The Next Big Thing: Futurist Edith Weiner Highlights Trends

Edith Weiner, a noted futurist, consultant, and president of Weiner, Edrich & Brown, was the keynote speaker at the first Women in the Know conference, which took place Feb. 27 at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. It was sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association.

In her presentation, Weiner noted a series of societal trends that will affect jewelers and others in the retail marketplace. Among them are:

  • The geometric progression of the speed of change. More change has happened in the last 100 years than in the 1900 preceding years, and that rate of change will continue to accelerate.

  • Life is about constant transitioning; we’re constantly in flux.

  • Aging is the major trend for the industrialized world. Italy recently became the first country with more residents over age 60 than under age 20, but most of the industrialized world is not far behind. In the United States, one in nine Baby Boomers is expected to live to 100.

  • Age is being extended in the middle, not at the end. Everyone from age 35 to 70 is roughly the same age, at least in terms of general mobility and ability. Today’s 70-year-olds are much more active than those of a generation ago.

  • As we age we grow more different. Marketers should be segmenting their markets for the over-35 set, not the under-35 set. Younger people are generally conformist, whereas older people are more confident and more set in their ways.

  • Two major markets to address are the physically challenged and the “nerds.” The physically challenged are tremendously loyal customers to someone who meets their needs. Also, designing for the physically challenged helps everyone, Weiner said. Federal laws requiring curb cuts and ramps didn’t result in an onslaught of wheelchair-pedestrians, but we do see more people wheeling luggage, rollerblading, and so forth.

Nerds, meanwhile, are becoming the gatekeepers to products and services, because people have no time to research those products and services. Contrary to the current marketing myth that says high-end, high-income customers are the most informed, these customers often have no time to shop around. They’d rather spend more for a product if it means saving time … or, they seek a nerd’s advice!

  • Don’t assume that all nerds do is surf the Net. By making that assumption, a marketer deprives them of the opportunity to interact with a salesperson and ask questions. A nerd wants to be left alone [while shopping], but not to be alone.

  • Shoppers will pick the one or two things most important to them and pay attention to that. For the rest, they can go to Wal-Mart. In a roundabout way, Wal-Mart is a luxury store because it’s quick and convenient.

  • Implementation, rather than knowledge or information, is the real power. Knowledge and information are useless if you don’t implement them.

  • Attention is the new currency. When people are paying attention to you, pay attention back. Answer their questions quickly and in person. Phone trees—even if they seem efficient in the short term—ultimately lose money for companies.

  • Males are visual. Females are verbal. If you want to get your point across, show a man but tell a woman.