Mobile Advertising: If you want to market your business, forget the Super Bowl. Instead, spread your message on the small screen--the really small screen, as in cell phones. With nearly two-thirds of our nation's population owning cell phones, according to CTIA Wireless, it's hard to imagine staying competitive if you don't. For businesses looking to capitalize, the cost of mobile marketing varies from very cheap (sending SMS messages) to expensive (sending video commercials). According to RBC Capital, U.S. spending on marketing and advertising over wireless networks is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2010.
Micropayments: There's a debate going on nationwide: Should we discontinue production of the penny? Not because people hate having a pocket full of copper, but because the cost of production exceeds one cent per penny. Conversely, the technology for micropayment transactions--small currency transfers typically less than $1 but as little as one cent--has made great strides. It is now a reasonable option for merchants and service providers to avoid the the cost of traditional payment processing on transactions smaller than that cost. Micropayments are performed largely online. Consumers have already been primed for micropayments without even realizing it--does 99 cents a song ring a bell? By 2009, TowerGroup expects micropayment revenue to reach $11.5 billion. Until then, put your dukes up for Honest Abe.
Robots : New biological data on how the human brain works is pushing robot sophistication to a new level. Stanford engineers have created a car that can drive itself; University of Florida students have developed a shopping cart that will follow shoppers through stores; and scientists at NEC System Technologies have developed a winebot to alert the home sommelier of skunky wine. None of these are commercialized yet, so aside from a few floor-cleaning bots, consumers will continue to wait. --S.C.
Serve It Up
If you own a restaurant, consider adding these options.
Let customers order online and pick food up. No one wants to hassle with a restaurant server to place a food order over the phone. Customers would much rather browse your menu online, input exactly what they want, and then drive to your place to pick it up. Already, 31 percent of consumers view restaurant menus online, according to the National Restaurant Association. And eOrders.com , an online ordering service provider, says its partner restaurants bring in nearly $4,000 to $5,000 in online orders per month. Customers can already search, customize and purchase just about everything else through the internet, so maybe it's time to add your restaurant to their menu. Who knows? It could supersize your bottom line.
Offer quick breakfasts. From feeding pets and ironing clothes to dropping the kids off at school, the typical morning routine leaves little or no time for a hearty breakfast. That's why if you serve food, quick breakfast options make for a tasty addition. Offerings like egg sandwiches and bagels are a great complement to those fancy coffees. The purveyor of the Egg McMuffin has even announced that it will serve its breakfast menu all day. The National Restaurant Association says nearly 40 percent of restaurants surveyed say breakfast sales growth is outpacing lunch and dinner. That's some good news to wake up to.
Add exotic salads to your menu. Consumers are ready for something different on their salads. How about some baby arugula, shredded parmesan, caramelized onions and candied walnuts with balsamic dressing? This makes iceberg lettuce with a few cherry tomatoes and ranch dressing sound pretty blah. Premium salads are paying off at all types of eateries, even fast food: Since 2003, McDonald's has sold more than $2 billion of its premium salads and continues to add to its menu, including an Asian-inspired salad. It's time to break out the gorgonzola and pears.
If You Have A Health-Food Business...
Market to schools . Our nation's youth isn't getting any skinnier. As a result, schools are seeking healthier food options to serve on campus. Many schools already offer vegetarian or even vegan fare, and vending machines have also been getting a healthy makeover. Before you jump on the trend, check out the USDA School Meals website , which provides the eligibility requirements for schools to be reimbursed for meals. Also, check with your state and local government and schools for any special requirements. --S.C.
The funeral industry may not be in its prime, but personalized funerals will be alive and kicking in 2007. Baby boomers who demand that things be done "their way," coupled with innovative entrepreneurs and a trend toward cremations, are shaking life into this lifeless industry. So bid farewell to the traditional church funeral and say hello to memorial services held on golf courses, ashes scattered while skydiving and cremains launched into outer space by rockets. According to Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, author of Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death, "There will be a whole different array of services and merchandise to accommodate people who only want cremation, who don't want to pay $3,000 for the ornate traditional casket, who don't need embalming, who don't need that open-casket wake at the funeral home."
