For many a year now, I have watched as my theories and predictions about business, markets, niches, and segments have come into being.
For once, I’m going to publicly make one.
Given the current state of retail in general, the rise of mobile, the advents of “big data” and 3D print technology, and the exponentially growing focus on personalized products, service, and shopping, I predict that soon:
1. Retail (as in brick and mortar) will largely go the way of bookstores; that is to say all but fully online and multi-channel as in phone, mobile device, web, etc (others we cannot conceive right now, too). Those who insist on trying to maintain brick and mortar as the primary means of anything more than neighborhood revenue will self-select themselves out of the market/industry. Exceptions (for now, anyway) are grocery, pharma, and homeopathics/organics, etc.
2. Product offerings from shoes to clothing (and a lot more besides) will gradually move from traditional manufacture to 3D printing; the resulting customer experience will be to design your own apparel, shoes, etc. pay for them, and the provider will print them using 3D technology and drop ship them.
3. The resulting impact on retail in general and consumer products specifically will be a tsunami of personalized services that target both the established demographics and (more interestingly) overlap niches between them.
4. The demographic and psychographic now driving product marketing and development will be utterly usurped as its relevancy withers in the face increasingly complex and granular demands. “Big Data” will evolve to present the first appearance of this pattern and those who embrace it will be the innovative companies of tomorrow.
5. From the above, a new age of what I’ve dubbed “quantum analytics” will arise. The key elements of this specialty will be a turn from mapping demographics and/or psychographics as a primary indicator of market interest/demand/consumers to mapping communities and collaboratives alongside the interests and sentiments of each in order to identify un-served and under-served niches.
6. Demographics and psychographics will become meta-knowledge that is intrinsically useless outside the context of its community. They’ll still have their place, but it will be the relationship between personal interests and weak links between networks (i.e., aristocratic and small world network theory) that will drive business and marketeers.
7. It will no longer be enough to identify a swath of people who may be interested or who may wish to buy; the challenge will be to know where the highest ratio of shared interests reside and how to design and deliver offerings that complement them AND motivate those consumers to carry them as they cross disparate networks.
8. This theory is equally applicable to any and all manufactured product/offerings. It has applicability to certain manufactured services as well in so far as the service being provided can be repetitively produced with success (e.g., a site that builds new sites, a service that integrates A into B and/or updates on the fly, a universal parser that has the logic in place to accurately match, scrub, and update disparate sets of data into a cohesive whole, etc).
The foundational progression rests (as it always does) in the degree of statistically relevant consistency, pattern/process repeatability, and the fundamental fidelity/integrity of information.