2012 was an eventful year around the globe -- from political and economic changes to global celebrations to scientific phenomena and discoveries. All this while the world continued to work through the consequences and impacts of the Great Recession. Despite the heightened activity in 2012 -- or perhaps due to it -- attitudes and movements seem to be in neutral, awaiting decisions to be made and events to subside to determine the future trajectory.
With a view toward 2013, it’s hard to predict where the winds will take us. Will we follow the pessimistic view of the business world or the more optimistic view of consumers? Will we move in the direction of those who think we’re still in a tailspin, or take the opposite turn toward those who believe the world is full of abundance? Will people think big and pursue bold new projects and initiatives, or will they turn inward and look to make small incremental change? It’s a time of polarity and dueling choices.
These choices will be shaped by environmental macro trends that express the changing world around us. Key forces shaping what we expect to see in the coming year reflect the complex business and brand landscape, our fast-paced culture, evolving business models, the changing retail landscape, and expanding communication platforms and digital data and content.
Broad, dynamic change
Business and brand environments are experiencing tremendous change, with people shifting their consumption and shopping patterns and with the marketing toolkit evolving and expanding at an exponential rate -- all while the cost of goods pressures continue unabated and the world continues to move at breakneck speed. Adding to the complexity are the changing consumer demographic landscape and the differing views on how to target global markets (is it global, glocal, or local?). The final push is the instability caused by the many exposés of misbehavior throughout the world that keep disrupting any footing in building consumer trust. Perhaps consumer skepticism may be the only thing that holds steady, while the rest dynamically changes.
"Give it to me now" culture
Consumers are becoming ever more impatient, expecting more now with no time to waste. The expectation and ante are real-time, because everyone is always on, all the time. No time for pomp and circumstance, no time for waiting in lines, and no time for conversation and explanation. We’re looking to cut through the clutter.
The common definition of entrepreneur includes a reference to taking on more than the usual risk. While this mindset used to be that of the few, it is becoming the view of the many. Beyond Silicon Valley and San Francisco, which have been experiencing a startup revival, the entrepreneurial spirit is taking hold from Des Moines to Berlin to China to Afghanistan. More tools and services are available to help people succeed and make their own success, limiting the downside risk. Such developments in turn will continue to influence traditional business culture and go-to-market approaches.
Battle of brick-and-mortar versus digital
Based on new technologies and new shopper behaviors, the retail landscape is being redefined, from big-box stores becoming obsolete to social media Web sales gaining traction. This holiday season was a whole new game, with the most intense battle ever between brick-and-mortar stores and digital shops. Will one win out over the other? Do they both lose? Or will they both win? One thing is for sure -- new shopping models will continue to expand.
Digital and data expansion
Our communication vehicles and content -- both personal and business-related -- continue to expand and transition toward digital. Case in point -- the World Bank forecast that in 2015 the number of mobile phones would exceed the number of humans on the planet, and social Web sites continue to gain global traction. In this hyper-connected, digitized world, more is being saved across businesses and applications on servers and in the cloud. Along with this comes the availability of information about consumers and their digital behaviors -- a mass of data that is being mined and utilized for uses beyond most people’s imaginations.
It’s within these forces that we believe we’re at an inflection point, awaiting a sign or a signal to guide us in one direction versus another. Where will world events take us next? Where is sentiment leaning? What or who will be the predominant voices? We predict that 2013 will get us moving toward a new equilibrium -- a place of balance that’s richer, simpler, and smarter, with these forces as the backdrop.