10 Things That Will Go Mainstream in 2011
Less than a decade ago, environmentalists were labeled "tree huggers," or called "granola" and "crunchy." Today, "being green" is no longer on the fringe -- it's a cultural norm. Recycling is a standard practice (mandatory in many places). Martha Stewart just announced her plans to launch a line of green homes and kids' television stations promote programs like Disney's Friends for Change to encourage youngsters to "Green Their Scene."
Another trend we've seen go front-and-center is frugality. Beginning around 2009, the U.S. recession made thrift commonplace. People who once mocked coupon-cutting turned to it in droves. Economically chastened Americans said goodbye to conspicuous consumption and hello to living within their means.
e-readers (like the Kindle) and gourmet food trucks exploded onto the scene and worked their way into the hearts of Main Street Americans.
So what niche items or practices are set to go mainstream? Here are 10 that we expect to gain mass acceptance in 2011.
1. Paying With Your Cell Phone (Mobile Payments)
Need a caffeine fix, but forgot your wallet? No worries. Stroll into any Starbucks in America and you can now pay using your iPhone or Blackberry smartphone. The pay-by-phone service is free and works via a mobile app tied to your existing Starbucks card. In early 2010, Target launched a similar app where users can access their gift cards from their smartphones. And then there's Apple. Rumors abound that the next version iPhone and iPad will contain "near field communication" (NFC) chips which would allow users to make purchases by just waving their devices. CNNMoney has gone as far to say that "credit cards may soon be as outdated as vinyl records." We agree.
A little more than a year ago, there was virtually no market for tablet PCs. Then came the iPad. Announced on Jan. 27, 2010 and debuting in April, Apple shipped 7.33 million of the devices by year's end. And while iPad sales etimates for 2011 vary widely, some analysts predict that as many as 65 million units could be shipped this year. And that's not to mention the flood of competitors entering the tablet computer market. Let the tablet wars begin!
3. Bolder Beers
Go bold or go home. That should be the mantra of today's brewers. A quarter of a century ago, the American beer landscape was dominated by light lagers. Then smaller brewers began gathering fans as they crafted beers with bolder flavors. Now Portfolio.com reports that in the first half of 2010 these craft breweries saw a 12% year-over-year growth, while the U.S. beer industry overall fell by 2.7%. Major brewers, like MillerCoors LLC, have taken notice. In August 2010, it launched an independent corporate division to focus attention on its craft and import beer business, which includes brands like its successful Blue Moon Belgian-style wheat ale. We expect to see more major breweries innovate as they try to keep up with beer-drinkers' changing palates.
4. Mobile TV / Users Canceling Cable TV Service
In 2010, for the first time ever, pay TV subscriptions in the U.S. declined. That downward trend is not likely to be reversed, and may even accelerate. As mobile TV providers improve their services, more and more users will find it less painful to cut those (cable) cords that bind. In addition, your options for TV-on-the-go will be plentiful this year.
5. Black Rice
CNN asks, is black rice the new brown? Like brown rice, it's full of antioxidant-rich bran, but it also contains "anthocyanins" which have been linked to reducing blood levels of LDL cholesterol and helping to fight heart disease. Lotus Foods first introduced black rice to the U.S. market in 1995. They explain that the ancient grain was once eaten exclusively by the emperors of China. Today you can find it supermarkets like Whole Foods. We expect to see it on more grocery-store shelves and restaurant menus in the coming year.
6. Clean Eating
Wait, what is clean eating you ask? It's a nutritional lifestyle centered around eating foods that are minimally processed and as close to their original sources as possible. Once just the stuff of weight lifters, fitness competitors and health-food fanatics, this way of eating has reached a whole new audience thanks to people like Tosca Reno. At the age of 40, Tosca transformed herself with clean eating. She has since created a media empire based on her Eat-Clean Diet that includes 10 books, a magazine, a blog, a reality show, seminars and more. You will see this clean-eating trend mirrored in manufacturers and restaurants touting products with "simplified ingredients."
7. Tube-Free Toilet Paper
In October 2010, Kimberly-Clark rolled out the first tube-free toilet paper product, under the Scott brand. This environmentally-friendly invention eliminates the wasteful brown cardboard tube which contributes up to 160 million pounds of trash in the U.S. each year. We expect this to catch on with consumers, and that competitors like Procter & Gamble, SCA and Georgia Pacific will follow suit and begin manufacturing their own tube-less brands.
8. Home Automation
It's worth noting that the technologies to link your home appliances with WiFi and smartphone apps have been around for many years, but 2011 may really be the year that it all comes together. For example, in January LG announced a new line of Thinq appliances that will allow users to control and monitor their oven, washing machine, refrigerator and vacuum from outside the home. Get ready, the future is now.
9. 4G Wireless
4G networks offer faster wireless broadband speeds than have been available before. The first claim to this speed was by the Clearwire/Sprint partnership. Next was T-Mobile. Verizon launched its 4G network (using Long Term Evolution or "LTE" technology) in a few dozen markets in late 2010. According to Forbes, it has promised full network coverage by 2013, as will AT&T. But, in general, we anticipate an explosion in 4G-compatible handsets and increased coverage areas in 2011.
10. Mobile Coupons
Cutting out and remembering to bring along paper coupons is tedious. Maybe that is why smartphone users are so receptive to receiving digital coupons. Regardless of the reason, mobile coupon spending is expected to reach $1 billion by 2011 (according to a Google/ComScore study). In addition, Daniel Schock, retail industry director for Google, tells WalletPop, "We can tell you searches for mobile coupons have more than doubled since 2008." With a primed-and-ready audience, we expect more and more retailers to adopt mobile coupons this year.