It’s that time of year when we look back…and we look forward. We contemplate the implications of things that happened last year, and we make resolutions and predictions about the year ahead. So here’s my stab at a couple of things specialty brands should be thinking about in the year ahead.
If you slept through 2012, here’s where to start
First, mobile has gone over the tipping point. In 2012, many more smartphones and tablets were sold than PCs. In 2013, Internet access via mobile devices will outpace that of desktop computers (by 2015, the ratio is projected to be about 4-to-1, mobile vs. desktop). Yet, even given this reality, there are still many brands that are not keeping pace with these trends in the most basic ways. If you don’t have a mobile version of your website (or a site that uses responsive design to adapt to all screen sizes), then put that on the top of your list for 2013.
Next, the jury is in on social media: it is no longer an option. Marketers must engage people where they spend their time. Social media is the new word-of-mouth, and WOM has always been the number-one way people learn about the products and services they purchase. With the old WOM it was very hard to keep tabs on what people were saying. Lucky for marketers, with social media you can not only listen in but also participate in the conversation. So if social media monitoring and a social playbook are not part of your marketing plans, those should go next on your list.
2013 and beyond: the pace of change continues to accelerate
If you have a nagging feeling that you should be doing something, then you’re probably already behind. Never mind the breakneck pace in communications technologies like mobile devices and social media. Think about what will be happening with your products and the supply chain within a few years. According to a recent NPR story, in the foreseeable future 3-D printers will be producing pretty much anything you can think of, and made of practically any type of material. For example, they’re already printing things like shoes and clothing. 3-D printers are also already producing parts for the aircraft we fly in and artificial joints used in orthopedic surgeries (right now, there are 30,000 people walking around with 3-D printed titanium hips). The idea of printing human tissue is on the horizon (cut off a finger, print another one).
Sound crazy? Remember that one flaw we humans have is that we typically envision the rate of future change by looking back at the pace of past change. When you look forward into the near future, take what you think will happen and cut the time you believe it will take to get there in half.
During 3 crazy days at the biggest department chain in the Benelux, Bijenkorf gets a whiff of 3-D printing at their 9 stores across Holland.
What implication does this have for specialty brands? If your brand wants to lead rather than follow, you should have R&D people in 2013 thinking about the implications of instant personalized production of goods via 3-D printing and same-day delivery from Amazon. Brands that make specialty tools, pet supplies, medical products, shoes, sunglasses or practically anything else will soon be able to take online orders for customized, made-to-order items and then deliver them to their customers the same day.
As the saying goes, beta is the new alpha, so get going! You don’t want to wake up in 2014 another year further behind your competition. Happy New Year!