1. Convergence: the New Social Media Diet.
If 2012 was a year of digital proliferation (think Apps, Tablets, super Smartphones and multiple social media platforms), then 2013 will be the year of the ‘techno spring clean’. For every successful app, like ‘Foursquare’, there are dozens of failing clones (Godwalla, SCVNGR). Users are starting to experience ‘check-in-fatigue’. Our ever-needy Facebook feed, our burgeoning twitter responsibilities and our photo-sharing platforms, have started to result in social media burnout. Ironically, millennial youths are already beginning to resent the social pressure put on them by sites like Peer Index and Klout, which rank their success in terms of ‘social media influence’.
In 2013, what cyber junkies will look for is not more choice, but solutions that converge the clutter of the virtual world: apps that recommend other apps, like Android’s Best Market App, and choosing a preferred social media platform that automatically feeds your other accounts. The blogging and twitter world will become more meritocratic, with followers redefining their selection based on criteria like quality, creativity, ingenuity and above all brevity. According to The New York Times’ Stephanie Rosenbloom, the new ‘social-media diet’ consists of curated social networks and strict, scheduled, time online.
2. The Ying and Yang of Extinction and Opportunity.
Technology is proving to be the ‘ice-age’ for many businesses. It has resulted in bookshops like Borders disappear and companies like Kodak destroyed by their own invention – the digital camera. 2013 brings with it not only the continued threat to our natural resources, but also to familiar objects from our past. Land line telephones and their dial-up tones, cheap point & shoot cameras and even alarm clocks are already becoming endangered, argues futurist Mark Pesce.
However, it is not only objects that will be rendered obsolete. Flux has been tracking the disappearance of tried-and-tested business models and modes of thinking that are proving to be outdated in the 21st century. As FastCompany puts it: “Technology forces disruption, and not all of the change will be good. Optimists look to all the excitement. Pessimists look to all that gets lost. They’re both right. How you react depends on what you have to gain versus what you have to lose. This is the moment for an explosion of opportunity, there for the taking by those prepared to embrace the change.”
In essence, opportunities are not lost, but rather transformed. For example, bike-sharing schemes may close down bicycle shops, but a new maintenance industry is born.
3. E-tailing: Couch based Retail Therapy
With the traditional barriers to E-commerce fast disappearing (lower bandwidth prices, payment security and efficient delivery), 2013 is the year when South Africans finally embrace online shopping wholeheartedly. South African retailers are being forced to diversify online to fight competition on two fronts. Firstly, the influx of international retailers like Zara and TopShop are forcing brands to rethink or be sidelined. The second is from international online portals that can ship as easily as the local versions. There is no longer a “non-compete zone” in retail.
A wide variety of online portals are emerging: from general ‘emporiums’ like Takealot, to industry specific ones like 36 Boutiques and YuppieChef, as well as the more recent online brand extensions at Dion Wired and Cape Union Mart. Significantly, these online services have started offering cash-on-delivery as well as credit payment options, making the lure so much more enticing. Estee Lauder’s new cosmetic and fragrance online portal will further disrupt the retail environment as their online offering now competes with their traditional distribution channel – the department store. The winner in this retail war is the new couch shopper, who is taking to this “see, click, buy” process like a duck to water. Shopping ‘Proudly South African online’ will soon be the new patriotic mantra.
4. The Photo-sharing War
It has attracted over 100 million users in two years, and without hesitation, Facebook bought it for billion. Despite its simplicity and ease of use, Instagram has taken photo-sharing to another level. It has moved us from a hyper-verbal cyber sphere to a hyper visual one. According to the New Yorker’s Silvia Killingworth, the rise of photo-sharing social media, (including online scrap booking sites like Pinterest) has refocused our gaze away from our navels towards experiencing and sharing the ‘visual candy’ of the world that surrounds us.
Although Instagram reigns supreme as a photo-sharing platform, other platforms are challenging its throne. There is talk of Snapchat sharing roughly the same number of photographs per day as Instagram (i.e. five million). Likewise, Cinemagram’s animation features could prove to be the outsider that wins the race. Will users stay loyal to Instagram as the major catalyst of a photographic revolution, or will they stray to more novel pastures? Instagram is already about to launch its own camera, as well as a range of related products, like a mini, old school-style projector in 2013. The battle will, dare we say, end in a tense photo finish.
5. The Democratization of Gourmet Food
Last year, Flux Trends followed the rise of the artisanal eater: the new foodies who are as interested in their food’s provenance and hand-made pedigree, as the taste. This year, the trend is towards making gourmet more mass-market. According to Baum and Whiteman’s annual report of food and dining trends, 2013 will usher in ‘trickle down dining’.
In part, this has been propagated by a trend for photo-food journaling across photo-sharing communities, but is has also got to do the fact that that fast food joints are offering gourmet versions of their products. Heston Blumenthal’s ingenious concept of eggs and bacon ice cream has permeated Burger King chains in the form of their new ‘bacon-sundae’. Wendy’s natural-cut fries sprinkled with sea salt is credited to Teller Keller of French Laundry and Per Se fame, who built entire dishes around a particular sea salt. In Japan, Burger King’s fifth anniversary in the Japanese market was celebrated by the ‘Kuro’ burger: black bun’s made from dough coloured with bamboo charcoal and ketchup made from squid ink. On the flipside, A Hole-In-The-Wall Canteen in Hong Kong, which offers dishes for less than has become the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant. With micro greens appearing in Woolworth’s fridges, is the molecular gastronome, packed lunch next?
