Thought Starters

A mixed collection of materials looking at societal trends and the impact of technology on the way we live.

The European Commission has released the Sixth Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion. The title might not roll off the tongue but it provides a broad range of European statistics including health outcomes, the environment, human development, demographics, crime, the economy and education among other things:

Change in Population The Economist has created an index of where the best country to be born is by looking at a range of quality of life indicators. Care to move to Switzerland?

Where to be born

Retale have pulled together an interactive infographic using U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data to providers users with the opportunity to see how the activities of different audiences vary by demographic in the US:

Time Survey

JWTIntelligence has pulled together a report looking at changing family structures in the US. Among the trends highlighted is the evolving nature of the nuclear family, growth in solo living, multigenerational and silver families and the rise of friends as part of family type networks:

The Internet of Things has been getting a lot of attention from the technology sector. The Wall Street Journal looks to pour some cold water on things by pointing out the failure to institute common standards as providing devices interacting that aren’t from the same brand:

Without a common software standard, devices will remain locked into what the German industry experts calls “island solutions”– brands that have a portfolio of products that can talk with each other but won’t be compatible with other brands.

The number of apps available to smartphone and tablet consumers keeps on expanding, but the average consumer only users four according to research from Nielsen:

App Usage

The GlobalWebIndex continues to infographics providing a window into global consumers use of digital.  Recent releases have looked at where WhatsApp, Vine and Pinterest are making an impact:

WhatsApp

Zeynep Tufekci gives an impassioned defence of Twitter in its current form, pointing to the advantages of surfacing content by the human flock rather than an algorithm:

I honestly doubt that there is an algorithm in the world that can reliably surface such unexpected content, so well. An algorithm can perhaps surface guaranteed content, but it cannot surface unexpected, diverse and sometimes weird content exactly because of how algorithms work: they know what they already know. Yet, there is a vast amount of judgement and knowledge that is in the heads of Twitter users that the algorithm will inevitably flatten as it works from the data it has: past user behavior and metrics.

As Twitter broadens its offering to partners by integrating ecommerce functionality with consumers’ Twitter stream with the  trialling of a Buy now button. Whilst the trial is relatively limited in scope at this stage, we can presumably expect to see it rolling out more widely soon:

Research from AOL Platforms points to Youtube as having an important role in introducing products and closing the sale when compared to other social media:

Purchase Funnel

Facebook’s quarterly earning figures released in July pointed to the company as doing a good job of growing its revenues. Analysis from Neustar suggests this position may well continue given that Facebook’s network offering is proving a leader in terms of reach efficiency and average cost although its position is trumped by ad exchanges in the quality of its audience:

Cost Index Online Advertising

Facebook is looking to be more sensitive to consumers’ privacy concerns with the  launch of its  Privacy Checkup to help users better manage their privacy settings:

A report from PageFair points to a 69% increase in the number of consumers using adblock software in the US, raising concerns that online media may be increasingly threatened by declining ad revenues.

Adobe recently released its U.S. Mobile Benchmark Report providing a range of charts shedding light on how users and marketers are taking advantage of mobile. Among the interesting statistics is the use of GPS location data and use of beacon technology:

Location Data

Another interesting data point to emerge from the Adobe presentation is the flatlining of tablet’s share of page views. This provides further ammunition to some commentators’ arguments that tablets are getting squeezed between phablets (smartphones with screen size between 5.01 to 6.9 inches diagonally) and PCs:

Tablet vs Mobile Usage

The growing importance of phablets is given further credence by Flurry’s recently released figures which point to growing market share and TECHnalysis Research’s forecast for forecasted sales in the coming years:

Unit Forecast by Sales notebooks desktops tablets smartphones phablets
Unit Forecast by Sales notebooks desktops tablets smartphones phablets

Apple’s launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is likely to provide a boost to its smartphone marketshare.  Samsung on the other hand is likely to find itself increasingly squeezed between Apple above and a growing array of Chinese based manufacturers (Xiaomi, Lenovo, Huawei, Coolpad etc) at the mid to lower end:

Smartphone Market Share

Amazon’s Fire Phone was released with much fanfare in late July but the fact that it’s now dropped the price by $200 suggests it hasn’t been a winner among consumers.

