By Rhiannon Riches
Which consumer trends will hold sway in 2018 and what emerging forces are shaping consumer behaviour?
According to research published in Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2018, consumers are continuing to question their priorities and purchasing decisions as the year progresses, deepening their engagement in the brands and issues that matter to them.
The report, authored by Alison Angus, Head of Lifestyles Research at Euromonitor International, predicts that shifting consumer attitudes and behaviours will continue to cause disruption for business in 2018.
According to the report, augmented reality is expected to go mainstream in 2018, enabling the merging of digital and reality. This trend is already being felt in the retail sector of optometry, with apps allowing consumers to “try on” glasses without visiting an optometry practice.
The report identifies 10 emerging trends:
Educated 20-29-year-olds are adopting clean-living, minimalist lifestyles where moderation and integrity are key. They are less tolerant, more sceptical. They feel they can make a difference and this influences their spending.
Clean Lifers are more often saying no; no to drugs and alcohol, no to night clubs, unhealthy habits, and animal-based products, and saying yes to veganism and “genervacations” – choosing to holiday with family, also known as multi-generational travel – and prefer to spend their money on experiences, such as festivals and wellness retreats.
The Borrowers want access, not ownership, whether through sharing, swapping, renting, streaming, or subscribing, as the popularity of sharing economy stalwarts such as Uber and Airbnb have demonstrated.
Consumers want more flexibility and freedom, fewer material possessions. Urbanisation, or inner city-living, is driving this trend.
The sharing economy also provides additional revenue streams for The Lenders – consumers sharing or renting what they have, be it a commodity such as a car, or skills, such as IT. Affordability, convenience and sustainability are key to the growth of the sharing economy.
Technology is a driving force in the on-demand economy. The Borrowers – and The Lenders – are always seeking more efficient ways to use and share services.
Call Out Culture
‘People power’ is taking on new meaning with the rise of hashtag activism – empowered consumers using social media to highlight injustice and call brands to account. Whether it is posting a complaint on Facebook or Twitter, or signing an online petition on platforms such as Change.org, consumers are having their say, and it’s going viral.
This trend has been fuelled by a high degree of social unrest, combined with unprecedented consumer power. Social media has given consumers collective clout, making it much easier for people to raise awareness, lobby for change and call out brands for malpractice. Brands that respond poorly to consumer complaints are likely to be boycotted as consumers not only spread the message on social media, they also vote with their wallets to force companies to act.
In response, brands and companies are being forced into greater interaction with consumers in the public space, however big or small their grievance. They need to be prepared to face any social media storm.
I’m so special
DNA testing – our genetic make-up – has entered the mainstream, particularly in the health, fitness, beauty and nutrition industries.
Some companies offer personalised training and nutrition plans based on genetic testing, others measure how the body metabolises fats, carbohydrates, and proteins, or whether consumers are likely to be lactose-intolerant or deficient in certain types of vitamins.
According to the consumer trends report, DNA testing appeals to consumers’ increasingly health-obsessed and self-centric sensibilities. ‘I’m so special’ consumers range from those with a genuine concern about their risk of developing certain inherited diseases, to those who merely want to make lifestyle improvements based on health findings, like skin-ageing.
The cost of DNA testing still puts it beyond the reach of many consumers, and some are deterred by concerns over their data privacy or have yet to be persuaded of the efficacy of DNA testing.
Rejecting traditional 9-to-5 careers in favour of greater freedom and flexibility, Adaptive Entrepreneurs aspire to being self-employed, aligning their personal interests and passions with their career.
They do not have the reliable incomes of those who work 9-to-5, but would rather take risks early on in life and delay traditional life events such as owning a home or having children.
The internet is crucial for Adaptive Entrepreneurs, allowing a flexible platform to conduct business, communicate and network without borders or boundaries. Disillusioned with the traditional economic model, Adaptive Entrepreneurs are attracted to start-ups, where they can capitalise on their propensity to be savvy, well-connected and technically confident.
Internet crowdfunding is enabling budding entrepreneurs to connect directly with consumers to fund their business ideas instead of through traditional funding methods such as venture capital.
View in my roomers
Virtual reality – where digital devices connect with physical space – is enabling consumers to visualise products before they try or buy, both in-store and online.
Sophisticated smartphones are allowing greater functionality, including augmented reality technology, which consumers are already using to ‘try on’ beauty products in a selfie-style format, choose glasses frames from their couch, see true-to-scale 3D models of furniture in their house, or how their walls would look painted a certain colour.
Being able to ‘see’ online how something looks – from clothing and accessories to furniture and decor – means consumers are more likely to proceed with purchases which the consumer report states, boosts global internet retail sales.
‘View in my roomers’ are increasingly looking for immersive try-before-you-buy online shopping, and more retailers are releasing apps to meet demand.
Sleuthy shoppers are investigative consumers, sceptical of mass-produced products and the motivations of the companies that create them. Spanning from Gen X to Gen Z, these shoppers are serious about the causes they believe in – they tend to only buy from companies and brands they trust.
Sleuthy shoppers don’t just buy a product – they investigate the full production process, from material and/or ingredient sourcing, to production, distribution and fair wages. To build trust, companies need to be transparent and offer detailed evidence of their supply chain and labour practices. The craft beer scene is a successful example of this model.
Working-age Millennials and Gen X-ers are shifting their focus from possessions to experiences, and the product creation process, as part of a move towards ‘making it mine’.
Participating in creating, designing or building is seen as more sophisticated than merely owning, satisfying I-Designers desire for personalisation and authenticity. According to the consumer trends report, I-Designers are not looking to build from scratch, but want the tools and pieces they need to create and customise.
Lego has adopted the ‘make it mine’ mind-set, creating a platform that allows fans to submit their own designs for new Lego sets – creators must gather the backing of 10,000 supporters, at which point the proposal is reviewed by Lego’s own designers. Successful projects then go into production, with the creator given recognition as the designer, and also receiving a share of royalties.
The Co-Living trend is popular amongst Millennials and the over-65s, sharing residential space and a common set of interests and values. It stems from hyper-urban centres that have embraced the sharing economy as a lifestyle choice.
Real estate has become the next focus for disruption in the sharing economy phenomenon; co-living is creating greater demand for rentals. In urban hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore, where real estate prices are amongst the highest in the world, co-living offers a way of cutting costs while being part of a social and productive environment
Although providing affordable accommodation, co-living remains a niche trend.
Despite improving economies, rising incomes and falling unemployment, the gap between rich and poor remains, and some consumers remain frugal. They continue to make use of the growing number of resale shops, grocery discounters, and charity shops. By catering to the price-sensitive, discounters are amongst the only retailers that have proved resilient to the rise of internet retail.
In Europe, ‘social supermarkets’ have emerged, which sell food with expired best-before dates, incorrect labels or damaged packaging at discounts of up to 50 per cent. Grocery discounters such as Aldi and Lidl are responding to demand by expanding aggressively. Some clothing retailers are incorporating ‘second-hand’ offerings in their retail operations.
Download the full report: Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2018, Euromonitor International