Trends to watch for in 2013

2012-12-16 10:00

Dion Chang and Amanda Ballen round up the 10 biggest movements of next year, according to Flux Trends

Convergence: the new social media diet

If 2012 was a year of digital proliferation (think apps, tablets, super smartphones and multiple

social media platforms), 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 growing Facebook feeds, our bourgeoning Twitter responsibilities and our several 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 websites like PeerIndex 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, such as Android’s Best Market App, and choosing a preferred social media platform that automatically feeds our 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.

The democratisation 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 + Whiteman’s yearly 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 it has also got to do with the fact 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 chips 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 buns made from dough coloured with bamboo charcoal and tomato sauce made from squid ink.

On the flip side, a hole-in-the-wall canteen in Hong Kong, which offers dishes for less than R13, has become the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.

With micro greens appearing in Woolworth’s fridges, is the molecular gastronome packed lunch next?

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 activists who galvanise change from the comfort of their laptops (like the thousands who helped 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 ever-cynical customers of their empathy levels. For companies, it means corporate social investment talk must be reflected in the entire company’s DNA – from the chief executive to the cleaning staff.

For petition-weary consumers, it could spark a dangerous disengagement from fixing the growing problems of the world.

The umbilical extension cord

In the United Kingdom, they call them “yuckies”, in Italy “bamboccini”: young adults around the world who are migrating back to the nest after living alone, or who are simply reluctant to leave at all.

The emergence of this trend is not surprising.

In a world steeped in recession, with youth unemployment at an all-time high and academic degrees no longer ensuring employment 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- to 25-year-olds have reverted to relying on mom and dad.

Next year will bring with it the secondary effects of this Boomerang Generation.

According to Erica Goodstone, the financial strain will affect parents’ mortgages and retirement funds.

As a result, youngsters will be more likely to care for ageing parents and to respect their value systems instead of rebelling against them.

Stuck in limbo, in an awkward “adultescence”, the freedom that comes with financial independence, such as owning a car or property, becomes a distant dream, skewing the traditional benchmarks of adulthood.

The compromise will be in innovative living: a hybrid of homestead coexistence and collaborative consumption – trends that are already on the rise.

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.

The first is the influx of international retailers like Zara and TopShop forcing brands to rethink or be sidelined.

The second is from international online portals that can ship just as easily as their local counterparts. There is no longer a “no-competition 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 much more enticing.

Estée Lauder’s new cosmetic and fragrance online portal will further disrupt the retail environment as its online offering now competes with its 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 mantra of patriotism.

‘Designed in Asia’ is the new ‘Made in China’

On November 25, Gangnam Style by South Korean rapper PSY became the most watched video on YouTube, with more than 808 million views, unseating Justin Bieber from the top spot.

Hailed by UN secretary-general 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 such as Samsung and Hyundai were not considered the global competitors they are today.

The 2013 launch of the renowned Art Basel art fair in Hong Kong is just another bellwether of the global shift in consciousness towards contemporary Asian art, culture and design.

Without a doubt the epicentre of this movement will be China, which will no longer be considered the land of copycat and mass manufacturing, but as the inspiration of art celebrities such as Ai Weiwei, who recently sold his porcelain Sunflower Seeds at Sotheby’s for a record $782 500 (about R6.8 million).

In 2013, Shanghai’s future as a “global cultural hub” will begin to flower, with its new China Art Palace and Power Station of Art.

As an indication of China’s ambitions, the Jing Daily reported that the city plans to attract more than 3 million visitors a year by building 16 new art museums by 2015.

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”.

This is 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 use (just think what Jessica Leandra dos Santos’ tweet-in-mouth racist rant did to her modelling career).

We’re now in an era that calls for a social media stiff upper lip, where jobseekers 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 on social media platforms.

This boosts the discreet and professional format of sites like LinkedIn, but it also threatens to unleash a wave of privacy neuroses, where users scramble to separate professional and personal profiles, and obsess about privacy settings.

The ying and yang of extinction and opportunity

Technology is proving to be like an ice age for many businesses. It has resulted in bookshops like Borders disappearing and companies like Kodak being destroyed by their own inventions.

Next year brings with it not only the continued threat to our natural resources, but to familiar objects from our past.

Land line telephones and their dial-up tones, cheap point-and-shoot cameras and even alarm clocks are already becoming endangered, argues futurist Mark Pesce.

But not only objects will be rendered obsolete.

Flux Trends has been tracking the disappearance of tried-and-tested business models, and modes of thinking that are becoming 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 will be born.

Learning to think small

Technology has forced traditional business models within industries to change radically, but now the structure of companies is being reassessed.

Today’s business challenge is no longer “small vs big”, but rather “fast vs slow”.

Spanish fashion retailer Zara revolutionised 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 hierarchical management structures are not conducive to ompetitive business in a digital era.

For maximum agility and flexibility, a chief executive should no longer strive to be king of the castle but rather the centre of the circle, and run the business with an entrepreneur’s zeal and the passion of a start-up.

In South Africa, there is an additional layer to this trend: let’s call it the “Marikana effect”.

Large corporations are starting to feel the negative effects of unionised 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 mining firm Gold Fields could be seen as part of this trend.

In 2013, a smaller boutique mind-set is likely to become best practice for big business.

The photo-sharing war

It has attracted more than 100 million users in two years, and, without hesitation, Facebook bought it for $1 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 and 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 (about 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.

Dion Chang and Amanda Ballen

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