Consumer trends for 2009 are a combination of speculation and solid market research. Here is a list of trends we believe will dominate the online marketing world for 2009:
Making Web Browsing Sexy
Consumers will do everything via web browsers. The browser runs on all of their favorite devices from laptops, notebooks, tablets, PDAs, and various mobile devices. Consumers will start moving away from Microsoft Office to Google Office, and other web-based applications for email, word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. People and businesses will naturally migrate to free or low cost web-based applications as they realize the benefits and usability for their needs. If you don’t have a Gmail account today, you will tomorrow, or your employer will set one up for you.
Consider this: imagine you went to a website and it popped up your Quickbooks, text documents, blog editor – real quick and simple. Developers can easily create applications around this foundation. For instance, Google states with any Operating System you can run a web interface that is application driven. This is “net sexy” and whoever can make their browser sexier will win in 2009.
People are now heading over to Gmail because they don’t care for the operating fees of Outlook. If you can create a web utility for people that is “simpler the better” than the competition, users will convert. That is the future: building new interfaces for the tomorrow’s web experience is the challenge: people will seek the “right” application for their needs. All of your new technologies and applications are going online. Right now, however, many industries are not developing an online Strategy to fit this trend, and they will lose out.
Designers, developers and marketers are going to see an increased demand in requests for making the website user experience easy and friendly. This will result in “Browser Wars” for 2009. We see the emergence of Firefox is coming back; and there is a reincarnation of Netscape. Microsoft took over with Internet Explorer but we are seeing IE fading away to stronger and more relevant browser software, such as Google Chrome and Opera, that work in any operating system, device and platform.
The Mobile Generation Shall Rule
Are you listening, talking, playing, or what? Today’s consumers are doing it all on-the-go and making the most of their mobile devices. Companies are racing to build the next great web application that fuses both mobile and home computer appeal. Consumers are realizing they have a lot more time for entertainment now that their “phones” are can play MP3s, movies, videos, and various mobile media.
Consumers will use mapping software on their devices to find your brand. This is called Mapmania. If you are not positioned in the major directories online, you are not going to show up. Get mapped now for tomorrow’s consumers! 2009 is the year in which all things contextual, app, local, urban., tags, smartphone, convenience, Cell ID, spontaneity, infolust, and GPS come together in one gasp of map-based tracking, finding, knowing and connecting. This will be embraced by eager consumer masses that will flock to anything from friend-finders to lowest-gas-price-locators.
The Googles, Nokias , MapQuests, Navteqs, Openstreetmap.orgs, Apples and TomToms of this world continue to build the necessary infrastructure, devices and apps; any consumer-focused brand loses out by not to be partnering or experimenting with map-based services. Why? Geography is about everything that is-literally in many cases-close to consumers. It’s a universally familiar method of organizing, finding and tracking relevant information on objects, events and people. And now that superior geographical information is accessible on-the-go, from in-car navigation to iPhones.
Transumers are customers who are driven by experiences instead of the fixed status quo-those who are driven by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. The trend started in 2007 and is building, growing, and will reach a peak in 2009. An obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible, is undermining the perceived value (and thus status) of fixed consumerism.
Fashion is an example of what attracts the transumer. Fashion brands have nailed transumerism like no one else. From the very transient (and affordable) collections at Zara and H&M, to innovative lease concepts that play to the temporary nature of the business, and to transumers’ desires, clothing and jewelry are the must haves one day, the throwaways the next…
Transumerism also increases value in places such as eBay, Craigslist, and other online services, as many trendy transumer goods become “second hand” (think sunglasses, shoes, cell phones). Look at eBay — what started out as a “global garage sale” is now responsible for making used goods a widely accepted alternative to buying the new, while it has empowered well-off or just obsessed-with-the new transumers to constantly sell products bought for temporary pleasure on to the next person (and then buying something else).
Niche marketing will become more common in 2009 with the popularity of the MICROSITE. What is this? Some people call them minisites or weblets. These can be individual web pages or a cluster of pages designed to function as a supplement to a primary website. The microsite’s main landing page most likely has its own domain name or subdomain.
What is their function? They are typically used to add a specialized group of information. They could be linked in to a main site or taken completely off a site’s server when the site is used for a temporary item. For instance, let’s say your brand has a special sale for the month of April, or your brand is sponsoring an event or charity-a microsite connected to your main website is devoted to that item.
Sometimes, microsites will be used for editorial purposes by a brand to add editorial value. For example, a retailer of party goods may create a microsite with editorial content about the history of Halloween or how children love birthday parties. These sites do more than driving product sales but add value to a site’s visitors for branding purposes, as well as providing editorial content with keywords, allowing for greater chances of search engine returns.
Need another cool example? A car manufacturer could present a new hybrid vehicle and support the sales presentation with a microsite that specifically explains hybrid technology.
With the increased use of keyword contextual advertising, or Pay Per Click (I’ll explain PPC soon), microsites can carry topic-specific keyword-rich content with the goal of search engines ranking them at the top of search results.
With the environment finally on the agenda of most powers that be, and millions of consumers now actively trying to greenify their lives, status in the eco-sphere is both more readily available, and increasing in value. Econcierges are firms and services dedicated to helping households go green in any possible way. And while any advice that reduces a household’s (harmful) consumption is beneficial enough, the fact that such advice leads to savings makes this a very 2009 trend development. Count on cash-strapped consumers to embrace sustainability with a vengeance, first and foremost for monetary reasons. How about helping consumers to make money by being green-for example, letting them generate and sell excess power to the “grid”?
