Here is part one of our summary of the biggest 2014 trends that will be affecting consumers, retailers and media channels. Our aim is to keep you guys abreast of cultural developments and help you to identify new communication opportunities. Hope you enjoy it (and make sure to look out for part two next week)!
1) Consumer in Control
In the past, there has been a power struggle between brands and their consumers; it was very much ‘them and us’. This is now changing. As awareness of how brands use people’s data grows, so does the demand for reclaiming control of this information. A relationship of fair exchange for this information will have a positive impact on attitudes towards these brands.
Rising expectations in terms of the honesty, transparency and ethics of brands also mean that consumers will constantly demand more and actively communicate dissatisfaction when they don’t get what they want. They are no longer content with being talked at by brands and appreciate it when brands listen to them.
2) Discount Forever
The recession and its aftermath has brought about newly changed consumer who is now more focused on price than ever before. Budgeting, trading down and locating the best possible price has become more of the norm. With price coming under intense scrutiny since the crash and consumers more at ease finding the cheapest deal, we have seen a rise of tools, both online and on-the-go that can help with price comparison and locating deals.
With some taking pleasure in creatively budgeting, this trend will probably endure well beyond the return to full global economic health.
With many consumers constantly re-evaluate what they are spending their money on, there is a rising demand for cheaper alternatives to expensive products, in the telecoms and automobile industries, for instance.
3) Entrepreneurial Spirit
Over recent years there has been a continued drive of personal ambitions for both financial, educational and altruistic rewards. Consumers are feeling increasingly compelled to take active involvement in their own communities to promote positive change, as well as investing more into themselves as individuals.
Spurred by the rise of social media platforms, consumers have become much more proactive in doing things for themselves and many sectors are already being transformed. In education for example, we have seen a rise of open online courses that provide new and inexpensive ways for people to learn and in travel, sites such as Air bnb allow homeowners to become ‘micro-entrepreneurs’ by renting out any spare rooms to short-term guests. This open-source, entrepreneurial culture has the potential to disrupt entire industries.
4) Renewed Food Focus
There is a new focus on food. From initial transparency solely around where and how ingredients are sourced, the focus is moving more towards the whole consumption process – from the welfare of the people who farm the ingredients right through to packaging. Consumers are now putting ethics at the forefront of their purchasing decisions and hedonistic consumption is becoming apparent.
Food is also fast becoming the focal point for bringing communities together and there is a desire for a new type of collectivism which revolves round the sharing of skills, produce and materials. Food trading, foraging and food swapping movements are becoming more commonplace.
Consumers are also seeking out luxurious experiences in their purchases. Entrepreneurial individuals are thinking of increasingly quirky and inventive ways of serving up food and drink and street food and pop-ups have become very popular across Europe.
5) The Polarisation of Luxury
Post-recession, the definition and meaning of luxury have changed. A rise in the application of luxury aesthetics to everyday goods and the success of high-street and high-end designer collaborations (for example, Isabelle Morant for H&M) has made luxury more accessible.
While some argue that this has led to a democratisation of luxury, others argue that it has opened up a market to include a new tier of luxury. Luxury brands have also moved into spaces other than their own operating category, giving consumers the opportunity to buy into the brand without the big price tag.
Those who are already purchasing traditionally defined luxury goods talk of luxury in experiential terms; it’s less about showing off your purchase and more about having exclusive access to unique experiences. It’s more than likely luxury will see a further shift from the material to the experiential in order to protect this side of their business.
6) Intuitive technology
Consumers feel the need to be connected anywhere and everywhere and expect information to accompany it. Smartphones are almost becoming an extension of the consumers themselves – rarely leaving their side. They, along with wearable technology (such as Nike’s Fuelband), will become so ingrained in people’s lives that we’ll eventually scarcely even notice them. In time, we can expect the smartphone screen to slowly disappear.
The Internet of Things will also mean that everything will soon become connected – not just people, but objects and places. The digital ecosystem will develop intuitively across platforms and devices, making everything work together much more seamlessly. As consumers become more comfortable with handing over their data, the more personalised technology will become.
Future technology and connectivity will become more intuitive, passive, automated and require less input from us.
7) Rediscovering Serendipity
The digitalisation of consumers lives and the access to a wide range of information, have in some ways, eroded the sense of surprise and serendipity from everyday lives.
While there has been an all-embracing demand for technology to simplify the decision-making process, it has resulted in an aversion to risk, limiting opportunities for novel and unique surprises. The yearning for risk-taking however hasn’t disappeared entirely – it has simply been re-defined.
Spontaneous moments now occur in manageable doses or ‘controlled risks’ – for example agreeing to something unexpected, or having defined preferences. 2013 saw consumers move away from the simple acquisition of products to more experience-driven consumption where surprise is central to this – a great example of this is the Secret Cinema movement. Risk is glamourised, yet real risks are rarely taken; this trend sees brands re-introducing risk to the risk-averse.