By Dusty Weis, AEM Strategic Communications Manager

 

“I’m here to talk to you about how to win the future.”

Jeremy Gutsche, the CEO of Trend Hunter, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the perils and opportunities presented by disruption. Speaking at the AEM Annual Meeting, his advice to the equipment manufacturers in the audience is that change is coming, and it’s time to adapt or perish.

As we enter the year 2019, new technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) networks, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing are transitioning from novelties to powerful tools for innovation. Broader societal trends are reshaping customers’ expectations for their relationships with brands and corporations. And agile outside disruptors are eyeing new industries, licking their chops at the opportunity to turn some hapless brand into the next Blackberry or Blockbuster.

It could even happen in the equipment industry, Gutsche says.

“You know your industry so well, your knowledge becomes your trap,” Gutsche warns. “Be humble, ask questions and recognize the blinding power of your own expertise.”

Gutsche’s company, Trend Hunter, catalogues and analyzes consumer choices, using big data to monitor emerging trends and advise more than 500 companies and how to stay competitive.

In the spirit of AEM’s Thinking Forward initiative to keep its members on the cutting edge of the industry, Gutsche outlines eight interrelated megatrends for manufacturers to monitor in the new year.

 

Acceleration

“The world has never moved faster, but it will also never again move as slow as it is today,” Gutsche paraphrases. The original quote was uttered in relation to the changing rate of technological advances, and those who remember the dial-up days of the early internet can tell you just how far we’ve come and how quickly.

But the next generation of computers and data transfer systems are going to amplify computing power by an order of magnitude, opening the doors to possibilities that have never before been feasible.

 

Artificial Intelligence

The A.I. algorithms that, today, curate your Facebook feed or recommend your next Netflix binge are the precursor to something much bigger. A.I. neural networks are learning to learn in the same ways humans do, mimicking our ability to analyze patterns and learn from mistakes.

For now, it’s a slow process. But that will change, and Gutsche says most experts expect the so-called “Singularity”—the day when a computer attains the cognitive ability of a human—will occur in 25 years or so.

 

Prosumerism

From user-generated content to maker culture, today’s consumers expect professional-grade tools and services. And Gutsche says, with the increasing availability of such tools, it reinvents notions about from where and whom new competition can emerge for existing businesses.

“The tools exist today for a little kid down the street to 3D print a concept, get their logo designed online, put their product up on Kickstarter and be competing with you tomorrow, even though they don’t even have a business yet,” Gutsche says.

 

Catalyzation

Brands have taken a role in accelerating their customers’ personal development, and their customers have come to expect more than just a product for their money—they want a lifestyle, an attitude or a higher sense of purpose.

Gutsche offers up athletic apparel maker Lululemon as a prominent example. The brand offers thousands of free yoga courses to its customers under the “Inspiration” tab on its website. Gutsche notes, “They spend millions of dollars a year on that, and it’s not a revenue-generating product!”

 

Convergence

With computers getting smaller and cheaper all the time, it’s easier than ever before to integrate them into products that were once strictly analog, but are now going digital.

Video games were silly entertainment, but now they’re a training tool. Cell phones were a distraction, but now they’re a jobsite safety instrument. Drones were a novelty, but now they’re powerful surveying tools.

“We’re seeing combining and adding value in ways we’ve never seen before,” Gutsche says.

 

Multi-Sensation

In a world filled with stuff, many consumers are more hungry than ever before for an experience instead. And Gutsche says that new ideas for capturing or enhancing those experiences are in high demand.

“Technology, AR and VR are raising our expectations in the realms of entertainment, retail and even the food we eat,” Gutsche says.

 

Co-Creation

Brands and their customers are increasingly interdependent on one another, building a relationship instead of a one-time transaction. Gutsche notes the camera-maker GoPro, which offers customers a video editing studio to create professional-quality action shots and upload them to a shared community.

“What’s so intense is that GoPro became a multi-billion dollar company making a simple camera with one or two buttons, and co-creating with their end users,” Gutsche says. “Now they’ve got 36 million user videos, and it’s because they’ve provided all the tools to co-create with their end customer.”

 

Divergence

“Divergence is the idea that people don’t want to be a part of the mainstream,” Gutsche says. “Your customers are looking for something different—more authenticity in their brands, more personalization. Status and belonging.”

This desire is driven, he says, by social media and the more personalized, fragmented information that people consume. And it’s enabled by small batch production technologies, including 3D printing, that allow consumers to purchase one-of-a-kind products that meet their unique needs.

This democratization of production capabilities continues to shift the world economy from a producer-to-consumer model to a many-to-many framework.

 

In this new calendar year, Gutsche says the big winners will be those companies that bet the most on innovation.

“Everyone wants innovation to happen,” he says. “But not everyone wants to break from the path. Be curious, be insatiable and be willing to destroy.”

Stay plugged in to AEM’s Thinking Forward initiative for events, articles, podcasts and insights to keep you on the cutting edge in 2019.

  • Register for one of our seven Thinking Forward events throughout North America.
  • Sign up to get the AEM Industry Advisor in your email.

  • Subscribe to the AEM Thinking Forward podcast on your favorite podcast app.

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