A substantial subset of consumers are bestowing recognition and praise on Prius drivers while scorning SUV owners, and this will only accelerate as even more design-minded and branding-savvy eco-firms push to the forefront in 2009 and beyond. Make it green, make it effortless, make it visible if not bold and if not iconic, and don’t hesitate to point out your competitor’s polluting alternatives. Yes, that is the trend now and the trend tomorrow.
For younger (and young-at-heart) consumers, participation is the new consumption. For these creative beings, status comes from finding an appreciative audience, which is much the same way brands operate. An example of this: the Wazzle Facebook game, designed by the team at Ninthlink. People now participate in showing off how much they know (or don’t know) about sports; they compete for status in game ranks; they have fun doing so.
Also known as “guerilla marketing,” we’re seeing small brands with limited resources using bare-knuckled, bold ways of advertising-making use of Craigslist, newsgroups, and blog commenting to call attention to their product; creating “low grade” video advertisements to place of YouTube or Google Video; and viral marketing techniques that may be sneaky, but eventually are effective for what the brand has to offer. What can we learn from these gonzo marketers? We learn that anything is possible online.
You Have Arrived
People have the need to feel successful, that they “have arrived.” Brands will focus on price-conscious ways for consumers to gain (and re-gain) that warm feeling of achievement: that not all is lost, and success is in their hands-this will come in the form of “premium brands.” Brands that seem exclusive, that tells the consumer that the problems of the outside world have not affected them. “You have arrived” products will take the form of exclusive but affordable cell phones, cars, hotel rooms, jewelry, clothing for adults and children, baby strollers and rental cars. These brands will make the consumer “stick out” in society, or at least make the consumer feel that way-happy and satisfied.
One Click Culture: Instant Gratification
Consumers are impatient and are fed up with long involved processes to buy products. They want things now, easy and quick. One click purchasing will be 2009’s fashion buying. See it, want it, click it, buy it, own it. There are a growing number of sophisticated SEE-HEAR-BUY services that enable consumers to instantly purchase anything virtual they see or hear. Best example from 2008: the iTunes WiFi Music Store. How it works: when a user hears a particular song playing at his or her local Starbucks, he/she can instantly find the artist, album and name of the track on an iPhone or iPod Touch. By tapping the Starbucks button in either device’s main menu, the current song shows up, as well as the last ten songs played. They can be purchased and downloaded instantly via Starbucks’ wifi connection. Amazon now has a One-Click option, as does Google Check Out.
Hyper-blogging: blogs that combine text, visuals, and music in one package. Why be stuck in the textual? Blogs that offer something for the eyes and ears at the same time is the trend. Don’t just talk about the virtues of a brand, show it in action-for instance, a hot new guitar will not only have editorial content and pictures, but YouTube videos of customers playing the product at home, MP3s and videos of bands that use the product, and testimonials both printed and visual. Is your brand a hot tub? Don’t just blog about how relaxing the tub is, show a video of people getting in and having a great time.
Niche brand snacks are becoming increasing popular in an on-the-go world. We will see more of these maverick enterprises popping up and using unique ways to reach customers.
There is already a trend towards fierce customer loyalty to brands (or “hyper-loyalty”) the way some football fans are about their home teams. Consumers will find their identity, their entire being, associated with a brand, and advocate it above all others, online and off sometimes known as a “product evangelist”). This is caused by the influx of so much competing product on the market place, some of it inferior to others, or perceived as such. We need only look at the urban loyalty consumers have over Reebok vs. Nike, Budweiser vs. Coors, Pepsi vs. Coke, Mac vs. PC, and so on. Each brand enjoys strong, fierce, and hyper levels of loyalty among customers.
Consumer feedback has gone through three phases:
FEEDBACK 1.0 saw outraged individuals posting scathing reviews, feedback and complaints, part of what was called “flaming” on the net. Brands remained unaware or chose not to listen, dismissing these outbursts the way they’d dismissed any kind of customer dissatisfaction for decades. This proved to be a big mistake.
FEEDBACK 2.0, which we’re in right now, is about these rants-and some raves-having gone mass audience. The long-predicted conversation is finally taking place, albeit amongst consumers and not, as intended, between corporations and consumers. Companies have started to take note, but to a large degree still choose to listen, not talk back, or trying to learn from the for-all-to-see review revolution. This is surprising to some of us, since a quick and honest reply or solution can defuse even the most damaging complaint.
FEEDBACK 3.0 , which is building now and will dominate 2009, will see companies joining the conversation, if only to get their side of the story in front of the mass audience that now scans reviews. Expect smart companies to increasingly post their apologies and solutions, preferably alongside reviews from unhappy customers. Expect the same for candid rebuttals by companies who feel (and can prove) that a particular review is unfair or inaccurate, is generated purposefully by a competitor, or just want to share their side of the story. This will generate a conversation between consumer, brand, and watchers.
Free, Free, Free for Me, Me, Me
Brands now understand the power of the free-free products, software, and gewgaws given to consumers to build loyalty and retention. Brands are outdoing each other in what they can give to the masses for free-it worked for hotmail and Gmail. Free music and movie downloads, free software, even free hardware is the big 2009 trend. The pay offs will be down the line, but the payoff, and eventual brand success, has proven to be worth it. The question a consumer asks: “What will you give me today to gain my trust and loyalty tomorrow?” How important is the future for any company, rather than whatever profits and revenue can be gained “now”?