The Expectation Economy

expectation.jpgexpectation.jpgI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – If you don’t subscribe to Trendwatching.com’s monthly briefing, you’re really missing out on some rich and actionable insight. The monthly briefings focus on a single trend group and contain insights gathered by thousands of “springspotters” from all over the world.

The January briefing is out and its entitled The Expectation Economy:

“The EXPECTATION ECONOMY is an economy inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers from Canada to South Korea who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service and experience on offer.

Their expectations are based on years of self-training in hyperconsumption, and on the biblical flood of new-style, readily available information sources, curators and BS filters. Which all help them track down and expect not just basic standards of quality, but the ‘best of the best’.”

People have always had high expectations, but over the last few years, two major sub-trends have emerged that really drive the Expectation Economy.

  • Instant, worldwide communications allows information about the latest, best, most original things to be immediatey available to consumers
  • Increasingly, consumers are doing their own diligent research and niche blogs, sites and mags are fueling that behavior.

While consumer’s expectations are up and rising, most brands choose to not keep up with the “best of the best”. The result: Informed Consumers are Indifferent or Irritated. The briefing suggests that these states will likely manifest themselves in Fake Loyalty and Postponed Purchases.

Customers continue buying from under-performing brands only as long as what they want isn’t available. This is Fake Loyalty. Once the better option comes around, the customers quickly disappear.

What are the implications of this trend? Trendwatching makes the following points:

  • The Next Generation: Before consumers had full transparency, brands could get away with not being peak performers. Those days are now over. The next generation, who will never know “mass production, mass advertising & mass ignorance” will be full participants in the Expectation Economy.
  • Cross Industry Mindset: Companies what to know what’s going on in their industry and what their main competitors are up to. In the Expectation Economy, businesses need to look cross-industry to see what’s going on. Why?

1. Your competition could be anyone

2. Expectations are often set outside your industry

3. Just copying competitors is a race to the bottom

Action Items

The Trendwatching Briefing goes on to give concrete examples of largely niche brands in a wide range of industries that are leading the way in setting expectations. They also offer a prescription for translating the things these brands are doing in to actionable strategies for your business.

“Find competitors and non-competitors, big and small, who are setting consumer expectations much higher than you’ve ever been able to. They’re more fun. They have better design. Their stuff tastes, looks, feels better. Their customer service actually responds to emails. They’re cheaper. Then compile what you think are now the global standards for whatever it is you do, and from there start thinking about new goods, services and experiences that at least incorporate those standards, and preferably outdo them. “

Does your business have a program like this? If not, what are you waiting for?

2 comments so far

  1. Becky Carroll on

    Doug, this has been coming for a long time, and it has finally fully blossomed with the interaction of customers with each other on the internet. I have been encouraging even my B2B clients to look outside of the commercial space and consider how their business customers are treated by consumer companies. I might sell heavy equipment, but my customer’s expectations of good service were likely set by their latest interaction at home with Lands’ End or Amazon.

    Thanks for pointing out all the details, Doug. You rock!

  2. Valeria Maltoni on

    Well, yes. Business as usual is pretty much over, isn’t it? That is a good report. These days I read so much that I end up with a partial list of things I did not get to. Thank you for capturing the important pieces for us, Doug.


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