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

Data point_09.08.14

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.

“Gentlemen, it’s time to think outside the closet and take him up the aisle in style,” advises a recently posted video from House of Fraser that’s aimed at gay grooms, part of the series “Style My Dilemma.” Gay marriage became legal in England and Wales earlier this year, and the U.K. department store is among the brands now seeking to leverage this landmark. It’s only logical, given that recent research forecasts that close to half of 20-year-olds in the U.K. will never legally tie the knot; meanwhile, more than 1,400 same-sex couples there got married in the three months after legalization, according to new stats.

Virgin Holidays jumped on the opportunity as soon as the bill passed in the British parliament last year, with a print ad promoting same-sex honeymoons, and more recently, Virgin awarded a dream honeymoon to a gay couple as the prize in a magazine contest. Travel is an obvious category to benefit from the bump in weddings, and various hospitality brands are vying for marriage-minded LGBT consumers. In the U.S., these include Marriott and Hilton, which recently sponsored a wedding at its Beverly Hills hotel for a couple who were plaintiffs in the drive to overturn California’s ban against same-sex marriage.

While some marketers may hesitate to explicitly target same-sex brides or grooms, today’s consumers expect brands to help drive social change and are increasingly open-minded about the changing face of families. Noted Virgin Holidays’ head of communications in The Telegraph: “People do mainly think of us as a family travel brand, so it’s quite a big step for us to say we are family, and we are for all.”

With expectations of fresh and better-for-you ingredients, sophistication, customization and innovation, Millennials are shaking up the restaurant industry. Restaurants like McDonald’s that have depended on twenty- and thirty-somethings are stumbling as young customers switch to fast-casual chains like Chipotle, as The Wall Street Journal reported this week. According to Technomic data compiled for the Journal, the percentage of 19- to 21-year-old Americans visiting McDonald’s monthly has fallen by almost 13 points since 2011; visits by customers ages 22 to 37 have been flat.

Raised in a foodie-focused culture, Millennials care where their food comes from and what it’s made out of. Fast casuals like Chipotle and Panera are investing more in ingredients than in marketing to build credibility, RBC analyst David Palmer told Forbes. A key reason Panera recently decided to cut artificial additives in its offerings was to appeal to this demographic, reports USA Today. The chain is also seeking to cut high-fructose corn syrup from its beverages. Chipotle specifies which ingredients are local and/or organic (and “responsibly raised,” when it comes to meat), and is working to eliminate GMOs and hydrogenated oils.

Chipotle is also a hit with Millennials because it offers many combinations, even with a limited number of ingredients. Rapidly expanding U.S. chain Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza, which lets diners choose ingredients and watch their pizzas being assembled, is pinning its success to Millennial tastes. Food-obsessed Millennials are also interested in unique flavors and a little gourmet flair. Pizza Hut is evolving its offerings along these lines, as Ad Age reports. Wendy’s is putting some sandwiches on ciabatta bread or pretzel rolls to attract Millennials.

Restaurant chains are also focusing on technology to lure Millennials. Wyman Roberts, CEO of Chili’s parent Brinker International, cited an emphasis on tech to engage Millennials in a recent analyst call, including tabletop tablets for ordering food. Starbucks, Wendy’s and others use mobile payment and loyalty initiatives. Branded apps that enable smartphone ordering and payment have piqued the interest of quick service restaurants trying to build better customer relationships, reports Nation’s Restaurant News.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, is focusing on rebranding and rethinking everything from its menu to its marketing. Watch for other established brands to work much harder to capture the Millennial diner.

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Over the past year, Americans on average started spending more time with mobile devices than desktop computers—significantly more time, as this chart from comScore shows. But according to comScore’s latest study, it’s not that Americans are using their desktops any less (usage actually grew by 1 percent), it’s that time spent with digital media overall has increased—by as much as 24 percent in the past year. (Indeed, as eMarketer notes in reporting on a different study, “People are pretty much glued to technology 24/7.”)

The jump in engagement with mobile has been driven by rising use of apps, which now account for a majority of time spent with digital media, comScore finds. The study details Americans’ app-usage habits, finding that most people don’t acquire new apps regularly—two-thirds of smartphone users didn’t download any apps in a month. The winners so far are few: Google and Facebook own all but one (Pandora) of the top eight most-used apps.

comScore notes that despite the engagement seen on apps, they haven’t attracted the ad dollars that the audience would seem to warrant. It doesn’t help that apps have not always been brand-friendly, although that’s changing with new ideas like “chatvertising.” Meanwhile, given that mobile commerce mostly takes place outside of apps, as a Recode columnist points out, retailers and other brands must focus on all aspects of the mobile experience.

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

-The Pew Research Center spotlights the 20th edition of the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

-The New York Times takes a look at how brands are retooling for Millennial consumers.

-Mashable features an infographic on Gen Z’s distinguishing characteristics and what they mean for marketers.

-The New York Times profiles Millennials, dubbing them “Generation Nice,” thanks to their interest in social good and their empathy.

-MIT Technology Review releases its annual list of “35 innovators under 35.”

-From digital wallets to biometric scanners, CNN reports on how we’ll pay for things in the future.

-The New York Times analyzes how web search trends differ in America’s toughest and easiest places to live—and what that says about rising inequality.

-The proving ground for businesses in Africa is Nigeria, The Economist reports.

-A Mashable Spotlight explores the future of “quantified self” through the lens of one man’s experience.

-The Economist takes a look at how the rise in big festivals is affecting the music industry.

Continue reading “Weekly Roundup: ‘Generation Nice,’ the future of payments and ‘athleisure’” »

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Things to Watch

  • 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

    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

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