Any important event needs an event planner, and funerals are no exception. In 2000, Mark Duffey, 50, was one of a team of co-founders who created Everest Funeral Package LLC, a funeral concierge service in Houston. For a relatively small fee, they compare prices, plan funerals and accommodate all their customers' needs--24 hours a day. Ask them to arrange for bagpipers to play on a mountaintop, and they won't even bat an eye. They just rolled out their service in the U.S. late last year and are living it up with a million-dollar business.
But the possibilities don't end there. LifeGem in Chicago can transform carbon remains into a diamond in just 24 to 36 weeks. Suddenly the expression "diamonds are forever" takes on a whole new meaning. Hollywood-quality memorial movies are also a budding business. "Smart entrepreneurs are going to come up with new options," says Cullen. "For everyone who rolls his eyes, there's someone out there who will think [the] idea is the perfect thing for their loved one." --S.W.
You know you've seen them. You may even be one yourself--the highly educated, fashionable, health-conscious and, yes, affluent mom. The sort of mom who will spare no expense when it comes to her child. She buys organic products and shops at Whole Foods while squiring her baby around in a pricey Bugaboo stroller.
Whether it's the boomer moms in their 40s who've just started families, Gen Yers who are used to stylish things, or Gen X moms who have chosen when and how to bring their kids into the world and have made them the focal point, the language of Yoga Mamas is the same: They want the best for their kids, and they're willing to spend top dollar for it. In fact, this hot market helped boost sales of infant, toddler and preschool home furnishings and accessories to $8 billion in 2005--a 5.2 percent increase over the year before. That figure is expected to hit $9 billion by 2010, according to Packaged Facts.
Look for opportunities in anything organic, and be aware that moms want facts to back up natural and organic claims, says Maria Bailey, author of Marketing to Moms. Creating high-quality hard-bound photo keepsakes for moms is another niche to explore. Think customization, says Bailey, as the Yoga Mama is striving for her child to be unique.
Still, affluent moms aren't the only ones who prize distinctive products and services for their children. There is a trickle-down market for moms in other income brackets who aspire to the same things--healthy and happy youngsters with the best shoes, strollers, baby food, clothes, educational toys and accessories around. "Look at what moms are selling mom-to-mom online and see how you can modify those products [to the trickle-down market]," says Bailey. Word-of-mouth marketing is key: The Yoga Mama trusts other moms' recommendations above anything else. --N.L.T.
We've highlighted minority markets before, but the minority kids segment is hotter than ever now that 45 percent of U.S. children under age 5 are part of a racial minority--Asian American, black or Hispanic. Children in these rapidly growing communities will need every sort of product imaginable--and winning their brand loyalty today is critical. "As [this market] gets older, they're going to be less apt to try new brands," notes Tru Pettigrew, Boston-based senior vice president of urban and multicultural marketing with Alloy Media + Marketing. "But it's a lot more wide-open at a younger age because they're still exploring."
>Grabbing youngsters now will help you maintain your market strength as they reach their tween and teen years, when multicultural youth have tremendous buying power. Once they reach this age, music, fashion, gaming technologies and grooming products become high-demand items.
The key to reaching minority kids is "understanding cultural nuances and cultural differences, and becoming relevant," says Pettigrew. Think multicultural toys, like the ones found at Dolls Like Me , an online store with multicultural dolls, toys, books and accessories. Multicultural educational products are another promising area--the Sube Learning Language Thru Art, Music & Games curriculum ( www.sube.com ), which teaches Spanish and English to youngsters, is one example. Clothing, too, is an important segment of this market.
Start by targeting the key influencers, as this market responds particularly well to authentic communication and trusted sources. Depending on the product, that could mean parents, coaches, teachers, dance instructors and so on. Most important, be respectful and research the cultural variances intensely. Once they hit the tween years, these sophisticated consumers will understand the buying power they hold. --N.L.T.