GDI-Trendradar 2.08 - What is hyperlocality?

GDI-Trendradar 2.08 - What is hyperlocality?

Media release, 3 July 2008
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute - GDI-Trendradar 2.08

What is "hyperlocality"? What's "democratic exclusivity" all about? And who's stolen our free time? Researchers from the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) in Rüschlikon/Zurich describe a number of social determinants and trends. The international think-tank also explains why stores are currently shrinking and tells us who is making grandmother's know-how available to us.

Ecology: from eco-wave to eco-confusion
It was all quite simple until now: "organic", "regional" and "natural" guaranteed healthy, wholesome-quality and environmentally friendly products. So the more aware citizen spent more and more money on locally and ecologically produced goods and disdained genetically modified food. Now voices are being heard that distrust "responsible consumption". Worse still, the doubting Thomases come from the ranks of the environmentally conscious. Even a high-profile environmentalist such as Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore has publicly expressed his fears that traditional "green" ideas are basically harmful to nature. In fact, many farm products transported from far afield have a lower CO2 footprint than their locally produced equivalents. Genetically modified plants could be used to reduce the use of fertilisers. And densely built cities are much more energy-efficient than wide-ranging suburbs with row upon row of single-family homes. Experts are increasingly dismissive of what is currently regarded as a nature-aware lifestyle. The great eco-wave risks being superseded by the great eco-confusion.

Exclusivity: from more for less to less for more
"Momofuku Ko" in New York has seating for exactly 14, and it is allocated on the "first come first served" principle. Day in day out, this "in" venue is fully booked within a matter of seconds, and even Oscar winners do not enjoy preferential treatment in David Chang's new gourmet restaurant. This form of scarcity also features in a growing number of member-only clubs and shops, at concerts and football matches, which are increasingly being transformed into VIP events. Even H&M and Gap offer limited collections, while fashion label Clemens en August presents and sells its creations only twice a year, for two days in each case and only in selected galleries and museums. This "exclusivity for all" is based on our increasingly flat consumer world. It foments a longing for the elitist and the privileged, for the things that set us apart from other people. Limited access and limited collections create welcome new hierarchies. Nevertheless, the "scuppies" ¬– socially conscious upwardly-mobile people ¬– are not disposing of their democracy. They want both at the same time – more democracy and more exclusivity, especially since objects of democratic exclusivity bring their owners more statusfaction than luxurious rarities that few people are familiar with or wish to own.

Retailing: from Wal-Mart to Small-Mart
For a long time, "big boxes" were the success formula of giant retailers such as Wal-Mart or Tesco's. But now the big out-of-town multiples and hypermarkets are coming under pressure. They are suffering as a result of higher petrol (gas) prices, changes in shopping habits and consumers' growing wish for transparent offerings. Tesco's is breaking new ground with its small-size strategy – in the gigantic US market of all places. With Fresh & Easy (lots of freshness, easy to prepare), the innovative UK sector leader launched a new kind of format in California at the end of 2007. The decisive factor is size: Tesco has located the stores, which have a modest surface area of 900 square metres, close to where their customers live, like the corner shops of earlier times. And, like any good neighbour, the stores adapt to local conditions: the range offered at each branch is carefully geared to the preferences of the local customers. The future belongs to scaled-down sales formats.

Technology: from window-shopping to geo-shopping
There are signs of a technological trend that will radically change our relationship to one another and to everything around us: "hyperlocality", where all appliances and objects are networked and can be physically localised, where the physical and the digital worlds merge. Posters for the Mini car Mini are already showing us individualised advertising as we drive past. And there are already sketchy designs for screens embedded in contact lenses. As yet, however, the new hybrid world has not progressed beyond the crude-prototype stage. But in the near future, many things will be equipped with RFID and GPS-compatible computer chips. This will make the objects around us clickable. Information on a feature film in a poster wall? Kooaba.com links mobile phone photos with an image recognition system for film posters and provides us with background knowledge, trailers and seat reservation options. Tram departure times? One click on the tram – and the timetable appears in the display. The pretty dress on a passer-by? One click, and we have data on the brand, price and available colours. A second click initiates an order for it. Geo-shopping: the shop comes to the customer. Hyperlocality transforms the entire world into a huge shopping zone.

