Search

Mikael Eriksson Björling

About people, business and culture in the Networked Society

Tag

retail

The new world of consumers

evolutionconsumer-1-513x300

I recently read a review in the Guardian about Frank Trentmann’s 1.5 kg book “How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First”, that is spot on a subject we are working hard on right now. I’ve bought an e-book version already, but – like an old-fashioned consumer – I feel a need to get a paper version just to feel the weight.

Trentmann writes that “In the early seventeenth century, for example, men and women in Bondorf and Gebersheim, two villages in Württemberg, Germany, owned 3 and 12 articles of clothing respectively. A century later, the number had shot up to 16 and 27 pieces. By 1800, it had doubled again.”  This development has continued through the centuries, and we continue to own more and more things. But is there an end?

We are in the midst of a major transformation of all areas of society and there is a lot of talk about transforming industries and the emergence of the industrial internet and so on. But in fact, what we’ve always seen throughout history is that when industries change, they do so in conjunction with the customer side. And customer demands for change can be motivated by either lifestyle or work-life factors. In other words, industrial and societal changes are two sides of the same coin.twosidedcoin-600x240

he accumulation of these changes becomes clearly visible when you line up how we have consumed throughout history, from the early days of hunting and gathering to the industrialized society, where the modern consumer was born and which is now a stage of major transformation.

To zoom back in to a personal level, I’ve been thinking about how my own patterns have changed these past years. My money is now completely digital – with few exceptions, I have not used Swedish cash for years. My mobile transactions are also starting to pick up – a lot of thing that I used to buy as physical products are now online services (such as music and software). And a lot of the things I need, I order online (while on the other hand, I am also very involved in, for example, buying locally and organically produced food). And these are just a handful of personal changes.

To illustrate the big shift, we have created an infographic about the changing consumer across history. This is a companion to our new report series on shape-shifting consumers and the new forms of commerce and consumption in the Networked Society. In these, we track both production and consumption evolving constantly throughout history and accelerating in the Networked Society.

Returning to Trentmann example above, it’s not so much that we are seeing an end to the growth in consumption, but rather a rapid expansion in the forms of both consumption and production and, with that, a far more complex and fluid understanding of what it now means to be a consumer.

Related links

The consumer is dead. Long live the user!

a-man-with-device-on-a-veranda_2

The essence of industrialization was to automate the production of things, which in turn brought about the industrialization of people, changing work and workplaces. People went from producing their own food at the countryside to producing stuff in the factories, for the stores in the cities. And so the modern consumer was born. But times are changing again!

As we move further into the Networked Society, the traditional consumer is challenged, even though the economists want consumption to keep spinning the wheel. New transformative businesses go to market with new business models at the same time as people’s behaviors are starting to change.

“Why own a car when you can just have one when you need it?” is what you can hear from young urban dwellers today.

Putting it simply, there are two major trends ahead for commercial life: (1) the big project for businesses is to automate the consumption or usage processes, and (2) traditional business models and the logic of the capitalistic economic system are challenged by “involved consumption” and the “sharing economy”.

This week, we release five reports about the future of commerce and consumption. This is the quick guide to these reports:

  1. Disruption of the old consumption logic: This report is about how we moved from an age of industrialization to the Networked Society and how the consumer logic once again will change.
  2. Emerging consumer values: This report reviews the expectations people will have on businesses as well as a set of emerging consumption dichotomies.
  3. The sharing economy: This report analyses the different parts of the sharing economy, such as barter trade, local currencies and cooperatives.
  4. The consumer in the Networked Society: This report outlines the characteristics of the future consumer.
  5. A tale of two transforming cities: Case studies highlighting urban transformation in Detroit and San Francisco and how progressive businesses and individuals organize consumption.
  6. The evolution of the consumer: infographic.

A new kind of shopping trip – how the virtual and real are blending

ipr_9-tif_3-446x300

In my last post over the holiday season, I examined the increased usage of convenient and fast digital services and consumption experiences, and how that somewhat paradoxically also drives more analog – and often passionate – experience of crafting things physically, which is encouraged and reinforced by online communities for nearly any topic you can imagine.

But this dichotomy will not last. As we interact with more and more things and spaces around us, the digital and physical will merge, and this will, in the end, eliminate our thinking in terms of digital and physical, virtual and real.

These worlds are already blending in our experience of shopping, and retailers are looking hard for the best ingredients to perfect this recipe.

One interesting blend of digital and physical shopping is what Rebecca Minkoff the fashion brand does in their flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles. They try to bring the best of the digital into the store experience. You can browse collections, discover products, and select the size of items that are sent to the fitting room for trying on. In the fitting room, you can adjust the lighting to simulate different situations. Should it be nightclub light or full sunlight? The RFID tags on every item in the store makes them pop up in the magic mirror with suggestions for accessories.

Read more about his at the Networked Society blog >>>

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