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Hotspots brings you the Mintel Trends team’s top observations on product and service launches from around the world. From VR technology enabling blind people to experience art to advertisement placed under the armpits, find out the most innovative global initiatives happening this month.

Senior Baristas – Mexico

Starbucks has opened a new café staffed entirely by senior citizens in Mexico City, teaming up with the National Institute for the Elderly (INAPAM) to promote a programme of labour inclusion. To accommodate the special needs of its older employees, Starbucks adapted its outlets, making sure branches are one floor, and lowering the shelves. The senior staff enjoy additional benefits to those provided to younger employees, such as two days off, a working day of 6.5 hours, and health insurance that covers their medical needs.

“According to 2017 data from the INEGI, Mexico is home to 12 million senior citizens, which represents 10.5% of the national population. Companies are starting to see the benefits of targeting seniors with employment opportunities and services that will help them get the financial or emotional support they need. Singapore’s National Library Board, for example, is to launch a suite of digital readiness services targeted at adults and seniors. While Chinese online shopping platform Taobao has posted a job vacancy online to recruit over-60s influencers, who will be responsible for assessing new products aimed at middle-aged and senior consumers.”

Credit: Starbucks

Graciana Méndez – Trends Analyst, Latin America

Swipe Right On Snooze – US

Dating app Bumble has launched a snooze button that allows users to take a break, making their profile temporarily invisible. Their existing matches will still be accessible but notifications can be interrupted. Additionally, users can select from a group of optional statuses in order to explain their invisibility, such as “I’m traveling” or “I’m on a digital detox”.

Increased connectivity has led to many consumers feeling overwhelmed by daily technology use. In fact, about eight in 10 US consumers believe that it’s important to occasionally disconnect from technology, according to Mintel research on consumers’ attitudes toward the digital world. The average consumer is not looking to ditch technology completely, rather mediate their consumption occasionally. People want to feel valued — for their time, for their money, for their personality, etc. It is in brands’ best interests to exhibit a ‘people over profit’ mentality by taking specific measures that show how much they care about their consumers.

Credit: Bumble

Alex Milinazzo, Trends Analyst, North America

Armpit Ads – Japan

A new ad company has come up with an unorthodox way for people to earn money – renting advertising spaces on their armpits. The Wakino Ad Company, owned by Liberta, a Japanese brand that specialises in beauty products for the underarm, recently began operations. Its first client is Japanese beauty treatment and dermatology chain Seishin Biyo Clinic, which is using the armpit advertising space to market its painless underarm hair removal procedure. “Armpit rentals” start from about ¥10,000 (US$120) an hour.

Advertising revenue has been increasing in Japan for consecutive years and brands are looking for more innovative ways to grab the attention of consumers. Car body advertising are becoming increasingly popular. For instance, PayRide is a new car advertising start-up that calculates factors such as rush hour and road density to better reward those who sign up as moving billboards in Indonesia.

Credit: The Wakino Ad Company

Delon Wang – Manager of Trends, APAC

Venmo in retail – US

Venmo, owned by PayPal, gained momentum as a way for users to instantly transfer money to one another via a mobile app. Most recently, it announced the release of a debit card which can be utilised anywhere MasterCard is accepted. Funds can be added to the card via the Venmo app and purchases can still be shared and split with other users. In addition, the card will allow users to withdraw cash for no fee at MoneyPass ATMs.

Young adults have become accustomed to making digital payments. Yet, when it comes to shopping in retail, two thirds of US consumers say less than half of their purchases are made online, according to Mintel research on online shopping. This signals that in order to have the strongest reach and growth, digital payment methods have to find ways to reach brick-and-mortar transactions too. Venmo’s debit card is specifically targeting a young demographic who are just starting to create their own financial portfolio and have already developed a loyalty to utilising Venmo. Yet, it also creates opportunities to reach an older generation as well, for instance parents with whom kids regularly split expenses.

Diana Kelter – Senior Trends Analyst, North America

Face Key – China

Marriott is using Alibaba’s facial recognition technology to allow guests to check in without having to speak to front desk agents. Once the guest’s identity is verified, the machine will dispense the room keys so that guests can access their rooms without having to speak to a clerk. The programme will be piloted at two locations in China.

According to Mintel’s research, China’s total travel accommodation market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.3% over the next five years, largely driven by a boom in domestic leisure and business travel. For travellers, technology is important – indeed, 33% of respondents are willing to pay more for accommodation that offers self-check-in/check-out, according to Mintel research on hotels in China. By outsourcing selected tasks to technology, hotels can re-assign staff to more meaningful work, creating personalised and deeply engaging interactions that leave a lasting impression on guests and keep them coming back for more.

Credit: Marriott

Joyce Lam – Trends Analyst, Asia Pacific

Touching Masterpieces – Czech Republic

The National Gallery of Prague has introduced the Touching Masterpieces VR experience, a virtual reality (VR) tool designed for blind people to enable them to virtually touch famous artwork. Artefacts are scanned with a laser to create highly detailed 3D models. The virtual tool is connected to gloves with a vibration system so that as the user moves the haptic gloves around the virtual space, they respond according to the impact of the artwork.

Consumers want to make use of all of their available senses, and VR is a perfect technology to aid this. Just because people cannot see, does not mean they should miss out on enjoying art. Whether companies want to give further opportunities to those with disabilities, or whether they want to convert a theoretical experience into something more accessible, there is a wide range of possibilities across many sectors.

Julie Gable, Trends Analyst, EMEA