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Why Leapfrogging Trends Is The Way Ahead

As PR professionals we need to be constantly aware of trends. From short-lived micro movements to the more enduring influences that have longevity in the lives of every day consumers; keeping ahead is key to ensure we deliver award winning campaigns for our clients.

There are so many resources available to us to that it’s sometimes overwhelming. Some are fantastic and worth considering when consulting clients, but it really is a case of separating the wheat from the chaff. Key movements and influences are important to watch but others based on minute sub-segmentation appear so erroneous that they are barely worth considering.

This year at Publicasity we have been looking to lesser-developed markets markets for trends that will influence Western markets. One of the biggest that we have seen is the use of mobile as a payment method.

Already in the UK there are 82.7 million mobile subscriptions and in 2012 over 40 million subscribers accessed the internet via their device (an increase of over 9 million in just one year)*. But whilst subscription is increasing and web-based activity is high, the functionality of mobile phone usage is still basic in comparison to some other global players.

India is a very interesting case study for mobile phone usage. In a country where mobile is relatively new, it is fast-becoming established as a way of communicating. 59% of Indian mobile users have never used the desktop web**, so their first experience of surfing the internet is on the move, and brands (and mobile companies alike) are cottoning on to this.

The mobile platform is absolutely key for India with the lowest income groups spending 20% of their annual income on phones, but unlike UK usage, which will primarily be for entertainment, they use it for healthcare, payment, education and general information.

Similarly in Africa, payment method M-Pesa has been a huge hit. From a lack of internal banking infrastructure and peer-to-peer transactions mobile usage is key to ensuring the smooth transferring of money whereas in more mature Western markets, where credit cards are a trusted method of payment, we are only just starting to trust mobile payments systems, seeing little value in method-driven change.

Despite having the largest audience for NFC (Near Field Communication) payments outside of East Asia, the UK with its Oyster Card system has been slow in adopting this way of payment, although this is starting to change amongst a younger generation.

Last year, The Wireless Festival in Hyde Park gave 15,000 festival goers wristbands that could be pre-loaded with up to £250 of credit for use in merchandise stores and bars. This not only proved to be a safe way of attending a festival, it engaged with its important younger target audience.

Whilst mobile phone platforms are currently not integrating fully in the UK, we can see that this is one of many trends where BRIC markets are leading the way.

We can expect that the fast-growing cities of the developing world will leapfrog technologies, which has been the case in both India and Africa. What is interesting is that by observing this jump in trends, such as going from cash straight to mobile banking, it can help us see clear indications where we are going to next. So next time you are trying to predict which trends and platforms will effect our consumers, it’s definitely worth looking a little further afield.

Paul McCaffrey

Paul McCaffrey is Consumer Director at Publicasity.

* Communications Report 2013 by Mobile Operators Association

** Rohit Dadwal of the MMA Asia Pacific