Putting this all in perspective is Benedict Evans’ valuable blog post looking at Amazon’s failure to post a substantial profit despite its large revenues:

Amazon Revenue vs Income

Evans points to Amazon’s willingness to reinvest any potential profits back into the business. Some of these investments aren’t going to be an immediate success, but others such as the Kindle have enabled Amazon to gain a market leading position:

Amazon Profit Model

Reddit gets strongly criticised by T.C. Sottek following its failure to take action on the release of nude celebrity photos:

Reddit, he wrote, is “not just a company running a website where one can post links and discuss them, but the government of a new type of community.” So, then, what type of government is Reddit? It’s the kind any reasonable person would want to overthrow.

Tim Harford looks at how we can improve our forecasting, pointing to better understanding probabilistic reasoning, working collaboratively and being open minded as key contributors:

Masha Gessen looks at how the Russian population is being squeezed between declining birth rates and falling mortality rates, pointing towards a loss of hope as a key contributor:

If this is true—if Russians are dying for lack of hope, as they seem to be—then the question that is still looking for its researcher is, Why haven’t Russians experienced hope in the last quarter century? Or, more precisely in light of the grim continuity of Russian death, What happened to Russians over the course of the Soviet century that has rendered them incapable of hope?

The featured image at the top of the page is a PARKER by GoddoG and DelwooD in Biarritz and found on GoddoG’s Flickr stream.

Trends to Watch: Mobile enabled shopping

I was asked to have a look at some of the trends that I feel are likely to have a considerable impact on the consumer landscape. This is the first in the series, drawing on my earlier presentation on mobile retail.

Mobile enabled shopping

The growth of smartphones has provided ecommerce operators with the opportunity to encroach on the space of bricks and mortar retailers with apps like Amazon’s Price Check providing a presence in physical stores as well as at consumers’ desktop. In the words of Street Fight, we’re moving towards the following environment:

“Discover anywhere, transact anywhere, and fulfil anywhere.”

But smartphones are also enabling bricks and mortar retailers to provide a more enriched instore experience for consumers. We saw the beginnings of this with the introduction of QR codes, enabling consumers to access product information, reviews and comparisons from their handset and expanding the selection of products beyond what is physically available instore.

The introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons has made the process of bringing information to the attention of consumers a whole lot easier, with information and alerts triggered by consumers’ location within the store after downloading the relevant app.

Smartphones are also offering to enrich loyalty and discounting campaigns, making the process of rewarding more tangible and providing offers to consumers that they can more readily take up.

Whilst we’re still to see the arrival of the much-touted mobile wallet, we have seen retailers begin to integrate payments into their own mobile apps, providing an additional means of purchase, which can prove particularly valuable for regular customers.

These initiatives provide retailers with a rich seam of data with which to better understand their audience and the opportunity to provide a more personalised response to consumers when combined with an effective data management strategy.

Macy’s & Shopkick: Making consumers feel welcome

Macy’s has partnered with Shopkick in the deployment of shopBeacon (BLE) transmitters. Consumers who have downloaded the Shopkick app will be welcomed by the app when entering participating branches and then shown location-specific deals, discounts, recommendations and rewards, without having to open the app.

Cartwheel by Target: Bringing discounting into the 21st Century

Target offers consumers the ability to browse for discounts online, add the offers to the Cartwheel mobile app (and share with friends via Facebook) and then redeem the offers at the checkout. Target must be doing something right as it came at as the most browsed retailer on mobile in the US.

Cartwheel by TargetKFC Fasttrack: Getting what you want asap

 KFC is piloting the Fasttrack app in the UK, enables consumers to place an order and get priority service when they arrive and check in at the participating branch. The app makes it easier to order by remembering favourite items and payment details.  For the participating branches, this has meant cutting down waiting and ordering time by 60-70%, sounds like a win-win situation.

KFC FastTrack