Adding to my previous post on 2007 predictions . . . Trendwatching.com just posted their top 5 consumer trends for 2007.  If you don't currently subscribe to the Trendwatching.com Trend Briefing email newsletter, I strongly recommend that you do.  Trendwatching's global team of trendspotters and analysts works around the clock to surface new and often startling consumer trends from around the world, providing US marketers with a perspective that eMarketer, Forrester, and other US-based research firms simply can't offer. 

I won't rehash or provide commentary for this particular list of predictions, as I encourage you to read it in its entirety (it's pretty lengthy) to get a good sense of how Trendwatching breaks down and cross-references their predictions with macro-trends and micro-trends that they have identified throughout the past few years.  However, I will share a highlight or two: 

My favorite soundbyte from the list is "participation is the new consumption."  They note that consumption is deeply related to the quest for status, but in mature consumer societies, like our own, many physical goods are available in abundance.  As a result, consumer behavior is evolving away from the "dated lifestyle centered on hoarding as many branded, luxury goods as possible" and towards more experiential consumption activities, which are often social experiences.  My takeaway here is that as consumption becomes more experiential and social, consumer opinions and advice will become THE most valued source of information and "advertising" for those products and services, since consumers – individually and in groups – are so deeply involved in shaping the quality of the experience itself.    

Also, I loved the intro to trend #2: TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY . . .

"Remember the promises of flawless matching of supply and demand, and limitless consumer power, when the web burst onto the scene a dozen years ago? While the last few years didn’t disappoint (consumers are already enjoying near-full transparency of prices and, in categories like travel and music, near-full transparency of opinions as well), 2007 could be the year in which TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY really starts scaring the shit out of non-performing brands.

Why? For one, 1+ billion consumers are now online, and the majority of them have been online for years. They're skilled bargain seekers and ‘best of the best’ hunters, they're avid online networkers and they're opinionated reviewers and advisors (tripadvisor.com now boasts 5,000,000+ travel reviews)."

At Bazaarvoice, we often discuss the long-term potential of ratings & reviews and other transparency-enabling technologies to expedite the obsolescence of truly bad products – products that disappoint customers, that erode customer loyalty, that are costly for retailers and manufacturers to carry and support, etc.  If Trendwatching is right, 2007 could be the year that early adopters of ratings & reviews, many of who are clients of ours, take decisive action by discontinuing products that have accumulated overwhelmingly negative reviews from customers or at least begin to factor a product's customer rating into other core measures of a product's contribution to the company's bottom line (e.g., profits from negatively rated products could, at the end of the day, be "bad profits" in Net Promoter terms).

Additionally . . . 

"Real-time TRANSPARENCY TYRANNY is on the rise for another reason as well: as more people are contributing, the sheer mass of reviews will lead to daily and who knows, hourly reviews on any topic imaginable. . . . Pleasant side-effect: mass postings will also unmask, outnumber and neutralize any fake reviews posted by desperate brands trying to piggy back on the powers of transparency."

"However, the missing link in the above is profiles: the onslaught of recommendations needs some transparency of its own. After all, what good is a recommendation if it’s from someone leading a different STATUS LIFESTYLE than your own? Expect a host of new TWINSUMER ventures to monetize collaborative filtering and profile matching in 2007, most likely by partnering with sites that are already centered around profiles, like MySpace and Bebo.com. Collaborative filtering and profile matching ranges from social shopping (check out Crowdstorm, ThisNext and Stylehive on Springwise) to the Last.fms and Yoonos of this world."

"Once this PROFILE MANIA reaches its zenith, and even more purchase decisions will be influenced by fellow, likeminded consumers, expect star contributors/reviewers to demand a piece of the action. Re-read our GENERATION C(ASH) briefing for a taste of things to come. Smart 'participants' will want to get paid in 2007."

On the first point above, we are seeing this very trend every day.  In addition to the accelerating organic growth of customer-generated content, we are helping our clients further accelerate the impact of UGC on their businesses by defining, testing, and refining best practices for engaging UGC contributors.  Our Client Services team has compiled an 80-page best practices guide containing these tactics, and one of our recently launched clients received over 25,000 reviews in a 24-hour period by applying these tactics.  

On the following points, we are working on new product and partnership initiatives designed to address this very opportunity.  As we expand our platform to include additional UGC applications and services, expect to see more "connective tissue" in the form of enhanced user profiles and possible integration with other profile-based applications in use on our clients' websites.  

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