Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From digital narration for audiobooks to an app that helps consumers save phone data, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.
Free to Choose – Colombia
Dana Macke – Director of Mintel Trends, North America
Movistar has launched a customizable data pack for Colombian consumers called “EligeApps” (Choose Apps). The pack allows consumers to choose up to 19 apps to use each month without eating into any data from their plan. Consumers can choose the apps from the company’s platform and can make one change to their selection per month. The first change is free of charge; any following changes incur a small charge.
With this new plan, Movistar has become the first telecoms company in Colombia to allow consumers to customize their prepaid plans and get the most out of their monthly payments. Worldwide, soaring inflation and widespread recessions are making consumers warier, and they are looking for products and services that allow them to get more bang for their buck as their budgets tighten.
Companies that follow Movistar’s example will find new opportunities to engage with consumers and retain their customers by meeting their needs with tailor-made services. The next step in building on Movistar’s idea would be to provide consumers with AI tools that determine which apps they use the most, and which apps consume most data so that they can make informed decisions when customizing the apps in their plans.
Narrated by AI – US
Kimberly Hernandez – Associate Analyst, Mintel Trends, North America
Apple is launching a digital narration feature to allow audiobooks to be read by AI voices. This digital narration feature is available for select Apple Books titles from participating independent publishers and is meant to help small publishers bring their texts to life through audio. Listeners can pick between two AI-powered personalities, a soprano named Madison and a baritone named Jackson.
AI is helping consumers view automation in a positive light for its role in speeding up progress by reducing the need for human intervention. While book publishers and print media companies have had to modernize in the face of e-books and digital media, the rise of AI presents a new challenge and opportunity to upgrade existing practices. Using AI to voice written content does diminish the effort and value of the original author’s work, but instead helps reduce the time needed to convert a book to an audio format.
AI will continue to take on new applications, as innovations with these computer programs continue to improve existing technologies. While there are still criticisms and fears about AI’s uses, consumers will put these fears aside in exchange for better prices or increased convenience. Going forward, it will be important for brands to highlight how AI can improve working conditions for humans, by allowing them to focus on the more creative aspects of their work instead of tedious tasks.
Know Your Skor – Indonesia
Joey Khong – Analyst, Mintel Trends, Southeast Asia
SkorLife offers a credit-building app for individuals to access and monitor their credit scores, credit reports and other relevant data from the nation’s credit bureaus for free. According to the company, there are 92 million credit records in the country’s bureaus, with an estimated 2.5 million new additions per year. However, for the average Indonesian consumer, accessing that information is a complicated process, and that is if they even know they can access it.
The firm aims to bolster financial literacy and inclusion in the country, by encouraging its users to take a more active role in building and maintaining their creditworthiness. Currently, many Indonesian consumers are not aware of some existing loans they have, or those they plan to have relative to their creditworthiness. For people who have no credit history, like fresh graduates and freelancers, the firm seeks to help them build good credit scores and get loans from financial institutions.
SkorLife recently raised $2.2 million in a pre-seed funding round from AC Ventures, Saison Capital and other investors. Pre-seed investments of that amount are rare, even more so amidst a conservative economic context. This is an important indicator of a clear gap, and opportunities within this space in Indonesia.
With the rise of fintech start-ups (and unicorns) across the region, BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) schemes, crypto investments, robo-advisors, e-wallets, etc have proliferated as well. Fintech firms use technology to modernise financial services and make them easier for consumers. Southeast Asia, and Indonesia in particular, is home to a large group of unbanked consumers, with lower financial literacy. Education will be key to ensuring that these individuals make wise financial decisions and have a more comfortable future and grow the region’s economy.
Wearable VRChat – Japan
Joey Khong – Analyst, Mintel Trends, Southeast Asia
Mocopi by Sony is a “mobile motion capture” device enabling VRChat users to direct and manage their avatar in real time. The small, circular device is lightweight, and can be worn on the wrist, ankle, hip or head. This new wearable application targets youthful mobile consumers wanting to engage, play and interact in alternative worlds.
Growing volumes of young consumers are engaging in virtual chat rooms that fuse social communications with alt-world escapism and gameplay. Technology companies are racing to launch proprietary devices that make metaverse and mixed-reality experiences more accessible and flexible to enjoy anywhere and at any time. Sensor-based wearable tech could herald a transition away from smartphones as the default digital entertainment portal.
Virtual spaces and the technologies around them are evolving and drawing in more consumers to play, interact and explore. VRChat portals transform social interaction into private meta-realms. VR communities enable consumers to actively create, play and share their own content. Crucially, individual meta-wanderers navigate their own pathways through unfolding worlds. This will empower more young people with a sense of belonging, and the ability to tailor and determine their own online outcomes.
Cutting Out Plastic Cutlery – UK
Sarah Al Shaalan – Senior Analyst, Mintel Trends, Europe
The government has announced it will be putting a stop to plastic cutlery in England. The UK government has confirmed that it will be banning single-use plastic including cutlery, plates and polystyrene trays, following similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales. According to government figures, 1.1 billion single-use plates and more than 4 billion pieces of plastic cutlery are used in England every year.
Eco-friendly initiatives were taken by many brands in 2022 across retail, including removing plastic packaging for certain products in supermarkets. Consumers want to associate with brands that prioritise sustainability and take an ethical stance. In order to be seen as ethical or to defend their current ethical presence, brands will need to be careful and transparent with their ethical measures to boost their integrity and meet consumers’ demands. Initiatives like this will motivate brands to use eco-friendly and biodegradable alternatives like bamboo.
There are long-term consequences of using non-biodegradable items on the environment. Landfill sites constantly being fed environmentally harmful materials and waste represent a growing issue, which many countries now face the pressure of reducing. Plastic-free initiatives will go a long way in mitigating the effects of pollution. Moving forward, brands will also need to consider the use of any single-use materials on the environment, regardless of its biodegradability.