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Trade Talk: Quartz obsessions worth obsessing about



Article ID:
20130702
Published:
July 2013, page 10
Author:
Joseph Rydholm, Quirk's Editor

Article Abstract

A look at four trends news outlet Quartz predicts will be the next big thing.

One of the many online news sources I frequent is Quartz, “a digitally native news outlet” as they refer to themselves. The editors organize their reporting around what they call their “obsessions,” the forces and factors that they see shaping the global economy. They devote a special section of their site (www.qz.com) to explaining them, ostensibly to let readers know the prisms through which their work should be viewed.

They periodically update the list and the most recent update, from late May, got me to thinking about what effect(s) some of the forces could have on the marketing and marketing research world. (The Quartz commentary is shown in italics.)

The mobile Web

Between ever-cheaper smartphones and “dumbphones” which cost as little as $10, plus the dawn of banking, messaging and social networking services that can run on any device, the possibility that everyone on Earth could be connected is more real than ever. . . . How will new form factors, like watches and face-based computers, change our experience of the Web?

Possible impacts on MR: It’s obviously a ways down the road, but what could Google Glass or things like the Pebble watch mean for marketing research? Is “wearable computing” just an extension of the Internet or a whole new form of interaction for respondents and researchers or consumers and companies?

Digital money

… the Web, mobile phones and new sales terminals are making possible payment mechanisms that improve on credit card transactions or do away with them all together. That’s a lucrative business, which is why the payments sector has seen some of the highest pre-IPO valuations of any in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, the rise of bitcoin and its imitators means that a stateless virtual currency could become a serious intermediary between other currencies or payment method in its own right. And in emerging markets, payments via mobile phone are already turning telecoms companies into banks.

Possible impacts on MR: Could the accruing of several micropayments over time hold more appeal for survey respondents than entries in sweepstakes that “no one ever wins”? And do those payments (micro or otherwise) have to be in monetary form? Will, as Quartz terms it, a “stateless virtual currency” take over as a preferred form of payment for participation in research?

China’s transition

To keep growing, China must now get its 1.35 billion people to consume more, while simultaneously righting global trade imbalances, ramping up its service sector and managing the debt it has racked up. Under its latest set of leaders, how will China cope with these challenges to its economy – and how will its successes and failures affect the global economy too?

Possible impacts on MR: Hmm . . . 1.35 billion people, you say? That’s a lot of potential research respondents. How do we get them familiar with and positively predisposed to the marketing research process? And beyond that, how do we begin understanding the psychology behind the act of consumption in a country that only a handful of decades ago actively discouraged it?

How we buy

As the global middle class keeps swelling, consumer spending on everything from corn to cars to air conditioners is hitting new highs and moving online and doing so especially fast in emerging economies. . . . What sorts of companies and products are meeting these changing demands? How is spending in developed economies shifting? What is the future of physical retail stores? Is the context between e-commerce operations and brick-and-mortar stores really a zero-sum war? How will spending shape global trade and economics and how do shifting political tides affect spending?

Possible impacts on MR: This one makes your head spin. I think the Quartz list of questions is sufficiently mind-boggling on its own without requiring more input from here!

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