Sign me up!

Subscriptions used to be related to magazines and newspapers.  I oughta know – I haven’t met a business or news-related publication I didn’t like.  It still take a tremendous amount of will power on my part to resist the temptation to add another rag to my mailbox.  The trouble is I need to read, or at least look at, every page of every publication i’ve subscribed to, resulting in piles of publications…but I digress.

Subscriptions today have expanded both in the types of content available (think music and apps) and in the amount of content that can be purchased.  A single song through iTunes, a single article from the Wall St. Journal, and a month of Microsoft Office 365 can now be had for a few bucks a month.  These micropayments or low-value payments for goods or services are becoming increasingly prevalent for digital merchants and electronic payments providers.

Digital micropayments are on the rise because they have proven successful for digital music and app purchases. That’s led publishers of digital content, like news or video, to look at them as an alternative way to monetize content, particularly in the wake of rising
ad-blocker usage.  The challenge for merchants is to entice enough consumers to adopt micropayments to lower the cost of processing these payments.  Many consumers don’t like the idea of paying for small pieces of information such as an article.

I recall my last experience with this.  I searched a term and found an article that was about 6 months old.  I clicked on the link and saw the article for about 5 seconds before a pop-up window offered to display the article once I paid $0.99.  I really wanted to see the article so I bit.  I clicked on the link and was taken to a payment page that wanted enough information to check me into a hospital. (All information required, of course).  After filling out the form and unchecking the numerous newsletter boxes from the publisher and its numerous affiliates, I was finally able to access the article.  Not a good experience at all.

Publishers and app developers are working on this in the form of content aggregators such as Blendle, a Dutch platform that has buy-in from publishers across the industry and allows customers to pay per article within its own proprietary feed, has seen slow but steady growth.  We will see more players develop models that integrate content and payments to gain the necessary buy-in from merchants and consumers alike to make the model more successful across the board.

A Prime Mover

On Wednesday, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase announced they have partnered to introduce a new Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, which will be the first card to target members of Amazon Prime.  For all credit card issuers not named Chase, it is a sad day.  There is no more valuable partner for a credit card issuer than Amazon because Amazon Prime has a massive user base and these users spend more often than nonmembers.

Amazon Prime had 49.5 million members in the US alone as of Q3 2016, according to Cowen & Co. estimates. Amazon Prime members accounted for 57% of all Amazon purchases in October 2016, compared with 49% last year. Moreover, 83% of Prime members made a purchase in that period, compared with just 49% of non-Prime members.

Amazon Prime represents the future of loyalty programs – a subscription-based program with very rich benefits.  Here’s the list:

  • FREE Two-Day Shipping on eligible items to addresses in the contiguous U.S. and other shipping benefits. 
  • FREE Same-Day Delivery in eligible zip codes. 
  • Prime Now: Get FREE two-hour delivery or scheduled delivery on over 10,000 items, from groceries to electronics and more. Plus, get free delivery from your favorite local stores.  
  • Restaurant Delivery: Get FREE one-hour delivery from popular restaurants with Prime Now. 
  • FREE Release-Date Delivery: FREE Release-Date Delivery on eligible pre-order items delivered on their release date to ZIP codes within the continental U.S. 
  • Prime Video: unlimited streaming of movies and TV episodes for paid or free trial members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. 
  • Prime Music: unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of Prime Playlists and more than a million songs for members in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. 
  • Prime Photos: Secure unlimited photo storage and enhanced search and organization features in Amazon Drive for you and the members of your Family Vault. 
  • Prime Pantry: Access to Prime Pantry, where members can purchase and ship to addresses in the contiguous U.S. low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 for each Prime Pantry box. 
  • Amazon Elements: Access to Amazon Elements products, Amazon’s own line of everyday essentials.
  • Amazon Dash for Prime: Never run out of your favorite products with Amazon Dash Button. 
  • Prime Early Access: Get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals on Amazon.com. 
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: access to members in the U.S. 
  • Prime Reading: You can borrow books, magazines, and more from the Prime Reading catalog and read them on your Fire tablet, Kindle e-reader, or the Kindle reading apps for iOS and Android. 
  • Kindle First: Early access for members in the U.S. to download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks. 
  • Audible Channels for Prime: Get access to Audible Channels, a $60/year value, for free. Audible Channels includes unlimited listening to original audio series and playlists handcrafted for every interest. You’ll also receive access to Prime Exclusive Audiobooks, a collection of streaming audiobooks including best sellers, family favorites, celebrity-narrated classics and more. Just download the free Audible app and sign in with your Amazon account to start listening.
  • Amazon Music Unlimited: Prime members can get discounted Amazon Music Unlimited monthly plans and there are annual plans available exclusively to Prime members. 
  • Video Add-On Subscriptions: Members can purchase Video Add-on Subscriptions to premium content providers. 
  • Deals and Discounts, Compliments of Amazon Family: These include 20% off diapers through Subscribe & Save and 15% off eligible products from your baby registry. 
  • Twitch Prime: Members get exclusive discounts on physical games pre-orders and new releases. Twitch.tv users who link their Amazon Prime account get ad-free viewing on Twitch, a free Twitch channel subscription every month, and exclusive access to free game content. 

 

Progressive retailers and financial institutions have begun to view Amazon as an asset rather than competition, because partnering and associating with Amazon significantly widens a brand’s potential audience, thanks to Amazon’s global reputation and customer base.

