Collaborative Consumption

This morning I attended a technology seminar, with three leading figures from the world of technology journalism sharing their views of the future.  In my view, it’s vital that you always look ahead for the next big thing, or you end up like Nokia or Kodak, thinking that what exists today might last forever.

One of today’s panel members – Olivia Solon, Associate Editor of Wired Magazine – talked about the trend Collaborative Consumption.  In short terms, what this means is how spare capacity is mopped up by the crowd using the web.  Lots of examples of this are popping up all over, including car shares (one commuter one car who trades their free space), bike renting (let’s say someone rides to work and the bikes sits in a shed all day when it could be rented out), house sitting to name a few.  Capacity is made visible to the crowd either on a short term (one day), mid or long term basis.

She made an excellent supporting point around trust. I’ve been talking about TATT (Time, Attention, Trust and Transparency) for about two years now, believing them to the key social currencies.  If collaborative consumption is to be truly a success, then you are going to need to be pretty sure about the credentials of a stranger before you let them into your home, your car or have them riding away on your best bike!

Sites like e-bay and its payment platform – Paypal – build transparent trust by members giving feedback to build a reputation aswell as a pretty robust process to validate who you are are, before you can get a Paypal account.  This highly visible feedback reduces fears with other potential buyers and sellers.  It works well for e-Bay, so if collaborative consumption is to take off, how can demonstrate your trustworthiness in the future across multiple consumption plaftorms?  Such a thing doesn’t exist today.

If you think about all the on-line transactions you make (Amazon, i-Tunes, e-Bay, Tesco, Council Tax, Utilities) aswell as your social graph (social media) and then imagine all those transactions being aggregated in one place to build a trust rating which is effectively validated through multiple sources validating your public trust persona, then that could be a vision of what the future might look like. It would be like a visible credit report, buyer/seller report and assessment of you as an all round good egg, which is available to others.  That would be a big job, but not beyond the realm of impossibility given the amount of data that now exists.

If we’re truly going to switch from hyper-consumption to collaborative consumption, then the evidence of trustworthiness to strangers will become a big issue.  Let’s see who gets to market first.

The next big thing….

We’d all like to know what the next big thing will be.  Something to invest the re-mortage in :-)

I’ve been talking a lot more about augmented reality (AR) of late.  It’s something that has been promising a lot for a while, but suddenly seems to be starting to take off.

So, what is it?

In simple terms, it’s the ability to merge the virtual world with the real world, real time.  Like you’d see on some of the fancy sci-fi movies of years ago.  Many things have happened technology wise over the past few years, which have created the tipping point to AR becoming more commonplace.  Things such as: -

  1. Smartphones.
  2. Processor speeds.
  3. Mobile broadbands speeds.
  4. Geo-location.
  5. Applications.

Why is it so important?

Two major applications for augmented reality will be: -

  1. Turning 2d ads into 3d by holding your phone over a small QR barcode.  A press ad becomes a 3d ad by holding your i-Phone over it.  The ultimate product being brought to life moment.
  2. Over-laying virtual or web information onto your current geo-location (directions, instructions or information).

I’ve already seen developers starting to do some clever stuff with this already.  Here is a great article called 10 mindblowing augmented reality apps and videos, to see what I mean.   This was published over a year ago, so imagine what a head-start those people that have been busy developing have over the market.

AR will bring a new age of interactivity, visualisation and opportunity.  Start looking seriously at it.

It’s all about ME….

I love to play with words.  One of my most recent creations which I used at the How-Do Brand on Demand event on Wednesday was “ME-conomics”. 

I used the word as a descriptor for the changing nature of mobile business, personalisation of goods, growth of personal branding and how marketeers need to pay attention to these trends in their marketing mix in order to monetise them (economics bit).

There was widespread agreement that the world is moving pretty quickly at the minute.  Mobile applications are motoring along at a terrific pace.  Innovation is rife.  Here’s a great factoid – 60% of Apple’s 2010 sales came from products that did not exist three years ago.  Scary!

Mobile-ME

Retailers in the states are now providing free wi-fi in store as a way of being able to geo-locate their customers, find out more about them and send hyper-local advertising to them, fire real-time coupons at their customers and track their physical paths through the store.  Interesting stuff, totally driven by the technology.  Mobile search gives local retailers a real chance for cut-through, as long as they get their proposition right.

Pay-Off

It’s evident that those businesses that get their plans shifted to accomodate the mobile revolution will be big winners in the game.  Mobile enabled websites, mobile enabled e-commerce, mobile enabled search.  I talked about the world shaking down to the big convenience platforms, Amazon, i-Tunes, Facebook, eBay – as they offer the ultimate in convenience to the attention poor individual on the move.