6. Reputation Aggregation
According to “social innovator” Rachel Botsman, trust between strangers on new service provision sites like TaskRabbit and Airbnb, as well as in collaborative consumption of cars, apartments and skills, have moved us towards a ‘reputation economy’: a marketplace that shifts its attention towards who people are and their trustworthiness, as opposed to what they have accumulated on their CV.
The growing online detective work done by employers will signal the death knell of politically incorrect, or inappropriate twitter usage – just think what Jessica Leandra Dos Santos’ ‘tweet-in-mouth’ racist rant did to her modeling career. We’re now in an era that calls for a social media ‘stiff upper lip’, where job-seekers must refrain from publicly posting something embarrassing or venting at one’s colleagues, job or company. A study from Pew Internet Research has noted that university applicants are now starting to delete comments they have made or photos they have been tagged in from their social media platforms. This certainly boosts the discreet and professional format of sites like LinkedIn, but it also threatens to unleash a wave of privacy neurosis, where users scramble to separate professional and personal profiles, and obsess about privacy settings.
7. Goodwashing, the New Greenwashing
In its 2012 publication, New Urban Tribes of South Africa, Flux Trends tracked the rise of the techno hippie: the new age activist who galvanizes change from the comfort of his/her laptop (like the thousands who assisted Molly Katchpole in her fight against The Bank of America on change.org). However, in 2013, philanthropic feistiness starts to fade into a fatigue. Clicking for a cause, whether for a campaign page, vote, or petition, is no longer a novelty, but is beginning to feel like a chore.
This means that charitable crowd sourcing initiatives, like Pepsi Refresh, which tries to bring a moral, socially aware element into a brand, are becoming passé. More importantly, the idea of the armchair advocate also heightens suspicion for consumers about the extent to which a company’s do-gooding is ‘pseudo-gooding’. Increasingly, brands will be under even greater pressure to convince its ever-cynical customers of its empathy levels. For companies it means their CSI talk must be reflected in the entire company’s DNA – from the CEO to the cleaning staff. For petitioned weary consumers it could spark a dangerous disengagement with fixing the growing problems of the world.
8. ‘Designed in Asia’ the new ‘Made in China’
On the 25th November 2012, ‘Gangnam Style’ by South Korean “rapper” PSY, became the most watched video on YouTube with over 808 million views, unseating Justin Bieber from top spot. Hailed by UN secretary Ban Ki-Moon, as a ‘force for world peace’, the music video represents a greater Asian cultural wave sweeping the world. Five years ago, South Korean brands like Samsung and Hyundi were not considered the global competitors they are today. The 2013 launch of renowned art fair, Art Basel in Hong Kong, is just another bellwether signaling the global shift in consciousness towards contemporary Asian art, culture and design.
Without a doubt, the epicenter of this movement will be China, which will no longer be considered the land of copy-cat and mass manufacturing, but as the inspiration of art celebrities like Ai Wei Wei, who recently sold his porcelain Sunflower Seeds at Sotheby’s for a record 500. In 2013, Shanghai’s future of being a ‘global cultural hub’ begins to flower, with its new China Art Palace and Power Station of Art. As an indication of China’s ambitions, the Jing Daily reports that the city plans to attract over three million visitors a year by building sixteen new art museums by 2015.
9. The Umbilical Extension Cord
In the UK, they call them ‘Yuckies’, in Italy “Bamboccini”: young adults around the world who are migrating back to the nest after living alone, or simply reluctant to leave at all. The emergence of this trend is unsurprising. In world seeped in recession, youth unemployment is at an all time high and academic degrees no longer ensure opportunities, leaving the nest has never been riskier. In South Africa, where constant hustling to sustain a middle class lifestyle is leading to burnout, many 18-25 year olds have reverted to relying on Mom and Dad.
2013 will bring with it the secondary effects of this Boomerang Generation. According to Dr Erica Goodstone, the financial strain will impact on parents’ mortgages and retirement funds. As a result, youngsters will be more likely to care for aging parents and to respect value systems instead of rebel against them. Stuck in limbo, in an awkward ‘adultescence’, the freedom that comes with financial independence, such as owning a car or property, become a distant dream, skewing the traditional benchmarks to adulthood. The compromise will be in innovative living: a hybrid of homestead co-existence and collaborative consumption – trends already on the rise.
10. Learning to Think Small
Technology has forced traditional business models within industries to change radically, but now, how a company is structured is being reassessed. Today’s business challenge is no longer “small versus big”, but rather “fast versus slow”. Spanish fashion retailer Zara revolutionized the clothing retail industry by competing on speed to market rather than on lowest manufacturing cost, the standard industry focus. In our always-on, high-tech world, the lure of the new supersedes price concerns. The problem is that bloated and hierarchal management structures are not conducive to competitive business in a digital era. For maximum agility and flexibility, a CEO should no longer strive to be ‘king of the castle’ but rather the ‘centre of the circle’, and run the business with the zeal of an entrepreneur and passion of a start-up.
In South Africa there is an additional layer to this trend: call it, the “Marikana effect”. Large corporations are starting to feel the negative effects of unionized labour, shareholder demands and cumbersome administration channels. Breaking a large corporation into two or three smaller companies offers flexibility as well as the option to fly under the radar, with a lot more autonomy. The unbundling of Goldfields could be seen as part of this trend. In 2013 a smaller boutique mindset becomes best practice for big business.
Written and researched by Dion Chang and Amanda Ballen