Is technology driving a social trend? The emergence of the Blur
The era of digital transformation, and omni-connectivity is seemingly having some impact on many business and personal aspects, which are not necessarily related to the use of technology per se. But what is the underlying connection between apps and the advent of “all-day-breakfast” menus in restaurants? What is really behind the transformation of office layouts, which ditched cubicles and meetings rooms to make space to social and relaxed areas, to hammocks and slides? Is it really just a Gen X,Y,Z need? Is there something more?
A recent study performed by Marco Bevolo and myself – which was validated with 23 interviews among very valuable executives and thought leaders – leads us to conclude that the technological convergence of media and IT, has translated in our society becoming a social trend, which we refer to as The Blur. The Blur is the disruption of the traditional lifestyle balance between work and play/leisure, which were extremes at the end of a spectrum, and are increasingly overlapping, intersecting and blurring. Because now it is difficult to determine when we are working and when we are relaxing, the traditional consumption model based on occasions is becoming less and less relevant: the framework is based on very clearly identifiable events (e.g., commuting, relaxing, unwinding, sports,…) with very powerful transitions (e.g., the transition from work to play, the moment you leave the office before a long holiday,…) and now we have playroom in the office, offices at home, we are connected with social media 24/7, and that’s clearly both work and play. More and more luxury watches are being sold beyond store hours between high net worth individual and boutique sales staff connected on Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Skype. This is leading a lot of confusion in many premium and leading industry: both travel and lodging are struggling between their business offering and their leisure offering, because it’s becoming more common for people to be wanting both: e.g., an office on holiday, or a quick family leisure time during a business trip. More and more retailers are becoming unprofitable because their business model is based on converting traffic to sales, whereas more and more consumers use stores to learn about a brand, experience a product and then purchase it on-line. This confusion is leading to the emergence of hybrid platforms, which sometimes are very powerful, like travel retail, which is both commercially and evangelization driven and address business and leisure travelers alike; sometimes this platforms do not represent a long term solution to the problem, like the raise of urban resorts, which offer state of the art business and leisure facilities whether you stay on their premises for work or for leisure.
The challenge in not merely a branding one: innovation is also becoming a different type of game. Consumer centric innovation, lead-users, co-creation, they are all old news. But when product related innovation is becoming irrelevant for part of the category, how do you credibly retain an image of innovativeness? Suffice to look at the smart watches category, where most players have a choice of one supplier for processor and storage, and two suppliers for operating system. Needless to say that with IOT and the promise of the connected house getting closer and closer, consumer electronics and interior design will see their path crossing more and more, especially because consumers are now tired and annoyed by the clutter effect of electronics. In conclusion, innovation is going to be increasingly an eco-system play, where brand filter experiences, will be enhanced and translated by digital apps, just like Louis Vuitton did in their recently launched luxury smart watch, whose innovativeness is based on the “access” to unique and exclusive brand club for owners, enhanced and connected through a digital app, while its product technology can be found in many others cheaper competitors.
All and more of these considerations are part of our journey into the future of luxury and premium consumption, which resulted in the white paper by the title “Premium beyond Digital”. The paper can be downloaded by subscribing to our newsletter at this URL.