The future promises to be challenging for financial institutions that use products such as credit cards to re-enforce their brand as retailers emulate Amazon’s value proposition and utilize online technology that allow consumers to store card information on their website for convenience.  With card credentials stored with retailers, consumers can avoid deciding which card they use for purchases at that retailer – the default card will win.  Much to the chagrin of the financial institutions whose cards are left in their customer’s wallets.

Hungry? There’s seconds

Collaborative consumption has gained cache in part as a reinvented method to swap or share things on a large scale.  Generally new technology is the driver however the maker movement is achieving the same thing through personalized or customized solutions.  These two trends along with the effort to move toward a more sustainable society have conspired to produce a low-tech approach to hunger in Brazil that meets the hungry where they are.

The “Street Dish” initiative is the work of anonymous citizens going by the Makers Society, who have affixed labels onto trash bins reading (roughly translated) “Leave foods that are still in use for consumption.” The notices wrap around tubes jutting out from the cans, allowing individuals to hang bags of leftovers, say, or restaurants and markets to leave extra grub or produce in plain sight.

The idea is to give the homeless and/or hungry places they can go to find free food, without having to dig through trash to find it.

Leah’s Pantry in San Francisco and Feeding America San Diego and SuperFood Drive have taken food donations a step further by creating a holistic model for change –  providing both food and health to their clients.  The food pantries commit to offering healthier foods through their pantries and they’re given infrastructure support to ensure they can safely keep and distribute these foods to their clients. They commit to deliver nutrition education and cooking skills along with their food donations.  Finally, they provide their clients a toolkit that includes simple, seasonal recipes that incorporate food bank foods and nutrition messaging for their clients.

The model is managed through quarterly meetings, site visits, and ongoing training ensure the program continues to make overall health and wellness is a priority.

How did I get here?

That’s the question I have been thinking through today after I was asked to submit a speaking request form for a conference.  They wanted to know the range of topics I can speak on.  I thought it was as good a time as any to revisit my purpose for wanting to conduct research into the future of consumption in general and why post to a blog.

I’m looking to shed light on the future of consumption because I believe my insights will:

  1. Help businesses prepare and position themselves for the future.
  2. Educate and empower consumers to embrace the future of consumption with intention and awareness, and
  3. Inform policymakers and maybe influence policy.

I’m still forming my thesis, however in the evolving world of consumption, buyers and sellers still come together to exchange value, though the form of value exchange may look very different than traditional transactions.  The foundation for any value exchange between two partiers is trust, and trust is made up of identity and reputation.  The virtual communities and marketplaces are providing new ways of establishing reputation through observed behaviors, values, and skills reported to communities by influencers.

The lubricant of this evolving system of consumption is personal data – and this is what is very interesting to me.  While I have yet to articulate the questions I want to address, I know they revolve around personal data and the interplay of trust, privacy, reputation, and influence.

I invite to you reach out if you have insights or a perspective to share, if you would like to be interviewed as part of my research, or if you would like to collaborate on this project.

Take two and call me in the morning…

I’m feeling under the weather this afternoon and evening, so I went on to WebMD and some homeopathic websites in search of some medicine I can begin taking.  After describing my symptoms, it appears I could have any number of illnesses ranging from a cold to lung cancer.  Now I’m ill and depressed.  I’ll be back tomorrow.

Are you lonesome tonight?

Day 2 of my road trip to the east coast found me at a national chain restaurant for lunch where I noticed the majority of tables occupied by only one person.  There are times where I like some time alone, however there are many times when I’m travelling I would enjoy having a conversation with someone new over a meal.

That’s why I’m intrigued with The Living Rooms project Camerados, a non-profit that is committed to ending social isolation through cups of tea.

Crumbs and stripes of jam are left behind on plates, sitting on a polka-dot tablecloth. Clusters of people lounge and chat on sofas and armchairs sprayed with floral patterns or stripes. The space is cozy and unpretentious; it invites plopping down and staying put for a while.  Last spring they launched their first location in Blackpool, England.  Two locations are slated to open in New York City this winter: one in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn.

Maff Potts, the founder of Camerados spent decades working in social services, and noticed a common denominator underlying the push to connect folks with concrete services: a cloud of loneliness and a harried pace. The Living Rooms offer a model where “You can come sit all day,” he adds. “It’s up to you to engage with it as much as you want.”

Camerados is teaming up with Kindness.org, a platform dedicated to encouraging people to do nice things for each other, to bring the Living Room concept to New York. This site, which launched this fall, invites users to tackle some easy challenges: leaving a sketch or hand-drawn card for someone to find, or dropping a copy of a favorite book, hoping that a stranger will connect with the story held in its pages.

Kindness.org recently conducted a literature review of 21 studies examining kindness—many of which didn’t stand up well to scrutiny. “Our research suggests performing acts of kindness will not change your life, but might help nudge it in the right direction,” Curry said in a statement. Lindsey says she’s hoping to conduct more research in the future, in an effort to tease out how kindness might have long-term reverberations.

On the Road Again…

I’m writing this from a hotel in Columbus, Ohio where I’m spending the night while en route to Washington D.C.  While it’s quicker to fly I enjoy a road trip because I enjoy watching the scenery roll by.

I used my smart phone to check the road conditions, determine the route, estimate the time of arrival, find a Starbucks, report a traffic incident, find our restaurant for dinner and book the hotel while in the car.

Some of you may take this for granted but for a dedicated roadmap collector like me, it’s amazing to reflect on the connectivity, functionality and convenience of the smart phone as a tool.