Escaping the East Coast weather for a week, New Yorker Daniel Levine was ready to talk trends. Levine, the keynote speaker for the Tourism Fall Forum, was standing on stage in front of more than 250 Park City Chamber/Visitor Bureau members to make a point, that customer attitudes are shifting and businesses need to be ready.
Levine started his career as an author for Frommer's Travel Guides. Since then, he has developed a reputation as a consumer trends expert and serves as the Executive Director of The Avant-Guide Institute in New York City. Levine is also the founder of WikiTrend, a hub for spotting the latest products and services, works as a consultant to major companies and has authored 20 best-selling books.
"He really takes a global perspective and makes it work locally," said Craig McCarthy, the Member Service Director of the PCCVB. "What are the trends and what does it mean to Park City? That was very interesting."
Catherine Cimos, the Branch Manager of Frontier Bank, added to that thought as she held onto the notes she took during the presentation.
"He was a very interesting," she said, "and there are a lot of ideas that caught my attention."
From MasterCard to HBO, Levine has worked with industry giants to implement emerging trends. Self-described on his website as a "leader of a huge international team of 'cool-hunters' thousands of trend-spotters who track the latest ideas and experiences from around the globe," Levine works to make businesses and destinations like Park City succeed.
"People ask, 'what is a trend and how is it different from a fad,'" he said. "A fad comes and goes, but a trend has a longer permanence. It's something you can build a business plan around."
Levine showed a business that developed stilettos where the heel could fold into the shoe to make it flat, a product designed to make it easier for women to drive.
"Why does this get a reaction from us," he said. "It's because it touches a nerve and what you need is to figure out how to do this for your customers, hit that nerve."
He described five major trends that work across industries: personalize, specialize, transparency, mobilize and create meaningful experiences. Personalize is a trend where consumers can tailor an experience or product, making that business stand out. Whether that means ketchup bottles with personalized labels that customers can create and order or the credit card company that allows customers to put their child's photo on the card, Levine stressed the importance of making customers feel unique.
Specialize refers to creating specific products or services for a certain demographic, knowing the customers and making it about them. He showed slides of "Men Aisles" in grocery stores, where there is one aisle set aside stacked with anything a man might want to buy, a convenience-based idea assuming that men don't like to shop. Stocked with essentials such as beer, steak sauce and condoms, "Man Aisles" are becoming popular in places like New York City.
"These are companies that understand their customers and cater specifically to them," Levine said.
Being transparent means not withholding information from customers, because as the Internet continues to add ratings websites and shopping guides, people are able to figure out on their own the best deals, the highest rated hotels and the worst customer experiences.
"This trend is cross-industrial and customers are getting used to it," Levine said. "Businesses need to be ready."
While many people already know the tip, mobilize was a welcome reminder to attendees that people are using their phones for at-hand information. That means businesses have to work to get to the top of a Google search, updating and adding information to every available website and using a search engine optimization strategy.
"As a small business, some of these ideas can be difficult," said attendee Hans Fuegi, owner of the Grub Steak Restaurant, "but it's good to hear this. You don't always take time to think about a Google search in the day-to-day and there are things we can be doing more of, things we can do better."
And finally, Levine described the importance creating a memorable experience, especially for destinations such as Park City. More and more, commercials are shifting away from targeting consumers using flash and sex appeal, moving toward a feeling or experience the product provides. Coca-Cola tells customers to "Open Happiness." Levi's says "Life is Calling." Car companies sell safety and hotels sell volunteerism packages.
"People are more than value-conscious. They are conscious of the value to their lives," Levine said. " Authenticity is a big word we are using a lot recently, and it's important. Be authentic."
"The travel industry is a leader in creating experiences and marketing that idea," he added. "People travel for an experience, so how can you embrace that tool for your business?"