Remember the swirling predictions that 2012 would herald an age of enlightenment, the start of something vast and new on a global scale? The way I see it, that shift happened quite some time ago—2012 simply marked our recognition of the great changes already taking place.
We’re now able to communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere from the comfort and convenience of our smart phones. Indeed, as we enter 2013, we’ve got both feet planted firmly in the changing world ushered in by the Digital Revolution.
A tipping point of connection
For the last four years, many have been living in a state of anxiety and fear as empires rolled, financial systems buckled, and Mother Nature threw some nasty tantrums. At times, the state of the world seemed dire indeed.
But in this short time span, something else was changing, growing, evolving—our connection to each other. Not just in the U.S., but worldwide.
In the face of financial hardship, political unrest, natural disaster, and human tragedy, we connected globally via the internet. We connected instantaneously across cultures and countries to support each other. This extraordinary ability to connect has changed the world.
It’s hard to pinpoint how fast this shift happened—but in terms of history, it’s been an instant. Social media has played a huge part, but smart phones—essentially global communication tools made available to the masses—has been key. A few years ago smart phones were not widely available and platforms such as iTunes, Netflix, Kindle, and Facebook didn’t exist or were not yet relevant to mainstream culture. Many baby boomers were still adamantly refusing to tweet or text!
Today, just a few weeks shy of 2013, most of us are hooked in, hooked up, and connected—like it or not.
The ability to connect instantaneously and globally from a small machine we hold in our hands affects us deeply: personally, as we proceed in our private lives; collectively, as we proceed in living with others; and most certainly in business.
Seven trends to track for 2013
This evolution of connection has a created a new renaissance worldwide. The enlightenment? It’s already here. The shift via a digital revolution that affects nearly everything in the modern world has already begun.
Here are seven trends rising now:
- Everyone’s a creator. Anyone can now create and then distribute their creations—without filter—to the global community. This means the artist determines content, not the music label, the publishing house, or any other company. Everyone’s an author, producer, innovator. This also means customers have nearly unlimited options when searching or shopping for content.
- The new politics. At press time, we don’t know who will win the election. But no matter who’s in office, how we perceive government has been radically changed by our connectivity. During the last election four years ago, we were just starting to use social media in politics. Now it’s the main method of communication—and again, it’s not top-down. It’s grass roots, we the people. When we can connect with each other directly, the hierarchy of top-down government no longer holds the same sway. This is true of politics, corporations, and all the old structures.
- Connection addiction. We are addicted to our phones and feeds. Especially, we want what’s new, and we want it now. That flash mob that just happened? So 20 seconds ago. We no longer live in the past, or even in the present; we live with a constant addiction for buzz, the inside secret, the leaky tweet. Our platforms change as fast as hairstyles: as soon as Pinterest got hot, Instagram showed up. More to come.
- Global innovations. Recently, Bill Gates gave a $100,000 prize for the development of a sustainable, solar-powered toilet designed for developing nations that didn’t have sewage infrastructure. Watch for more of this innovation that solves big planetary problems—and how these innovations jump into the market.
- China emerges. China steps up as a new leader in creating and marketing on-trend products to the masses, from their affordable Chinese smart phone to “everyman shoes” that look a lot like Nikes but are affordable for everyone. Fair to U.S. businesses? No, but watch for these new ideas—in products, and how they’re priced and marketed—to creep into Western culture. We’re just witnessing the beginning of this enormous market influence.
- Sustainable as the standard. Good ideas spread fast. Eco-friendly has become the new normal. This once emerging trend has now gone mainstream. That means if you can offer an eco-product at a value, your customers will buy it. If you can’t offer eco at a value, ask your vendors why.
- Downloads, please. The Digital Revolution has changed the publishing industry, the music industry, the entertainment industry … the list goes on. Many of your younger customers don’t even own devices capable of playing a CD or DVD. This is the reality of this new era, where downloads rule. It can be troubling to be a bookstore when books are downloading onto Kindles, Nooks, and iPads. However, early adoptors usually fare better than those who wait and worry. Programs such as indiecommerce.com let booksellers profit directly from downloads; other programs allow bookstores to profit from Kindle purchases.
First published in Vol. 26 No. 7 of Retailing Insight. © 2012 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.