The Lifestyle Economy

According to Google Ventures, a taxi company with no cars is the world’s fastest growing company. Similarly the world’s most popular media company creates no media. I am of course talking about Uber and Facebook.

Mobile technology has grown so quickly, and powerfully, that mobile-centric companies have grown exponentially. The best have evaporated many of the obstacles between supply and demand, offering a user experience so frictionless it’s almost invisible. Mobile consumers buy, sell, find, share and much more, whenever and wherever we want, with a few taps of a touchscreen. This is what analyst firm Forrester call the “mobile mind shift”.


A similar change in mindset has evolved in parallel with mobile adoption. According to Forrester we have been living in the “age of the customer” since 2010. Enterprises are advised to embrace the mobile mind shift to transform their businesses, and to meet the high expectations of mobile mind shifted millennials, in this fast moving new era for business.

But another trend has been quietly emerging, equally facilitated by advances in mobile technology and adoption, called the “lifestyle economy’.

Swedish entrepreneur Yasmine Åkermark, co-founder of the skill-sharing marketplace Tibba, sees a change in how her contemporaries interact with commerce. “The rise of the sharing economy and the gig economy is not a fad, it is a very real reflection of how my generation view the world. People are reclaiming their quality of life and building their own vision of what a transaction should look like. We are entering the age of the lifestyle economy and mobile technology facilitates micro-networks of commercial exchange between individuals or small businesses. With more and more people opting for freelance work in place of the more traditional full-time employment we will soon see a marketplace filled with freelancers that will come together for bigger projects and then disband to regroup for another project. This is the future of the workforce and we provide a platform that offers them a chance to leverage their skills to get real life experiences. They can trade their skills with others for money or cool experiences, when and where it suits them.”


OuiShare is a global community and “think and do tank” with a mission to build and nurture a collaborative society by connecting people, organizations and ideas around fairness, openness and trust. Asmaa Guedira, facilitator for OuiShare, explains the importance of mobility: “Mobile technology helps us a lot, we are always on our mobiles, and contacting like-minded people all over the world has never been easier. This means we can build global networks of people quicker than ever before. When we meet in real life a digital connection has already happened, so this lowers the boundaries. Mobile technology allows us to get things moving faster when we meet and work together.”


So mobiles are at the heart of these new networks of economic innovators, but what does this mean for the companies who wish to engage with them? It is worth noting that this generation of mobile-first innovators is not a “captive” audience, in the language of “old” media. Even in the TV-centric UK, media access has already moved to a predominantly time-shifted model, and brand loyalty is shifting with it. According to Ofcom, 75% of media time and 50% of video viewing for 16-24 year olds is not live, while almost half of that age group watch TV on their smartphone. As we become a smartphone society, the brand engagement models of “spray and prey” interruption, and “brand as destination” assumptions are no longer appropriate for many consumers.

So how can brands engage with the “mobile lifestyle” demographic? Are apps the answer?

It’s great to have photo apps, banking apps, utilitarian gadgets and entertainment widgets, but do people really want an app to interact with every brand they like? According to Comscore, most consumers install zero apps per month, and spend 42% of all app time on their single most used app. According to mobile maverick Mary Meeker 6 of the top 10 apps globally in 2015 are Over The Top (OTT) messaging apps.


App fatigue has been well documented in TechCrunch, with one writer referring to Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven mobile messaging as the new OS, meanwhile Wired have been asking is SMS the new universal User Interface? AI and mobile messaging can indeed deliver compelling personalised campaigns, perceived by the end user as VIP service.

It’s safe to say that launching an app does not guarantee smartphone real estate. In contrast, according to a recent study by Pew Research, text messaging is the most widely used smartphone feature, accessed by roughly 97 percent of users.

Enterprises looking to connect with the mobile first generation would be well advised to not just incorporate mobile messaging into their communications strategy, but to build their strategy around it. It’s better to employ a holistic mobile engagement portfolio, including notifications, apps, content and social as needed, but keeping ubiquitous messaging at its heart.

The mobile first generation will thank for interacting with them on their favorite device, without the automatic assumption that you instantly deserve smartphone real estate as a standalone app. As Forrester lead analyst Julie Ask states “Your customers will not download your app, so develop a strategy to borrow mobile moments and engage your customers effectively — where they already are.”


Businesses of all kinds have a better chance of connecting with the younger demographic of customers if they take mobile communications seriously. Whether it’s a lifestyle economy exchange, ordering a pizza, or banking reminders, mobile messaging remains the #1 featured used on our smartphones, and smart businesses are already ensuring that consumers can connect with them anywhere and anytime, using this powerful and omnipresent channel.