Remember the days when a big-box store sounded the death knell for small business? Today, that trend may be ending due to another event: the emergence of mom-and-pops with the muscle of a major brand.
Social media, online marketplaces such as Etsy and Fab, and transaction-processing technologies have enabled even micro-businesses to compete with national chains. A home-based jewelry maker in Michigan can compete with one that works with retailers such as Urban Outfitters or Macy's, attracting customers from as far New York to California.
Colloquy, the Cincinnati-based research group of LoyaltyOne, has coined a term for this trend: MomPopolies. And it is one of 10 major events that Colloquy says are occurring "Under the Radar" today. Here's what else the group predicts.
Trends That Influence Relevance
1. Health = wealth. Changing demographics and rising health care costs have created a health economy. But what separates aging Baby Boomers from previous generations is that they will grow older for a much longer time, and continue to be a viable part of the spending economy. More consumers, meanwhile, are focusing on living healthier due in part to rising medical costs. Companies are already nudging and rewarding employees to live healthier in many ways.
2. Rewards for non-purchase activities. You can blame helicopter moms, social media, reality TV, or all of the above, but today's consumers have higher expectations to be recognized for seemingly small deeds and accomplishments. Loyalty programs are built on rewards for spending, but now this model is increasingly supplemented with rewards for certain actions--and for sharing them with others.
3. Friend, blend, spend (the open-loyalty economy). Loyalty programs have become commoditized due to an absence of head-turning innovation. And what is the most universal commodity of all? Cold, hard cash. Without much differentiation between programs, consumers are demanding that their programs offer an increasingly cash-like redemption process. Marketers are responding by offering more variety in redemption options, and simplifying those with cash or near-cash rewards.
4. Augmented reality. Anyone who test-drives a BMW on his desktop or tries on clothes through Lands' End's virtual models has experienced augmented reality. It is a fairly specific innovation, but its capabilities are broad, and it has the power to penetrate any brand activity.
Trends That Affect Customer Engagement
1. The rise of MomPopolies. Social media has been a great equalizer for many small brands, which have used Facebook and other platforms as soapboxes from which their loyal customers can sing their praises. Add online transaction-processing technologies and a small dress shop in Petaluma can compete with Macy's in Cincinnati. The result is what Colloquy calls MomPopolies--Mom and Pop establishments with as much engagement power as some of their national rivals, but with the ability (and panache)--of being hands-on local.
2. The new partners. Canada, Europe, South America and Asia have coalition loyalty programs, where scores of brands are organized under one loyalty program and consumers earn and redeem rewards across all program sponsors. While this model does not yet exist in the United States, some major brands have partnered with others that make sense, such as supermarkets and fuel stations. This partnership strategy is paying off, and growing. Brands should look beyond the looks-good-on-paper partners--those with scale, market density and compatible services--and consider other less-obvious qualities.
3. Data scientist shortage. When we think of loyalty, we think of marketing, but the professional need is in data analysis. The statistics prove the point: 97% of companies with revenue of more than $100 million are pursuing expertise in business analytics, according to a recent Forrester Research study. Yet McKinsey & Company forecasts that the data analytics field will face a shortage of professionals by 2018. Organizations that award scholarships or produce joint case studies or research in this field will have a crack at the best and brightest.
4. Regulation rebound. Every data marketer knows that the industry is destined to face legislated changes in how it collects and analyzes data, but we're not talking much about the positive role that marketers can play in defining the changes. There are small movements, but opportunities still abound. With headlines focusing on instances where new rules are not being followed (such as Google's recent $22.5 million fine for using cookies on Safari), those organizations that choose to lead collaboratively stand to become the trusted, go-to experts.
Let the Economy Create Value
1. Glocalism. The term Glocalism technically means the adaptation of a product or service to each location or culture in which it is sold. But under the radar, Glocalism also signifies how regional businesses can be altered by events that take place far away. It is the butterfly effect on fiber optic wings--the technologies that have enabled us to become a global economy also tether us to the issues that occur worldwide, whether that is a tsunami, a factory fire or a failed currency.
2. Economic fear and control. So the United States is headed toward a fiscal cliff, and because of glocalization, all of the world is watching. But as leaders hammer out the pros and cons of revenue cuts, tax increases, and loopholes, marketers can't lose sight of the fact that the incentives that influence consumers--driven by their inherent tendency to be value-conscious--remain largely the same. Consumers still want to experience greater value, they want to pay less, and they want to earn more.
To read Colloquy's full report Under the Radar: Ten Trends Loyalty Marketers Might Not See Coming in 2013, click here.