Birnbach Communications’ Top Predictions for 2012, Part 5

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Here’s Part 5 of our predictions:

  1.  Companies will use fees to offset declining revenue in 2012. With revenue still not approaching 2007-2008 levels and with costs continuing to increase, look for all types of companies to start adding fees for things that had once been included in the price. Airlines and hotels are charging for baggage, onboard food and other things, like Wi-Fi, that used to be included in the price of a ticket or a hotel room. Banks are charging consumers to use their debit cards or paying bills by phone (or backing off, when there’s too much public pressure).  Shipping companies charge surtaxes to offset spikes in the price of gas, which, by the way, has dropped from sky-high prices. And that illustrates another aspect of fees – they won’t go away.  What we saw in 2011 was that a number of big companies did a poor job of explaining why they felt they had to impose higher fees on their customers – which made the increase feel like a slap in the face to many customers. In 2012, some companies will have learned that lesson – but you can expect a number of companies who should have known better to make a mistake in how they communicate their fees to their customers. 
  2. Mobile payments will increase. Spearheaded by Google Wallet, Visa’s V.me, and Verizon, 2012 looks to be a big year for mobile commerce. Using your smartphone to make purchases will not attract most Americans this year, but a growing part of the population will love the convenience of not having to find an ATM or not paying fees to use another bank system’s ATM. You can delay the day our society becomes a cashless one, but eventually going cash free will be mainstream by the end of the decade.
  3. Videoconferencing will continue to hit its stride. Consumers are able to use video to chat not only on Skype (now owned by Microsoft) but also on Facebook or Google+ as well as their iPhones and other smartphones. As consumers bring their own devices to work – rather than carry two smartphones (one for work and one for personal) – they will naturally try to use FaceTime, Skype or other free videoconferencing software. But what they’ll find is that while the service they get from free video chat services is fine to talk with a long-distance friend or family member, it’s not okay when talking with a customer. Expect more interest in cloud-based videoconferencing.

Let us know if you agree or disagree. And check back Monday for additional predictions.

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