What’s clear, is that ME-conomics is a big trend.  There are other elements to it, I’m saving those for a keynote I’m doing in a couple of months in Berlin.  More to come.

Convenience

“That was Easy.” This red button was the physical manifestation of an advertising slogan that office superstore giant Staples ran.  They ended up giving away millions of these little red buttons, which said the words when pressed.  Great, simple campaign.

Later this week, I’ll be delivering a keynote to a marketing conference in Manchester.  I’m focussing on convenience as one of the features of something I call the “expectation economy”.  That is, the changing face of why people buy from key platforms.  At home, Amazon, eBay, i-Tunes, Google and Facebook consume the bulk of our face time and are becoming our de-facto on-line shopping malls/social/search platforms.

They are shaking the on-line world down as they continue to consolidate, throw their net wider, provide new and additional services which makes life easier for people.  As an example, in September last year, Facebook started to sell credits in stores in the USA, in the same way you could buy mobile phone credit.  A potential game changing moment. Right now, they can only be used to buy apps or other in-game stuff, however it’s only a matter of time before Facebook becomes a fully blown trading platform in its own right, then what’s going to happen?

Inevitably, they’ll scoop up a process that is currently being transacted somewhere else. They’ll find a way to integrate into their social sphere.  They’ll make it easier for buyers with one-click.  They’ll make it mobile.  They’ll make it easy.  They realise that people are busy, moments are being maximised, the more folk can do on the move or with a mobile in their hand, the better.  Upgrades, last minute stuff, gift certificates, movement of money, you name it, I bet you’re going to see it at some point in the near future.  Perhaps Facebook credits may become a new global currency?

11 Predictions for 2011

I’ve got the Mr. Sheen out on my crystal ball, given it a good clean, stared deeply into it and seen the future.  Saturdays lottery numbers are 7, 9, 22, 28, 35, 42 – buy a ticket now!

Seriously, thought I’d have a go at laying down some thoughts about where I think the world is moving for 2011.  In no particular order (and they may change as this is my first bash after thinking about this on the way home from work last night).

  1. Crowd-forcing. Inspired by Crowd-sourcing.  The crowd pulling together to pressurise/threaten brands through negative on-line chatter and peer pressure.
  2. Digi-paranoia. Fuelled by the Wikileaks scandal, people will become more paranoid about their on-line breadcrumb trail.  They’ll protect more of their digital assets, through pre-approving and using trusted platforms.
  3. Talent thaw. 2010 has been a tough year for finding good people, the hatches were well and truly buttoned down and movements frozen.  As confidence returns, we’ll start to see the talent market thaw.
  4. Life caching. As micro-moments continue to be recorded in the cloud by mobile devices, we’ll record/upload more data electronically than at any other time in mankind (despite paranoia trend, sheer qty of GB/TB on the web will make 2011 a record year).
  5. Friend Filtering. 2011 will be the year of quality over quantity.  New social media start-up Path hits this trend, limiting your network to just 50 key people.  Competitiveness for this new inner-circle will drive new behaviour and take us back to “Face Friends” who matter, rather than Facebook Friends by the thousand.”
  6. Centre-fall. De-volving from the middle, whether that be government or big business.  Applications in the cloud will allow businesses to challenge their conventions and methodologies of working.  The drive to competitiveness and the desire to see people take responsibility, will mean the hub will become less important than the spokes and rim.
  7. De-cluttering. Removing things that crowd out our thoughts/consume our time (see next point).  Prioritising those things that truly add value.  Marketeers need to take note as traditional methods of interruptive marketing are becoming less and less effective, particularly in B2B.
  8. Time poor war. Time continues to be the worlds most scarce commodity for the masses.  Time improvement tools just mean we are working more, not reducing work-time spent pursuing happiness or joy.  Generation X are kicking back against this as the last generation which may rescue the lost generation of “Y”‘s, before the values of deep friendship, downtime, family time are confined to words in wikipedia.  Hyper-tasking will be the new multi-tasking.
  9. Relevancy. Staying relevant in peoples lives.  Having just the right amount of interaction.  Choosing moments.  Keeping an acceptable proximity.
  10. Social Media Revolution. Wider business will take more notice of social media channels for conversations and relationship generation now all the glittery buzz is dying down.  It was never designed to be a transactional channel but a way of generating proximity, feedback and conversations with individuals.  As new business becomes harder (less public sector expenditure to cushion your overhead), new conversations and contacts will be key and more businesses will get moving with new conversation channels.
  11. Trust and Transparency. A continuing theme for me.  People are more willing to trust a strangers view than a big brand ad when it comes to products and services.  User generated content will continue to grow exponentially, more people will blog, leave content on sites like Tripadvisor and Reevoo, use electronic platforms to distribute buzz (+ or -).  2010 was the year we’ll all remember for Wikileaks.  Wikileak yourself or your business, compare that with the messages you send on your marketing materials and ask yourself are the two things consistent.

