Twin peak consumers
Are here to stay ...
Consumers have discovered the delights of 'both/and', instead of 'either/or'; luxury AND value, expensive AND cheap, premium AND discount, indulgence AND cost consciousness. As a result, more and more markets are developing twin peaks: at one end discount stores are thriving, but so too are luxury, hand-made products and top end prestige brands at the other.
Many consumers are under pressure from rising costs of fuel, credit and life in general; confidence has been waning; life feels more unsettled and uncertain in the face of threats from terrorism, crime and predictions of imminent ecological catastrophe. Also, consumer markets are more transparent than ever before, courtesy of price comparison websites - along with all the other information they can find on the web. Enter the canny consumer, who will happily pay premium prices for some things, but is equally happy and proud to hunt down the best bargains.
On one peak, discount stores have upped their game to provide better quality, fast - Primark the fashion chain being a prime example. Fashion conscious consumers can find the latest cat-walk ideas in the shops within about 6 weeks. Consumers will pick and mix an H&M top, with a Gucci bag, or get a bargain at TK Maxx. The danger, of course, for the traditional luxury brands is the appeal and resulting growth in sales of counterfeits.
On the other peak, small indulgences and differentiation are winning too. For example, sales of luxurious chocolates are growing, against a generally falling market in the UK; bars of deluxe hand-made soap, with wonderful scent, beautiful packaging and a soft luxurious feel have been making a come back over their rival the liquid soap. Consumers can choose from an ever greater array of types of olive oil, salt or coffee to indulge and reflect their taste and conscience.
Competition from the twin peaks will only intensify as consumers chase the bargains so they can also afford life's little (or not so little) luxuries.
Sheila Moorcroft, Research Director, Shaping Tomorrow
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Oscars for your video clips?
2006 may well be viewed as the watershed for the next generation of web development. The airwaves have been filled in recent months with chatter about the rise of social networking, open Internet access, Web 2.0 development, a viral video online revolution and mobile surfing. That chatter is now giving way to reality.
Just as the mobile phone sparked a fascination with sending still pictures to friends, family and associates, it seems set to do the same for video. Only this week the first domain suffixes especially created for mobiles recognised their increasing capabilities and potential to be our personal, all-embracing communicator.
MySpace.com's meteoric rise has demonstrated the power of social networking, warts and all. It already offers the uploading of personal video clips. Imagine if we all begin uploading clips from our mobiles. Real-time live action, seen from many perspectives, from all over the world will be available to all of us wherever we are; at a sports event, at work, at home, even in bed!
Is this the new reality where we are simultaneously both the actor and the audience? The experience of YouTube.com suggests it will be. YouTube.com now gets 25 million hits a year and boasts more than 40 million original clips and TV segments uploaded by visitors - but surely this has only just scratched the surface.
And as, IP television and video starts to flood the Internet, we can expect many more web pages to include short films using ready-made clips from sites like Gettyimages.com as well as those produced by individuals. How long, we wonder, will it be before Oscars are awarded for the best commercial and personal web-based video clips?
Mike Jackson, Chairman, Shaping Tomorrow
PS: We've included a few examples from You Tube in this week's links to show what's coming.
The U.K.'s Strategic Planning Society is organising a strategy conference in Dubai. They are planning to make this the event of the decade and are intending to sell up to 4,500 tickets to a two-day conference and one-day masterclass. They are approaching speakers of the calibre of: