by Brad Ross, Global Trend Forecasting
Years ago, long before our lives were played out on social media, I came to the crossroads of trying to decide which career path to choose. More specifically, what route did I want to take in my college courses that would best fit my personality, passions, and interests? Among my varied teenage preoccupations: music, sports, motorcycles and fashion, was a favorite downtime activity of illustrating cool homes and architecture. For inspiration, my bedroom was essentially repurposed as one big storyboard of aspirational tears from home magazines, fashion publications and of course, the latest motocross magazine. Little did I realize in the process, that I was not only planning my career, but also essentially curating it.
Today, the word “curator” has broadened its’ definition far beyond that of one who meticulously selects museum artwork. The redefinition of curating has now saturated our culture in a way that affects our daily decisions, from what we wear, purchase, read, watch and even eat. The catalyst for this curated culture stems from our somewhat recent ability to sample, collect, edit and share digitally through social media.
Today, most are familiar with Pinterest, boasting a whopping 70 million users. But there are multitudes of other online sites offering us the ability to “collect” our wants and likes, products and services. For example, sites like, thecools.com, synchronizes your fashion preferences and offers direct-curated access to specific brands fitting your tastes, while also inspiring style through peer editorials from the community. This is changing our shopping behavior and altering our expectations of retail.
Rdio.com is another example in music, allowing you to curate your own personal playlist and sample or follow others' playlists in the community. This movement in personalized digital consumption is directly affecting album sales. In 2014, only 62.9 million CDs were sold, less than half of 2009′s six-month total of 136.4 million. Thus, it is no surprise that the monetary value of companies will rise or fall, based on their ability to adjust to this trend.
This online editing process has become a form of self-expression for many people who may not actually create certain items, but certainly appreciate them. But beyond the mere action of curating, lies a cognitive longing for the ideal, evoking the same response to that of advertising, which initiates a “feeling”, a desire today, for community, likeness, acceptance and shared ideals. Sharing our collections with the online world allows our unique voices to be heard and even followed. We now see ourselves as experts and act as digital publicists; curating and monitoring the ‘me’ brand. The individual, eclectic ‘me’ brand in search of current approval by our peers.
Curated inventories have also impacted the mainstream “brick and mortar” stores, now offering readymade solutions to time-poor shoppers or those simply needing guidance. Businesses like the eyewear group, “ Luxottica”, is a leading practitioner of curation. Their category merchandising is now grouped by brands appealing to similar consumers. This allows the consumer to quickly identify his or her style, decreasing shop time and increasing sales. Another leader in retail curation is the Berlin grocery store and cook shop, Kochhause, which offers individual food items, recipes, all the way to fully prepared meals, displayed and ready to go. And finally, an the acute example found In a bid to avoid the high costs of traditional bricks and mortar, Mobile Fashion, where retailers are transforming trucks into curated mobile shops and taking their wares to the road.
From this trend, we can easily identify the physiological importance of consumers wanting to be “seen and heard” through curation, but the change in consumer behavior, and monetary valuation is impressive. Companies with a deliberate eye on creating that “feeling”, and astutely addressing the new consumer expectations, will WIN!
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