What are your thoughts? What would you add?

T.A.T.

Speaking to a roomful of executives at Old Trafford today (second time in a week), I focussed on Time, Attention and Trust as they key things that they need to pay attention to.  As the people responsible for deploying shared services in their organisations, I argued the case against the “dark forces” of too much process control and reporting.

Too often, initatives are deployed in businesses which fail.  I know this as I’ve been there.  I’ve made the mistakes, got the battles scars and the T-shirt.  Making or breaking a new initiative is as much about the time and investment you make in people as it is the brain power you put into process re-engineering.

In life, we are battling with lack of time, low levels of attention and low levels of trust.  It’s a conseqence of life, we’re working longer hours than ever before, life is not about work/life balance anymore, it’s about work/life blend.  Breaking through into peoples thinking, is all important.

To win the hearts and minds of our customers, we have to stay relevant.  To re-invent processes, bin others, test, refine and improve.  Large scale, enterprise-wide initiatives can be years in deployment from original design.  You have to wonder, whether they are still relevant, years later.  Change takes time.  Time is in short supply.  What do we do?

Stay relevant.  Build pictures of our customers.  Add value.  Intervene at optimum moments.  Move up the value chain.  Make ourselves indispensable.  Listen on social media.  Be clear about our benefits.  Stay passionate.  Connect people.  Break conventions.  Look outside our industries for inspiration.

Generation X


Speaking at an industry conference this week I asked the audience for anyone born after 1985 to raise their hands. Not surpisingly not one hand went up. My point was relating to Generation Y, that is, the generation born from 1980 onwards. The children of the information age. They think differently and run their lives differently to Generation X (people from the Generation before). So, if a whole industry is being run by Generation X‘s, then is there a risk that Generation X thinking is being applied to Generation Y potential customers (a potential disconnect). An example. In the 80′s, information was power. The Encyclopedia Brittanica was your display of status of knowledge. A full set in your living room said “we’re loaded and considerably cleverer than you”. Today, information is but a micro-second away, with almost all information known to man openly available via search engines. Such information is now free, accessible to all, a great neutraliser of society. Generation Y have an expectation that many things in life (particularly digitally based) should be free, leading to the concept of the FREEmium business model, a scary proposition for Generation X who believe that everything has a value. The point is that a generational shift is occuring. If an industry is to survive it must adapt. It must challenge its conventions. It must think differently. It must not assume. Reaching out to new social groups requires new thinking, new strategies and new business models. I finished my speech yesterday with the line, “It’s not business as usual, it’s business as unusual”, to mark the moment and really give people a sense of the change. Be interesting to look back in a few years and see if change occurs.

B2B or B2ME?

Continuing on with the B2B marketing theme following on from yesterday’s blogpost. Today I posted at Tweet that said “Lines between Home and Work are blurring”. What I meant by that is that working hours are getting longer, 5pm – 9pm is the new 9am to 5pm goes a recent saying.

Hours are so long now that people are catching up work, post work. It begs the question, When is the optimum to catch them? Your B2B proposition is now hitting your potential prospect potentially outside of their working day in their domestic environment. So, how should your approach change?

Well for starters you should think about when you are sending your communications, moment to moment marketing is what it’s all about. Choosing the right moment, when your prospect has cleared their work and is more open, is what it’s all about. 10pm at night is a good time. Interruptive marketing is as good as a “no” vote from your potential customers if it ram raids itself into their “maxed out” lives. Appreciate that, be concise, be clear, make it easy for them to act.

My next point is about B2ME. Personalised communication gives you the highest propensity for action. B2B marketing is often highly prescriptive, using Corporate language with a general theme of “we know what you want”. The more personal the better. Broadcast marketing has huge wastage. Personalised marketing takes longer, but is more effective.

Here’s a social media tip. Follow your potential contacts on Linkedin or Twitter. See when their travelling or out of the office. They may have potential deadtime or flatspots in airport lounges, train stations or hotels. Use that time to start a conversation. That’s what I mean about B2ME, it’s highly personal, relevant and interesting as you are talking about the most important person in your prospects lives – them!