Entries in consumer demand (17)


China's emerging consumer class

A recent article in the Economist pulls together CPG industry data to produce an interesting snapshot of the emerging consumer class in China.

The authors found consumer tastes in China are changing as the country's economy shifts from one predicated on industry to a more service-driven model. As the ranks of blue-collar workers shrink, the growing urban middle class is seeking out more premium goods and brands. For example, the sales volume for instant noodles - long an indicator of consumer growth - fell by 12% last year, while sales of makeup grew by over 15% and skin care products went up by 13%. Some other consumer trends include:

  • Chinese travelers are taking more trips abroad, spending about $1,200 each time on shopping;
  • Chinese tourists return home with a taste for cosmetics brands based in South Korea, whose cosmetics exports to China surged by 250% last year;
  • Brands promoting healthy lifestyles are also thriving, including restaurants and supermarkets. As well, fitness is becoming more popular;
  • Functional drinks favored by the health-conscious are going down well, as is yogurt and soup that's MSG-free; and
  • Sales of pet food rose by nearly 12% in 2015, a reflection of a softening of Chinese attitudes toward animals.

These trends can give us insight into the evolution of the consumer goods marketplace as more people in the middle of the economic diamond enter the consumer class.

-- Catalysts


A transparent approach to AI

Artificial intelligence is considered by many tech industry leaders to be the most significant computing area currently under development, with the power to transform and disrupt business models, labor markets, marketing and customer engagement.

Facebook’s approach to AI seems to be fundamentally different from its giant competitors in this field (Google, Microsoft, Apple), not in the fields they research, but in the way the company goes about it. In a word, that approach is “open."

Instead of hiding its R&D, Facebook publishes its code online on open source platforms, engages the scientific and external communities through sharing instead of protecting its knowledge, and tries to take advantage of the intrinsically "anti-rival” property of knowledge. It is their way as latecomers to the AI party to catch up to rivals, and they seem to be picking up some momentum (check out this article Fast Company)

-- Yassine El Ouarzazi


Move over, big data?

We thought this description by Deloitte of the digitization of industries was interesting, as it looks at the role of the consumer in the ongoing transformation to a more digital economy.

Big Data has been the big buzzword in recent years, but even it is seeing a disruption of sorts, as the focus turns to iData - data related to the individual. Deloitte believes that iData should be at the forefront of business operations. According to the consultancy group, technology adoption has reached a tipping point, where individuals are no longer considered passive spectators, but are becoming increasingly active participants in the industrial process, "becoming inseparable from ‘producers’ of content, data and even physical products." This is driving the personalization and customization of products and manufacturers are altering business models to benefit from the product-as-a-service concept, as is the case with companies like Airbnb and Uber. However, for most companies, the challenge with iData is how to source, organize and present it in a fashion that is acceptable to the individual.

Image source: Deloitte



Beautiful data, beautiful purpose?

As big data powers a new generation of products and services that are revolutionizing every corner of the private sector, I think it's important to ask the question: What opportunities do we have to apply the principles of Mutuality to our use of data and analytics?

In an earlier post I talked about the excellent book on data and analytics from 2009, Beautiful Data, that explored the new universe of possibilities opened up by recent advances in data collection, storage and processing technologies.

One dark note sounded by the book's co-editor, Jeff Hammerbacher, in the wake of its publication was the priority being placed on commercial uses of big data over the development of data and analysis tools for the common good. He summarized his concerns this way: "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks." Hammerbacher's response was to help found Cloudera, a data management company that would bring these tools beyond the consumer/marketing sphere to broader fields such as science, healthcare and "traditional" businesses.

Now, as we build a system of metrics and management tools as part of the Economics of Mutuality, I'd like to use the best and most powerful tools possible to support it. We can start by focusing on data related to human capital, social capital, and natural capital -- looking for those reservoirs of information that might already exist, and catalyzing new ones where they don't. Then building, testing, refining, and sharing analytical tools to visualize and understand what the data tells us.

Because as big data transforms every corner of the "traditional" economy, we want its capabilities to be built into the new Economics of Mutuality from the start.

Image source: Cloud Matters

-- Yassine El Ouarzazi


Culture and behavior

Are some differences in individuals' behavior--in the workplace or in the consumer space--the result of echoes of cultural activities and trends going back thousands of years? One team of researchers at the University of British Columbia argues that they are.

The team, lead by Joseph Henrich, wrote a paper titled "Weird People" that makes the case that broad findings about human psychology and behaviour are most often based on extremely narrow samples from Western societies. Furthermore, these sample pools, drawn from highly educated elements of society, are in fact outliers that do not represent the majority of humanity. It goes on to caution making assertions about "human nature" based on data collected from narrow subject pool, and to recommend using broader subject pools in future research.

Members of Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans."

Henrich employs tests based on game theory, and his results gathered from subject pools across the globe show startling differences in baseline behaviors. This Pacific Standard profile of his team's work notes that it is part of a "small but growing countertrend in the social sciences, one in which researchers look straight at the question of how deeply culture shapes human cognition," and cites some other interesting exploration in this area.

These questions have potentially profound implications for work related to organizational culture and consumer demand, and we may just be at the starting point in this type of research.

-- Jia Yan Toh