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

-With Alibaba’s public launch, the “Internet power balance tilts toward Asia,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

-Multinationals across categories are taking new interest in the needs and wants of the globe’s lower-income consumers, reports The New York Times.

-Slumping U.S. retail sales may reflect a shrinking middle class, which is fueling a “race to the bottom” price-wise, reports The Dallas Morning News.

-A BBC series examines the future of cities, where an estimated three-quarters of the global population will live by 2050.

-The Financial Times outlines a growing backlash against the American tech giants, especially when it comes to privacy and data issues.

-While some believe that “reshoring” factories back to the U.S. will be the new norm, globalization isn’t over yet, reports The New York Times.

-Ad Age reports on China’s crackdown on high prices for foreign products.

-With educational tech becoming pervasive in American schools, parents and legislators worry about the use of student data, reports The New York Times.

-Sramana Mitra, founder of global virtual incubator 1M/1M, writes that Web 3.0 will organize itself around context and the user, in Wired.

-In Ad Age, Internet analyst Mark Mahaney outlines 10 Internet trends impacting marketers.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: Web 3.0, microcelebrity and ‘future ennui’” »

As outlined in our recent trend report Meet the New Family, pets have become full-blown members of the family, with owners treating animals much like humans. As a result, luxury goods, health care, gourmet food and specialized services for pets are booming—and Michael Moe of GSV Asset Management writes in Ozy today that America’s $59 billion-a-year pet industry is “about to get much bigger.” He notes that increasingly pet owners want only the best for their animals and that today, “for every marketplace, there’s pretty much a pet equivalent.” One example he spotlights: DocVacay, often dubbed an Airbnb for pets, which Moe says his investment firm is eyeing. Moe also points to Trupanion, a pet health insurance company that completed an IPO in July and recently posted a 42 percent revenue jump for Q2.

Meanwhile, Businessweek this week spotlights Freshpet’s recent IPO filing. The company’s pricey refrigerated pet food is aligned with trends in human food: Its buzz words are fresh, “real food,” natural and local. “We position our brand to benefit from mainstream trends of growing pet humanization,” reads the filing. The approach seems to be striking a chord: Freshpet net sales for the six months ending June 30 were up 38 percent year over year. For more on the rise of pet foodie-ism, and other high-end products and services geared to the pet’s new household status, see Meet the New Family.

ArtefactArtefact, a Seattle-based company that designs technology products, recently created a concept for a next-generation payment wristband. Called Token, the wristband is designed to not only make payments easier and more secure but to help wearers make smarter decisions about how they spend. For our upcoming report on the future of currency and payments, we asked Artefact co-founder and principal Rob Girling—who will speak on innovation in payments next week at Efma’s Retail Payments Week in Paris—and design director Craig Erickson about their inspiration for Token and its potential to come to market. In an email interview, they shared some thoughts on how payments might change.

What is Token, and how does it work? What was the impetus for creating it?

Our inspiration for Token was driven by three factors. First, miniaturization and the advance of sensor technology have made wearables one of the hottest new technology areas. Yet the majority of explorations in the space focus on measuring ourselves, on health and fitness. We challenged ourselves to think about how a wearable form factor can transform experiences that are less about measuring and more about interacting with each other and the services we use.

The focus on financial and retail services came from the realization that wearables give us a unique opportunity to improve the security of these transactions. That is a huge problem not only for the finance and retail industry but for us as consumers. How often do you have to replace your credit card because it was compromised or when you lose and misplace your wallet? Finally, we wanted to explore a way to help people be smarter consumers and minimize impulse purchasing by showing them the impact of the potential purchase on their balance before they hit the “pay” button.

Token
Token is a concept for a wearable bracelet connected to select payment accounts from checking and savings to credit cards, digital currencies and PayPal accounts. Unlike a credit card, it features a security mechanism based on three unique aspects of its owner: something she is (a unique biometric like a thumbprint or your heartbeat), something she knows (a PIN or password) and something she owns (the device itself). Unlike a credit card, it becomes useless when lost or stolen as only your print, or PIN, can authorize it.

