bring bitcoin into the mainstream. Now Circle seems to be taking the lead, and others are sure to follow. —Nick Ayala

    Image credit: Circle

  • High-tech tasting
    October 2, 2014 | 6:00 pm


    Thailand got a lot of buzz this week with an innovative idea: a taste-tester robot, or electronic tongue, that’s programmed to distinguish authentic Thai dishes from wanna-be’s. Artificial tongues aren’t new but have been evolving. Most recently, Danish researchers developed a nanosensor that mimics “what happens in your mouth when you drink wine,” enabling winemakers to control astringency very early on. In Spain, researchers created a beer-tasting robot that can distinguish between varieties of brew.

    Meanwhile, advanced technology can also create recipes: IBM has touted how Watson, its “cognitive computing system,” can analyze the components of ingredients to come up with novel ideas for dishes; find a few of them here. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Aarhus Universitet

  • Marriage gets marginalized
    September 25, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    One of our 10 Trends for 2012 was Marriage Optional: More people around the world are living together or remaining solo instead of marrying. Pew reports this week that 1 in 5 Americans age 25 and up have never married, a fundamental shift since 1960, when only about 1 in 10 could say the same. Millennials are especially ambivalent: Two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds surveyed by Pew agree that “society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children” vs. 53 percent of the next generation up (age 30 to 49).

    Europe is seeing a similar move away from marriage, driven by “austerity, generational crisis and apathy towards the institution,” notes The Guardian. It says weddings are at historical lows in some nations; last year Italy recorded the fewest since World War I. For a look at how changing marriage patterns are affecting families, see our report Meet the New Family. —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: JD Hancock


  • Room-sharing service Breather
    September 16, 2014 | 3:30 pm


    Described as the “Zipcar for rooms,” Breather is an app that enables access to “beautiful, practical spaces” that can be rented anywhere from 30 minutes to a whole day. While sharing-economy players like LiquidSpace and PivotDesk offer work and meeting spaces, Breather positions its rooms as homey spots that can serve a range of purposes (though not, the founder assures, seedy ones). Rooms include the basics—a desk, a couch, Wi-Fi—as well as some fun touches like a candy jar. Lockitron technology lets users unlock doors with their mobile phones. Breather is available in New York, Montreal and San Francisco, and recently raised $6.5 million in venture capital, citing plans to “own every major market in America.” —Hallie Steiner

    Image credit: Breather

  • Barco Escape’s immersive screens
    September 11, 2014 | 4:15 pm

    Maze Runner

    Escape is a triple-screen system from Barco that “allows you to truly be in the movies, not just at the movies”—in line with the rise of immersive experiences, one of our 10 Trends for 2014 and Beyond. Audiences at five U.S. locations and one Belgian cinema will get their first taste of the concept with next week’s release of The Maze Runner, about a group of teens trapped in a massive maze, which will feature about five minutes of immersive footage at key moments. ScreenX is among the other multi-screen, multi-projection cinema experiences we’ve highlighted. —Aaron Baar

    Image credit: Maze Runner

  • “Smart” personal safety
    September 2, 2014 | 6:01 pm


    Earlier this year we wrote about the Guardian Angel, a pendant that alerts emergency contacts whenever wearers feel unsafe, created by JWT Singapore. Smart technology is addressing personal safety in other ways too. The Defender is a smart pepper spray that works in tandem with a mobile app, taking a picture of an attacker while contacting authorities. It’s in the final week of an Indiegogo campaign that has well exceeded its goal. Similarly, First Sign has crowdfunded a smart hairclip that detects physical assault, records the evidence and sends for help.

    Meanwhile, college campuses are embracing a more basic form of this tech, encouraging students to download apps like Rave Guardian and Circle of 6, which enable a chosen network to monitor a student’s GPS location during a night out. In a different vein, students at North Carolina State University made headlines last week for their Undercover Nail Polish, which changes color in the presence of “date rape drugs.” —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: The Defender

  • Nestlé’s animal-welfare standards
    August 28, 2014 | 10:00 am


    We wrote about rising concerns over treatment of the animals that people eat back in 2012 as brands including Burger King, McDonald’s and Hellmann’s pledged to institute more humane practices. We also included Humane Food among our Things to Watch for 2013. The trend recently picked up more steam with Nestlé’s announcement of animal welfare standards for its suppliers worldwide, following an investigation by the group Mercy for Animals.

    “The move is one of the broadest-reaching commitments to improving the quality of life for animals in the food system,” notes The New York Times, “and it is likely to have an impact on other companies that either share the same suppliers or compete with Nestlé.” Observed the influential blogger Food Babe: “People want to know where their food comes from, and in order to survive the next decade, the food industry will have to change.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Nestlé

  • Alternative waters
    August 19, 2014 | 1:59 pm

    Vertical Water

    With the coconut water craze going strong, watch for more variations on H2O thanks to consumer interest in more natural alternatives to soda and openness to novel products. Antioxidant-rich maple water (made from maple sap) is gaining attention, while almond water from the startup Victoria’s Kitchen has secured space at Whole Foods and Target. As the AP reports, there’s also cactus, birch and artichoke water—made from either water extracted from the plant or boiled with the ingredient in question—whose makers tout their vitamin and mineral content, as well as their infection-fighting properties. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Vertical Water

  • Smart mannequins
    August 13, 2014 | 5:01 pm


    One of our Things to Watch in 2014, beacons have been popping up everywhere from airports to restaurants to museums. But the biggest pickup for these devices—low-cost transmitters that use Bluetooth to precisely track consumers’ mobile phones and send targeted content—has been among retailers. Now, British retailers including House of Fraser, Hawes & Curtis and Bentalls are testing mannequins outfitted with VMbeacon technology from the startup Iconeme.

    A “smart mannequin” enables nearby shoppers with a related mobile app to get details about what it’s wearing and how to find the products in the store or buy them online. The big question is whether customers will be motivated to opt in; skeptics say the technology doesn’t yet provide enough real benefit. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Iconeme

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