retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

One of my favorite reads is Fast Company, a magazine and website that I think does a pretty solid job of keeping its eyes forward - looking around the corner at what's new, what's next and what's necessary.

In the current issue there is a piece by a fellow named Olof Schybergson from a design firm called Fjord that predicts some of the trends that we may be seeing in the new year.

There will be no paucity of such lists as we head toward the new year, but I thought that this essay made some extra points worth noting.

One is that people are in the process of developing what is called a "personal ecosystem," which basically means that they have all these gadgets - ranging from smartphones and tablet computers to things like the Nike FuelBand that provide and integrate personal living services to the user. Some of this sounds a little Star Trek, and may not see mass acceptance in 2013 ... but clearly we are going in that direction. Marketers need to figure out where they fit in that infrastructure.

At the same time, the article argues, the winners will be the ones who manage to keep all these services and gizmos simple, elegant and intuitive. My sense is that the phrase "learning curve" may become obsolete.

I think this one is very interesting - the notion that "access will supplant ownership." Zipcar is a perfect example of this ... building a business out of customers who want access, not ownership. One has to wonder how many other opportunities there are out there for businesses that can exploit this trend. Could it be that the old saw that "whoever dies with the most toys wins" is obsolete? Maybe that's one of the lessons learned, at least in some quarters, from all the economic turmoil of the last few years.

Finally, there is the concept that "I belong to me" - that most people are willing to put up with enormous amounts of data about their lives and habits and purchases being compiled ... but that they want to make sure that the information is used relevantly, discreetly, in a non-intrusive way. You may have the privilege of knowing about me, even if you don't really know me ... just make sure you don't abuse the privilege.

Tap into any one of these trends, or all of them, and you begin to establish a far more intimate relationship with the consumer. You don't just become relevant to their lives, but part of their lives. That's a huge difference, it has to do with being both efficient and effective, and it can be an enormous differential advantage for the marketer that plays it right.

That's what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I'd like to hear what is on your mind.

KC's View: