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Digital consumers – free trend forecasting from communication agencies

We all know that digital is massively invading and disrupting all industries. One indicator of this development is that part of the mainstream advertising industry finally seems to be embracing digital.

The “ad” industry is not just the creative part. It is also comprised of PR-firms, market researchers, insight, database marketers, and specialists in digital and lifestyle trends. The major players in the industry (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis Groupe, and IPG) are conglomerate holding companies with investments in all parts of the industry. It seems that these players are beginning to put the pieces together around digital.

They give away quite a lot of their research for free. Here are some free information sources that could be useful for us industry analysts and Zeitgeist watchers:

  • JWT Intelligence has quite a lot of free material, both trend forecasting and digital material. Some additional reports can be found on JWT Worldwide.
  • Trendwatching is an independent firm focusing on innovations, digital, and consumer trends. They have a global network of 3,000 freelance trendspotters. A competitor with a similar business model is Springwise, which focuses on innovation and discovering new business models in the B2C space. Another competitor is The Futures Company, though they are slightly less focused on digital.
  • Havas Media has reports about global media trends as well as material about digital marketing.
  • The largest conglomerate, WPP also provides free reports and articles from their portfolio companies. Some are about digital. The competing holding company InterPublic Group (IPG) has a compilation of free reports and blogs from their portfolio companies, though not much about digital.

One impression from quickly browsing through these sources is how digital has enabled and unleashed innovation all over the world. Here are a few examples (from Trendwatching’s service):

  • A Fiat car showroom in Brazil has equipped its staff with head-mounted video cameras. Customers can contact the showroom and the sales rep can walk around the car, open the hood, get in the car – all while talking to the customer and filming the car.
  • Pizza Hut in Panama has delivery scooters with small ovens built in. Their customers receive piping hot pizzas straight from the oven on the scooter.
  • Volvo has developed a Roam Delivery mobile app that makes it possible to use their cars as a delivery destination for couriers. Using the app, Volvo owners can give the courier the exact GPS position and temporary electronic key to the car.
  • The BFF Timeout app encourages Filipinos to focus on each other, rather than on their phones. Once all individuals in a group have opened the app together (sponsored by McDonalds and Coca Cola), the timeout begins and points are earned for every moment all phones are left alone.
  • Africa’s own startups have lofty continent-wide ambitions. Jovago is a hotel booking service from Nigeria, Oju from Mauritius launched African emojis for smartphones, the supermarket chain Choppies Enterprise is from Botswana, Nigerian Jumia is the Amazon of Africa, and Africa’s Netflix is the Nigerian startup iROKO. All of these companies are now expanding into neighbouring countries.
  • Dutch train operators Prorail and NS plan to roll out platform-length LED displays that provide real-time information to passengers. A 180 meter LED strip shows information on carriage crowdedness gathered from infrared sensors inside the carriages, as well as information on where carriage doors will open and the location of quiet carriages in the train.
  • French shopping center specialist Klépierre has developed an “Inspiration Corridor” equipped with large touchscreens on the walls. Sensors in the corridor analyse a shopper’s age, gender and apparel. The walls are then filled with personalized shopping suggestions. Tapping on the touchscreen sends directions to the customer’s mobile.

Some of all these digital innovations are of limited value, some are just silly, but some are brilliant. Tinkering, creating, and innovation takes place everywhere – not just in Silicon Valley, Manhattan, Tokyo, Shanghai, and London. The technology platforms and infrastructure are in place around the world and the barriers to further innovation are lower than ever.

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