Dr Ian Yeoman
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
As we write, Facebook claims to house more than 900 million objects with which its 800+ million users can interact. YouTube, meanwhile, reports that 48 hours of video content are uploaded to its site each minute. We can watch live television online. We can play games against opponents on the other side of the world. We can locate, with ever sharpening accuracy, the best deals or offers or answers to our questions. We can, simply put, use technology to enrich so many of our day–to–day pursuits. And as the rise of "cloud computing" has allowed information to be stored and processed remotely, so mobile phones and tablets have moved to the fore of this a digital society. As a consequence, consumer demand has changed business models. The key behaviours of this tourist are:
More connected than ever, millions enjoy access to a fabulous wealth of information and, whether distributed through formal or informal channels, the scale of advice, opinion and expertise now freely available to consumers exerts a strong influence on their lifestyle choices and decision–making processes. Among the factors galvanising the rise of this Networked Society have been : a) the relative ease and affordability of travel and the speed with which new cultural forms of expression can seep across international boundaries b) a weakening, in so many parts of the world, of how much automatic deference we feel for class boundaries or traditional attitudes and c) the multiple choice options which now characterise so many retail sectors and encourage shoppers to make the most informed decision possible. As a global society, one might argue that we have (and continue to) become less rigid, less swayed by formal conventions, less introverted.
The unabated consumer appetite for empowering, time–saving services and devices in the context of a time–sensitive cultural landscape is the culture of immediacy. This trend reflects growing consumer empowerment, almost infinitely enriched personal control over consumption choices. Across the world, millions are ever better equipped to make precise purchase decisions, reassured by their ability to receive important news and get in touch with our networks, friends and families in an instant.
As the balance of power continues to shift in favour of the savvy, informed and confident global consumer of the 2010s, so the demands faced by big business grow in both number and sophistication. Driving the rise of the demanding consumer has been a) our ever growing use of the internet, making it so much easier to access expert reviews or consult our friends or investigate our purchases b) intensified competition, particularly as more and more emerging brands enter the global arena and c) a long (pre–recession) period of relatively uninterrupted disposable income growth in most developed markets, alongside the improved choice possibilities present in many emerging markets as a result of suddenly rising incomes. Thus empowered, consumers can now afford to be more selective, to try alternatives, to expect more.
Smart Boredom expresses the notion that leisure, no matter how relaxing or restful, can always be converted into some form of achievement. Smart Boredom trend has been massively facilitated by digital innovations that enable us to live in a constantly connected world, continuously providing us with ever more convenient solutions for so many daily tasks. Indeed, consumers connected to the mobile web can accomplish several activities with minimum effort. Mobile social networking, online banking, shopping on–the–go, all invite the consumer to enrich any spare moment with purposeful activity.
The capabilities of mobile devices are evolving rapidly, allowing people to carry out virtually any kind of activity on the go and presenting companies with new ways in which to engage and interact with consumers.
The cutthroat pace of development in the digital sector is conditioning us to expect ever more from our products and services: we want continuous upgrades, better quality and reliability, faster operating times, lower energy consumption, better packaging options. And all without significant rises in headline prices. Digital Evolution will continue to supply energy to so many of our trends, empowering individuals with a) new ways to control and manage their lives and b) more avenues through which their creativity can be expressed and their views shared.
Technology has become part of our everyday lives, creating a digital society. While one of the main reasons for this is the exponential advancement in technology, another key driver is the presence of the digital generations (Generation Y onwards), and their demand for fast, innovative technology products. High–speed broadband with larger bandwidth have allowed greater capacity of network traffic and data sharing while new gadgets, increasingly equipped with mobile internet, reflect the level of demand and comfort societies have towards technologies. This trend is echoed in book sales with Amazonís sales of Kindle e–books outnumbering its sales of hard covered books. Technology has also allowed the development of online user–generated content, altering the way information is provided, gathered and perceived. Information provision has evolved from the traditional single–directional push of information from suppliers to consumers to a multi–directional share of information between suppliers and consumers, and between consumers themselves. Deloitte predicts that in 2011, more than 50% of computing devices sold globally will not be PCs. Instead, sales of smartphones and tablet computers would come to 425 million, well above the sales of 390 million PCs. The internet saved the Swiss sock industry and redefined the marketing campaigns in tourism as interactive experiences.
In today's society, digitized information is the norm. Many guidebooks such as Lonely Planet have embraced mobile devices by providing digitised guidebooks through the format of mobile applications designed for smartphone operators like Nokia, Apple, Google and Android. However, the continuous development of technology is bringing societies to a flip point, where technologies become increasingly integrated in our daily routine. Driving this is ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing refers to technologies which interact with humanity out in the open rather than users connecting with the computer; it is the interaction of one user with many interfaces through technology that is interwoven into the external environment. This concept puts forth many possibilities for interaction with information technologies without the use of devices, for example the possibility of gathering information through a pair of ubiquitous contact lens. As technology slowly recedes into the background and becomes an invisible interaction in our daily lives, the future of information provision may no longer require mobile devices. So, what is next? The contact lens or mind reading.
Dr. Ian Yeoman is presently writing a new book to be published in 2013 called '2040: Tomorrows Tourist' co–authored with the Future Foundation.
Previous Viewpoint articles can be found in the Archive here.
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