Dig for victory: from convenience products to wholesome food
Home-grown vegetables are flourishing in that paradise of convenience foods, the USA. According to the National Gardening Association, Americans are now spending 25 percent more on vegetable plots than in 2006. That was when spoilt spinach started scaring off consumers; since April it has been "Salmonella tomatoes" that are doing the scaring-off. Contaminated tomatoes are spoiling people's appetite for national favourites such as burgers or tacos. Concerned consumers therefore want to know where the vegetables on their plates come from. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now officially confirmed that home-grown tomatoes are safe to eat. However, the trend towards self-sufficiency will outlive the tomato scandal because it eases not only people's bad conscience about sustainability but also the pressure of rising food prices on their strained budgets.

Consumption: from price comparisons to value comparisons
Aware consumers are no longer satisfied with a green label – they want to compare the entire spectrum of social, ecological and ethical added value that products offer. Thanks to price search engines such as comparis.ch or guenstiger.de, comparisons are now very much a part of people's shopping routine. But price alone is no longer the sole criterion – products also have to be wholesome and produced by sustainable and fair methods. This makes shopping decisions more complex: which is better – biofuel for me or cheap staple food for all? Organically farmed fish or wild-catch? Promotion of regional specialities or development aid? The growing complexity of such decisions means that the comparison sites will also have to become more complex. The next generation will therefore show not only what is cheaper but also what is healthier, better for the environment and of greater benefit to the community as a whole. There are already a number of such sites in action: "Wellternatives", for instance, rates the menus of fast-food restaurants according to health criteria, and the "Green Concierge Service" offers comprehensive advice on how to enjoy a climate-friendly lifestyle: the services range from a personal home audit with infrared heat imaging to air permeability tests for doors and even a complete plan for reducing emissions.

Making the most of our time: from leisure time to no time
We have less and less free time and there is not much we can do about it. We have companies who make employees out of their customers to thank for this. While we have long since got used to screwing our new furniture together ourselves in umpteen millions of working hours, we now have also become a branch of our own bank, we advise one another in virtual forums and we offer competitor analyses online as never before. Today's outsourcing does not go to Bangalore, but to Bangerten and Balterswil, i.e. much nearer home. It goes without saying that we acquire the necessary skills of our own free will and in our own free time – hence the second major time-killer: constant self-improvement. Lifelong learning is only part of the effort we make to get by in our increasingly competitive everyday lives. We are also spending more and more time on our bodies: botox injections during the lunch break and cosmetic surgery during the holidays are growth markets. All this exploitation of our valuable time means that little is left for the recreation, personal relations and hobbies that used to fill our leisure time.

Restaurateurs: from catering to networking
We like to sit down together over a meal, and restaurants have long provided us with the ideal venue. But the way we work and live is changing: commutes are getting longer, time pressures are growing, more women are going out to work, family structures are being reshaped and, relatively speaking, we are enjoying growing affluence. Increasing numbers of people are eating out – but more and more often on their own. And sitting alone in a restaurant is not to everyone's taste. Restaurants therefore need to re-invent themselves as hubs of community life. Online social networking sites such as Myspace, Facebook or Xing show how great our need for community and contact is. In future, successful restaurants will be rated for their high "linking value", because they bring people together in a simple and uncomplicated way and thus create social added value.

Knowledge transfer: from mother to mother dot-com
Working mothers and increasingly cheaper production methods have created an unexpected vacuum: they are threatening the intergenerational transfer of knowledge of traditional recipes and knitting patterns. At the same time, nostalgia has long been growing for the skills our grandmothers possessed and the secrets behind our mothers' cooking. Surrounded by mass production and mass consumption, more and more people are discovering qualities associated with an earlier, better time. Various providers have identified this need and offer us what we can no longer obtain from our grandmothers. "Mutterland" in Hamburg supplies us with "traditional Königsberg meatballs". The Singapore service company "I love mother" offers working city-dwellers a range of traditional recipes of different degrees of difficulty, with the peeled, chopped and sliced ingredients, including cooking instructions, being supplied by special delivery. On portals such as "Netgranny", grandmothers knit socks in exchange for money. In this way, the new-age Web 2.0 is the unlikely midwife in a renaissance of good old-fashioned arts, crafts and cookery skills, thereby helping to uphold traditions.

Additional information
Alain Egli
Manager PR & Communications
Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute
Phone: +41 44 724 61 11
Phone: +41 44 724 62 78 (direct)
Fax: +41 44 724 62 62
E-mail: alain.egli(at)gdi.ch