Global Consumer Trends
In today’s economic climate, it is increasingly important for businesses to be able to predict consumer trends to better stay ahead of the competition. With trends changing at an accelerating rate, they are more difficult to track and foresee. Trendwatchers study the market to decipher patterns to be able to tell ahead of time what direction the market will take and elaborate marketing strategies accordingly. This affords businesses a better understanding of consumer behavior, allowing them to put in place effective strategies and position themselves advantageously with regard to the overall market. Changing consumer trends point to falling and rising demand for existing products and services but also new demand that creates new business opportunities.
Reading consumer trends is an increasingly nuanced activity, especially given the prevalence of fads, fuelled by communications and media. Businesses need to carry out a multi-layered reading of the market to be sure to follow trends rather than fads. The latter can sweep across several regions almost instantaneously but are not worth engaging in for businesses as they tend to exist only in the short-term. Trends, on the other hand, have greater longevity and the potential to yield long-term profits.
Factors influencing consumption patterns include gender, age, ethnicity and income level. Consumers choose products and services based on considerations such as convenience, value for money and pleasure. Deciphering demographics and lifestyles calls for accurate statistical data but also a broad cultural understanding to follow consumer behavior and decision-making processes, with US culture in particular influencing global markets.
With economic instability an important influence, consumers are focusing more and more on value for money to make purchases that will last the longest possible time. Green consumerism is another current trend, with growing numbers of consumers seeking to limit environmental damage through consumer choice. Similarly, organic products are appealing to a consumer trend towards more natural living and cutting down on the amount of chemicals used in food and consumer products.
According to Trendwatching’s yearly list of the top dozen trend predictions, 2012 holds potential for businesses catering to trends such as red carpet service, DIY health monitoring, discount shopping, green consumerism and cash-free payment systems.
Global screen culture is being fuelled by mobile device ownership, with consumers relying on their iPhones to stay connected, and other trends such as the shift from paper publishing to –e-reader tablets. Companies will benefit from facilitating the incorporation of screens in consumer lifestyles; for example in the UK, the Sainsburys supermarket outfit has teamed up with Sky to offer shoppers the chance to combine shopping and TV watching with shopping carts fitting with iPad docks.
Consumers have become more environmentally minded in recent years and continue to favor green consumer behavior. Businesses are accepting to take back used products to recycle them.
Convenience continues to prove key as consumers opt for payment systems that take the hassle out of shopping. Consumers are by-passing the bank machine to travel cash free, and using mobile devices to pay for goods and services.
- Consumers International www.consumersinternational.org
- American Consumer Council http://americanconsumercouncil.org
- European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardization www.anec.eu
- Consumer Association of Canada www.consumer.ca
- Consumer Association of Ireland www.consumerassociation.ie
- Consumer Association of Singapore www.case.org.sg
- Organic Consumer Association www.organicconsumers.org