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Top 10 Social Innovation Trends of 2015


By Joi M. Sears

We get it, your inboxes are jam-packed with must-read trend predictions for 2015, and no doubt some of them are right on the money. We can all feel the shift: This year will be a game-changer, especially in the field of social innovation. If we want to be ahead of the curve, we have to be creative, forward-thinking and incredibly innovative when it comes to designing new products, services and brands.

This list is all about taking the top 10 innovation trends of 2015 and transforming them into actionable opportunities that you can run with and profit from in the year to come.

1. Instant skills

2015 is all about the rise of the “prosumer” (professional consumer) who cares less about what they have or buy and more about what they can do or create. Just as Instagram created an army of instant art photographers, the best products and services of the coming year give prosumers the instant knowledge and skills they need to produce professional quality output minus the learning and/or time barriers. In this case, it is all about the destination -- not the journey.

Example: SeedSheet offers aspiring gardeners a simple ‘plug and plant” approach.

Q: How can you give prosumers the INSTANT SKILLS they will demand in 2015?

2. Fast laning

In 2015, consumers who are more starved for time and accustomed to total control will expect quicker more streamlined service, especially from the brands that they extend their loyalty towards. Winning brands this year will design FAST-LANING solutions that benefit all customers by decreasing on-site wait times and removing time-sensitive customers from the slow lanes.

Example: In 2014, Starbucks and Taco Bell announced a new order ahead function for their apps enabling customers to place and pay for orders in advance.

Q: What are the ways in which you can streamline service for your most loyal customers?

3. Fair splitting

Those planning to simply accept mobile payments in 2015 are falling behind the curve. FAIR SPLITTING, and the use of new forms of real-time tools and data will help consumers seamlessly share costs, not just for products but for services and experiences as well.

Example: Lyft Line is a platform which allows users to save up to 60 percent by opting to have their ride pick up other passengers traveling along a similar route.

Q: How can you turn the moment of payment into a moment of pleasure for your customers?

4. Internet of sharing things

This trend it all about new connections, new opportunities and new behaviors. Last year we saw social innovators putting basic human needs at the center of their initiatives. Here we see the Internet of Caring things meet the Internet of Sharing things. As more objects become connected, we find new ways of deriving value from them which increases the possibility for consumers to share access.

Example: Breather, a space-sharing service which allows people to find unused urban spaces to rent for work or relaxation.

Q: How can your brand offer shared value/access, and also how you might be able to take advantage of shared access opportunities in your area or field?

5. Branded government

2015 will be the year for progressive brands to initiate, undertake or support meaningful civic transformation. This year, forward-thinking brands will step up to the challenge of creating real, meaningful change in the civic arena.

Example: Easy Taxi, a mobile app which, in response to the Ebola virus in West Africa, offered Nigerian cab drivers lessons on how to diagnose and prevent the disease.

Q: How you can you, either through partnerships or by working directly with the community, effect real and lasting positive social change?

6. Post-demographic consumerism

People of all ages and in many markets are constructing their own identities more freely than ever. As a result, consumption patterns are no longer defined by traditional demographic segments such as age, gender, location, income, family status and more. Nowadays, successful products, services and brands transcend their initial demographics almost instantaneously.

Tip: Never stop scanning all demographics for relevant new innovations.

7. Currencies of change

In search of wellness, strength, new skills, knowledge and more, this year's consumers will embrace device-fueled rewards that incentivize improving behaviors. CURRENCIES OF CHANGE are personalized rewards, incentives and discounts that help consumers overcome the inconvenience, cost or just the oh-so-human inertia that so often prevents self-improvement.

Example: McDonalds’ and Coca-Cola’s BFF Timeout app  makes taking digital breaks more interesting by offering rewards, such as trips to international destinations, to those who spend more time with friends.

Q: How can wearable devices and smartphones enable your customers to earn CURRENCIES OF CHANGE?

8. Sympathetic pricing

Brands are constantly telling consumers that they care, but most consumers don’t believe them. Now consumers are challenging brands to put their money where their mouth is. In 2015, more brands will offer a variety of imaginative discounts that relieve lifestyle pain, offer a helping hand in difficult times or support a shared value.

Example: PareUp allows New York-based restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores to offer soon-to-be-wasted food at a discounted price.

Q: How (and where) will you implement a SYMPATHETIC PRICING strategy in 2015?

9. Robolove

It’s actually more than a sci-fi fantasy: Many consumers will have their first face-to-face encounters with robots in 2015. Smart business will be planning not just how robots might decrease their costs, but free up their human employees to focus on more engaging, valuable tasks and also increase customer satisfaction.

Tip: Have a little fun with this one: If you could design a robot to handle your most mundane tasks, what would it look like and do?

10. Brand stands

In 2015, winning brands will take a stand and start contentious, painful and necessary conversations. These daring brands will make real, tangible brand sacrifices for people, society and the planet. When it comes to the environment and making the world a better place, many consumers are setting a more stringent standard for brands than they are for themselves.

Q: What will your brand take a stand for in 2015?

Credit: trendwatching.com

Image credit: Canned Tuna, Flickr

Joi M. Sears is a brand strategist, social innovator and creative entrepreneur, the Founder and Creative director of Free People International, a social enterprise which specializes in offering creative solutions to the world’s biggest social, environmental and economic challenges through the arts, human centered design and social innovation.

3p Contributor

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