This book is yet another in a series of analyses of various trends and how they will impact on business. Roberts is the founder of a Canadian company called Market-Driven Solutions Inc., which specializes in strategy and business planning for consumer goods and services companies. Prior to starting her own consulting firm, she had fifteen years of experience in the packaged goods industry.
Her framework for analysis identifies nine areas of influence in consumer behaviour: five of which she calls 'leading drivers' (as they are factors which shape consumer reactions) and four of which she calls 'responsive drivers' (as they are influences by the ways in which individuals and businesses respond to the leading drivers. She calls this approach econographics:
"Consumer spending accounts for 66 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in Canada and the United States, so it is no surprise that it significantly affects the economy, governments, educational institutions, the workforce, the retail sector, consumer-based manufacturers and service providers, and the financial services and investment community. Finding a way to anticipate consumer buying behaviour would be invaluable to both the private and public sectors, given the profound effect consumers have. Econographics is a predictive model that can help business people anticipate future consumer demand. It monitors how the world is changing and is likely to change in the future, and predicts how consumer behaviour will be altered as a result." (p.15)
She likens econographics to econometric forecasting, in that there are various leading and lagging variables that together combine to produce economic behavior. In her approach, the equation is:
As opposed to a quantitative analysis, though, as would be the case with an econometric model, her approach is qualitative in nature. It essentially acts as a checklist of factors (trends) that can stimulate thought and discussion.
She identifies a 'trend' as a "consistent pattern which will likely be in effect for five or ten years or more, whereas a fad will play itself out in a much shorter time, as little as one to two years or less". (p.28) Once identified, trends can then be 'leveraged', meaning that a company can think of ways to capitalize upon them.
The trends themselves (there are 38 of them discussed in the book, spread out among the 9 areas) she has identified through extensive research, monitoring a variety of publications and events across a wide spectrum of society. The table below summarizes the nine key drivers:
The bulk of the book is an analysis of each of these trends, using a standard approach: first an analysis of the trend, followed by a discussion of the emerging trend (i.e. where it is expected to go in the immediate future), then a description of how consumers will change in response to the trend, and finally some direction for companies on how to capitalize upon the trend ('Directions for Trend Leveraging'). Generally, the analysis is straightforward and logical, with few surprises.
The last chapter in the book, and the Appendix, discuss methods of marketing profitably to Œtomorrow¹s consumer¹. Roberts identifies nine traits of tomorrow¹s consumer, that will characterize the ways in which they make decisions about products and services. These are:
In response to these nine characteristics, she also identifies nine ways in which consumer-oriented companies should be re-organizing themselves in order to ensure they are aligned to these consumer traits. These are:
Navigating the Future presents a straightforward method of reviewing the evolving environment for consumer goods and services, and provides a sound starting point for analysis. While 'econographics' is not likely to become a household word or a standard tool in the business, Roberts¹ approach does make fundamentally good sense.
THE TCI MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS RATING: * * * *
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