January 28, 2008 2 Comments
New ideas and startups don’t necesarily succeed by trying to drastically change consumer behavior. Instead, they succeed more often by identifying shifts that are happening in consumer behavior and needs, and then leveraging then capitalizing upon them with slick execution.
A framework that can help identify, assess and classify potential opportunities is to look for dominant consumer themes that are taking shape across a broad spectrum of products and industries. These themes represent major shifts in consumer behavior, and can help identify new products and services that consumers are ready to adopt now, or will be in a few years.
Here’s a shot at listing some major current themes in consumer behavior evolution, which are applicable to the Internet, media and mobile sector:
Hyperdifferentiation and Personalization: We are in an era where consumers are asking for products that are more and more differentiated, and at the same time more personalized to their tastes.
Convergence: As the complexity of types of media and access mechanisms increases, the human need for simplicity keeps creating opportunities for various types of convergence – convergence of access device (e.g. TV content on mobile phone), convergence of media types (e.g. blurring boundary between TV content and online videos), convergence of desktop software and web services (e.g. SaaS).
Acceptability of new communication mechanisms: In the beginning, there were phone calls, email and personal web pages. Then came SMS, social network pages, blogs, personal videos, twitter, video twitter… whats next?
Consumers also want to be Producers: User-generated content (blogs, videos, music etc) represents a major shift in consumer behavior from the early Internet model, where most consumers were happy being just consumers. Even though the percentage of consumers who contribute content may still be low (less than 20% of YouTube users ever contribute a video), the key theme is that consumers are now ready and eager to consume content created by other non-professional users.
Community: The advent and popularity of the Internet took away a little bit from real-world social interactions, as an entire generation grew up spending enormous amounts of their leisure time in front of screens. However, humans are social animals, and the human need for social interactions and affiliation has given rise to an entirely generation of online tools that relicate real-world social behavior – ranging from social network platforms to people search tools to match-making sites.
Information Organization: As the amount of information that is available continues to grow exponentially, opportunities for new mechanisms to organize that information keep on arising. Version 0 was Yahoo-type directories. Version 1 was google-type horizontal search. The current frontiers seeing a lot of action are vertical search (e.g. Indeed for jobs, Kayak for travel), social discovery tools (e.g. StumbleUpon, Digg etc), recommender systems (like the ones used by Amazon for instance). One area where we could see more action in this domain the near future is more comprehensive Personal Information Management.
Ease of Use or Lower Cost: Anything that helps me simplify what I already do, or lowers the costs of what I do in some way is always attractive.
These, of course, are all very broad themes. But they can provide us a good framework to look for opportunities. We can cross-index these themes with the major macro trends and structural changes that I laid out in a previous post, to have a matrix that we can classify currently evolving opportunities into.
In a few posts, I’ll start delving into each theme, with the end goal of identifying upcoming players that are well positioned for harnessing those themes.