Continue reading “Q&A, Artefact’s Rob Girling and Craig Erickson” »

Data point_09.15.14

The role of libraries in the digital age has been much debated as books go electronic. While print still dominates among readers, e-books are gaining traction, especially among younger consumers. In January, almost half of American adults under 30 said they had read an e-book in the past year, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 31 percent in late 2012. But despite perceptions that Millennials are addicted to their screens, newly published research from Pew finds that young adults are the most likely users of a library, as well as active readers.

According to Pew, 50 percent of Americans ages 16-29 say they have visited a library in the past year, vs. 47 percent of people 30 and up. (But the percentages dropped year-over-year for both cohorts.) Meanwhile, the gap between generations widens when it comes to website usage: 36 percent of the under-30 group say they used a public library website in the past year, compared with 28 percent of the 30-plus readers. And in line with these higher percentages, 88 percent of younger respondents had read a book in the past year, vs. 79 percent of Americans aged 30-plus. But overall, as this chart shows, older people are more likely to value a library’s resources.

As major libraries struggle to envision what function they’ll play in the digital future, it’s likely that many will focus on building a “third space” for information gathering, access to technology, social connections and various forms of learning.

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

-The Economist’s special report on advertising and technology looks at how tech is changing life for ad agencies, data tracking and privacy issues, the pros and cons of advertising on mobile devices, and more.

-McKinsey examines how tech-driven disruption, emerging-markets growth and aging populations will upend management strategies over the next 50 years.

-The Economist cautions that the pace of growth in developing markets is slowing substantially.

-According to new research from Pew, the global public is generally “glum” about the future, especially in terms of their country’s economic prospects.

-The New York Times analyzes the tri-annual Survey of Consumer Finances from the Federal Reserve and finds that while savings are up, income is down for all but the wealthiest Americans. Businessweek spotlights the finding that only Gen Xers have seen their income and wealth rise since the recession.

-The New York Times looks at how Alibaba is bringing luxury goods to China’s middle class.

-With Apple’s upcoming smartwatch, Time’s “Never Offline” cover story examines “how wearable tech will change your life—like it or not.”

-Two New York Times op-ed contributors outline the impending “Digital Wallet Revolution” that Apple’s digital wallet and others could usher in.

-Apple’s smartwatch signals how we’re moving further away from words to other forms of communication, writes The Washington Post.

-TechCrunch suggests that Apple’s watch will drive wearables into the enterprise.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: ‘Never Offline,’ economic pessimism and Millennial optimism” »

Bella DePauloOur latest trend report, “Meet the New Family,” examines how family is evolving, along with household makeup and interpersonal ties. While researching the rise of solo dwellers, we spoke with Bella DePaulo, an expert on the single life who works as a project scientist at UC Santa Barbara. The author of Singlism and Singled Out, DePaulo talked to us about how households are changing—not only shrinking down to one person but also encompassing multiple generations—as well as how social attitudes are shifting and what this means for marketers.

When it comes to living alone, DePaulo noted that we need to update our image of solo dwellers. For one, with technology keeping people socially connected, loneliness isn’t a defining factor. More people are joining co-housing communities so they can have friends nearby. And some committed couples choose to maintain separate residences, a phenomenon termed “living apart together.”

It’s interesting that more people are choosing to live alone even when they’re in serious relationships. Why do you think “living apart together” is growing?

People have gotten used to their privacy. It’s changed a little with the recession, but for a long time, houses were getting bigger and bigger and bigger as our families were getting smaller and smaller and smaller, and a lot of families, if they could afford to do so, gave their kids their own rooms. So you have this whole generation of kids growing up who are used to having their own space.

More people are staying single or, even of those who do get married, getting married later and later and later. For the U.S., just about every new Census report that comes out shows that the age at which people first marry is going up. So you have more young adults who are used to living on their own, having their own space. You get this group of people liking having control over their space. Then you get this phenomenon where if you get in a committed or even a married relationship, you might still want to have your own place.

What feeds into that, of course, is very much the decline of marriage. There are fewer people getting married, and when they’re getting married, they’re doing it at later ages.

And what are some of the main reasons for the decline of marriage?

There is a whole roster of sociological changes that have led into that, including, especially for women, that marriage just isn’t that necessary anymore. So lots of women—not all of them—support themselves and maybe even kids. They’re not tethered to a husband for economic life support. Scientific advances mean that women can have children without having a husband—they can have children without having sex if they want, or they can have sex without having children.

Continue reading “Q&A with Bella DePaulo, social scientist and author of ‘Singlism’” »

FounderCon

At last week’s FounderCon in Austin, an annual event hosted by startup accelerator TechStars, a dominant theme was data-driven analysis and decision-making. As consumers generate more measurable data than ever and the tools to process it get faster and cheaper, the opportunities for businesses to make smarter decisions are increasing exponentially.

In the HR sphere, for instance, Big Data is shifting the way companies make hiring decisions. Boston-based startup Cangrade quizzes candidates to create a personality profile and maps this against traits deemed important for the specific role, generating a statistical prediction of how likely the candidate is to succeed that the company claims is nearly twice as valid as standard skill testing. Meanwhile, the self-discovery app Good.co helps users determine what job they would thrive in, based around a quiz to measure core personality traits.

The automobile industry is also being disrupted by data. Dash Labs turns the car into a source of data for both drivers and brands. Users plug a small Bluetooth-enabled diagnostic reader into a car’s port to track vehicle performance via their smartphone. Dash analyzes the data to help people improve their driving and maximize fuel efficiency. In the future, the app might integrate an intelligent route-planning feature. From there, brands can derive insights on driver behaviors and identify the optimum moment to push a message, product or service.

Fraud protection is another area where data-driven approaches are being applied. BeehiveID uses algorithms to analyze people’s online behavior as a means to verify their identity. The company is making inroads into the peer-to-peer economy and the online dating realm, to combat the proliferation of fraudsters or detect repeat misbehavers.

Image credit: Localytics

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Worldwide e-commerce sales are expected to rise almost 20 percent over last year, thanks to growth from emerging markets, according to an eMarketer forecast. In the U.S., e-commerce growth is “far outpacing” overall retail sales, per Business Insider, indicating growing consumer comfort in browsing and buying online. And according to Nielsen’s latest Global Survey of E-commerce, online purchase intention rates for more than half of 22 consumer product categories have doubled since 2011, and tripled in some cases.

With multiple devices at hand, consumers have several digital platforms from which to browse and buy. PCs are still the preferred device, as this Nielsen chart shows, but mobile is becoming increasingly important. Nielsen’s research indicates that while the more developed markets of North America and Europe are lagging in this regard, e-commerce consumers in the Middle East/Africa are almost equally likely to use a mobile phone for online shopping as a laptop or desktop.

Many in emerging markets are leapfrogging desktop computers, with mobile devices serving as their introduction to the digital world. And as smartphones get more affordable in these regions, we’ll see mobile commerce ramp up significantly, as The Times of India points out. By 2018, Goldman Sachs estimates, mobile commerce will represent nearly half of e-commerce sales worldwide.

Due to Labor Day office closures, this double-edition roundup covers the past two weeks.

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

-In the wake of Amazon’s Twitch acquisition, The New York Times reports on “e-sports” (professional video gaming), a phenomenon that’s “helping the game industry gain even greater cultural and economic clout.”

-In “The Rise and Fall and Rise of Virtual Reality,” The Verge takes a deep dive into a technology that offers “enormous possibility.”

-A Guardian blogger explores what virtual reality could mean for marketers and brands.

-Nielsen released its Global Survey of E-commerce report, which finds that e-commerce is shifting into higher gear worldwide.

-The Wall Street Journal reports that products labeled as “green” are losing luster for Americans, so businesses are downplaying eco-friendly connections.

-The New York Times notes that since “social cachet these days involves waving the latest in hand-held technology,” teen-apparel retailers face a tougher fight than usual for the back-to-school dollar.

-Once-hip teen brands like Abercrombie are struggling to adapt as technology enables rivals to respond more quickly to fickle tastes, reports The Washington Post.

-The Wall Street Journal reports on the rise of a “buy less but better” movement among apparel shoppers as a countertrend to fast fashion.

-More fashion designers are taking to selling direct to customers online and cutting out the middleman, reports The Wall Street Journal.

-The Boston Globe reports that American pharmacy chains are looking beyond selling drugs and health products to providing health services.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: E-sports, virtual reality and Internet trolls” »

We’re all seeing examples of “modern family” in our own lives as social norms rapidly change, and chances are your own household diverts from tradition in some key ways. Yet many brands aren’t yet portraying the new reality of today’s families or fully speaking to their needs.

As the notion of family rapidly evolves, our latest trend report explores how and why household makeup, interpersonal ties and family structures are changing. Marriage is no longer a given in many parts of the world, nor are children; at the same time, gay couples are embracing these milestones as attitudes and laws change. Meanwhile, as people live longer, more are forming new families in later decades, and households are expanding to include multiple generations. On the other end of the spectrum, more people are living in households of one, forming families out of friends or even treating pets as family.

“Meet the New Family” spotlights how some marketers are recognizing and affirming various types of family and looks at what these trends mean for brands. Click here to download “Meet the New Family” or here to read it via SlideShare.

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Things to Watch

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

    Breather

    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

    Defender

    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

    Nestle

    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

    Iconeme

    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

  • De-teching apps
    August 7, 2014 | 10:55 am

    De-teching—the idea that more people will choose to temporarily log off—was one of our 10 Trends for 2011, and in our 2014 trend Mindful Living, we discussed the idea that digitally immersed consumers will try to use technology more mindfully. Perhaps ironically, several new apps aim to help people do so.

    Moment tracks phone use and alerts users when they reach their self-imposed daily limit. Pause is “designed to help us reconnect with real life”; it encourages people to use Airplane Mode and engage in real-world activities, and attempts to turn this behavior into a game among friends. Finally, Menthal is part of a research project out of Germany that helps users find out, “Are you in control of your smartphone? Or is your smartphone controlling you?” —Marian Berelowitz

  • Intuitive eating
    July 29, 2014 | 5:00 pm

    Veggies

    As spotlighted in our 10 Trends for 2014 report, people are becoming more interested in Mindful Living, including the notion of eating more mindfully. And with consumers showing declining interest in dieting, the idea of “intuitive eating”—paying closer attention to the body’s hunger signals rather than following a strict regimen—has been steadily gaining traction. Recent media mentions include articles in Fitness and New Zealand’s Stuff, and a Refinery 29 writer is blogging about adopting the practice. With a recent analysis of studies finding that intuitive eating can be a successful strategy for people who are overweight or obese, watch for more consumers to embrace this anti-diet philosophy. —Allison Kruk

    Image credit: Theresa Kinsella

  • Chinese mega-cities
    July 24, 2014 | 1:15 pm

    Tianjin

    China, home to the world’s second largest rural population, is expected to add close to 300 million more urbanites by 2030, when Shanghai and Beijing will likely account for two of the world’s Top 5 mega-cities, according to new UN research. “We are observing one of the most significant economic transformations the world has seen: 21st-century China is urbanizing on a scale 100 times that seen in 19th-century Britain and at 10 times the speed,” notes a new McKinsey paper on cities and luxury markets. China’s wealth will be concentrated in these urban areas: Over the next decade, McKinsey expects Beijing, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Shenzhen, in addition to Hong Kong, to join the list of “top luxury cities.” —Marian Berelowitz

    Image credit: Jakob Montrasio

  • Brands + Google Glass
    July 15, 2014 | 6:09 pm

    SPG

    As Google Glass makes its way into the hands of more people (last month it became available in the U.K.), brands are experimenting with the new possibilities that the platform affords. In March, Kenneth Cole became the first to launch a marketing campaign—the “Man Up for Mankind Challenge”—through a Glass app. Users were challenged to perform and document good deeds for the chance to win a prize.

    Starwood’s new Glass app, billed as the first such app from the hospitality sector, lets people voice-search its properties, view photos and amenities, get directions and book rooms. An array of other marketers have turned out apps for early adopters, from Sherman Williams’ ColorSnap Glass (easily create a paint chip that mirrors anything in view) to Fidelity (delivers daily market quotes for Glass wearers). —Tony Oblen

    Image credit: SPG

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