Look out for our January 2011 GT Briefing, which gives you a single source to find some of the more interesting and important trend forecasts and predictions for 2011. There’s so much out there – typing Trends for 2011 into Google on January 1st 2011 gave us around 46 million results – that we did this partly for our own sanity but also (hopefully) so others will find it useful. Do let us know! It’s an eclectic mix of forecasts, on topics including: Global trends/macro trends (including us of course!), consumer trends, economic trends, financial markets trends, technology trends, social media trends, mobile trends, design & fashion trends, health & wellness trends, retail trends, travel trends and marketing trends. Sources range from the FT, Trendwatching.com and McKinsey to the IMF, Mashable, TripAdvisor and The Food Channel. No doubt we have missed some (feel free to let us know) and there are still more coming out daily (of which a couple below), but all have offered us some food for thought as we look ahead. Here are just a few of the themes across the forecasts that we took away.
A two-track world for economic growth
The experts, from the IMF to the big banks – and most recently Wharton faculty in the latest Knowledge@Wharton newsletter – are suggesting we will see a two-track world in terms of economic growth in the short, if not medium, term. Advanced economies will be struggling with slow growth, high rates of unemployment and reducing massive national debts, while rapidly developing economies (BRIC and beyond) will forge ahead in terms of growth, the key threats domestically being inflation and over-heating.
The implications of this two-track world are substantial: While businesses will want to focus on markets in the high growth economies (see Trendwatching’s briefing on made for China if not for BRIC and our article When Cheap Becomes Chic), they will also need to be aware of the international dynamics and tensions which could impact success. Trade and currency tensions are not likely to go away, particularly as domestic economic concerns take priority over international co-operation. For example, Chile this week announced plans to buy 12 billion US dollars to soften the effects of exchange rate fluctuations and help exporters, which will add to ongoing currency tensions. Meanwhile, China continues to extend its role as banker to the world, with Vice Premier Li Keqiang (widely tipped to be China’s next Premier) promising to buy Spanish debt and to support Europe more broadly in overcoming the sovereign debt crisis during his European tour this week. These economic shifts and tensions will also be reflected in financial markets that are likely to see continued volatility, a focus on emerging markets – and perhaps even some optimism on growth. The two track world will also see increasing tensions of fragmentation and globalization, as governments focus internally rather than externally – Davos may well focus on supporting the G20 agenda later this month, but reaching agreements among the G20 players this year will be another matter.
Resource issues rising/Sustainabilty becoming mainstream?
Resources – or the growing scarcity thereof – are going to be even more of an issue this year. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) announced this week that its Food Price Index for December 2010 has exceeded the previous record in 2008 that saw prices spark riots in several countries. The rise was driven by substantial increases in sugar, cereal and oil prices. Elsewhere the challenges for many industries around rare earths will continue with China having cut export quotas by 35% for the first half of 2011 and stepping up its controls over the mining of rare earths including new industry standards to cut pollution. As resource scarcity starts to bite for both businesses and consumers, could this be the year when sustainability and becomes more mainstream both in production (see Unilever’s new Sustainable Living Plan) and in consumption? Several of the trend sources in our January briefing suggest consumer, travel and design trends pointing towards more eco-conscious and discrete consumption. Health & wellness and food trends meanwhile point towards more focus on nutrition, healthier lifestyles and food sources – sustainability for the body as well as the planet?
Mobile, mobile and more mobile
Yep, mobile’s hot. You probably know this already and it is highlighted many times in the trend sources we have covered – and if you want even more you could look at econsultancy’s blog post on 17 digital marketing trends for 2011, which has just come out. So now we have the technology – the question is how we use it effectively, whether as an individual or a business? This year is likely to see lots of experimentation, competing business models and standards (with the associated winners and losers), and a desperate race to try to join everything up from e-commerce to m-commerce to offline channels, marketing plans, customer information and so on. Digital/mobile payments are also likely to advance in 2011. So it will be a whole new world both for consumers/customers and for the businesses trying to meet their needs – trust, listening and interaction will be critical, as will thinking beyond traditional industry boundaries to innovate. Definitely time to do some market space mapping.
Social media becomes ubiquitous
In this new world, social media will cease to be viewed as somehow “separate.” It will become (even more) an integral part of everyday life and business. David Armano of Edelman puts it well: “It’s the Integration Economy, Stupid… social media [will be integrated] into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond.” Our other trend sources support this view with the big questions being: Who will integrate best and first? And who will be the platform winners and losers – think Google, Apple, Facebook and so on?
Design growing in importance
Among the design sources, it’s worth reflecting on Monocle’s suggestion that design is playing a more integrated role in government, society and business strategies around the world. Design is about problem-solving and many governments and businesses are now recognizing that design gives a competitive edge, not to mention financial rewards. Along with the other trends, particularly consumer trends such as pricing pandemonium and hyper-personalization plus mobile price comparisons, it’s clear that the price lever in driving sales is losing its power. Being able to design in personalized features for fickle consumers will be an increasingly important differentiator. Design will also be critical in addressing the resource and sustainability issues highlighted above – a new era of design coming?
Figuring out how to execute and join things up
One more big theme we see across pretty much all the trend forecasts we have looked at is probably the most practical and the most difficult – figuring out how to execute effectively and join things up in an ever-more connected and uncertain world, where power bases are shifting dramatically, whether West to East economically or from businesses to consumers and social networks. There is no easy place to start on this, but for ideas take a look at some of the approaches we highlight in our Special Report: Bringing Global Trends Alive in Your Organization Today, Part 1. And don’t forget to look at top trends outside your own industry or market space – these may well cross over sooner than you think!
On other news: We have translated our very popular 10 Key Trends to Watch – In Action! Briefing into a presentation which you can download and use. You can find it here at the end of the article or on Slideshare.