Four of the biggest consumer trends for 2017
This week Trendwatching’s Global Head of Trends & Insights, David Mattin, ran a live stream on their YouTube channel exploring a series of big consumer trends that will impact the way brands connect with their consumers over the next twelve months.
Today’s consumer navigates a landscape of rapid change, from shifting social and economic norms, to political and technological advances. The second half of 2016 alone gave us Trump, Brexit and Pokémon Go, so we are becoming ever used to this unprecedented pace of change.
Though consumers have come to accept and even expect these developments, human nature does not follow suit. In fact, Mattin argued, human nature has remained the same for centuries – motivated now by the same set of basic human needs (shelter, safety, company etc.) as we did over a hundred years ago.
New consumer trends emerge when an external change comes along and unlocks a new way of servicing one of these basic human needs, and in turn drives consumer expectations as to how these needs are met.
For example, back in 1990 when the ‘World Wide Web’ was established as a platform to serve the basic human need of social connection, the trend for Social Media was born.
Of the trends included in the session, four struck me as having the greatest potential impact for us as PR professionals:
1) The (Virtual) Experience Economy
Mattin described status as one of the core human needs and one of the primary drivers of consumer behaviour. Over the last decade ‘status’ has been satisfied through consumer experiences; rare, surprising or amazing experiences, all amplified by social media, and in so doing has been turned
into a form of social currency. Today 80% of affluent consumers, if given the choice, would now choose a luxurious experience over a luxury item. (Think dining in the sky!)
So what is next for the experience economy?
In 2017 digital experiences will start to carry the same weight and significance as real world experiences, and represent a social currency in their own right.
For example, the one billion players worldwide who spent the past six months chasing virtual Pokémon across the globe joined far more than a multi-player augmented reality game; they joined a movement on an experiential platform at a scale never seen before.
The social currency attached to seeking out these characters led to an explosion of creativity and some amazing content across social as players shared their success. The Winner of the game, who collected all 100 or so Pokémon went on a global tour to do so, cleverly sponsored by the Marriot hotel group.
“Partnering with Nick was such a natural fit for Marriott Rewards because it’s all about giving members the chance to pursue what they love through travel,” said Karin Timpone, global marketing officer at Marriott International. “We’re so excited to help Nick live out his dream as he travels from country to country and shares his story.”
And share his story he did, across Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram – showcasing photos from Marriott’s Renaissance Paris Arc de Triumph Hotel, the Renaissance Hong Kong and Pier One Sydney Harbour Autograph Collection Hotel throughout the journey.
In the PR space this trend is an exciting prospect. It’s going to see publicity stunts take on a digital transformation and brings the most inaccessible and extreme locations and experiences into consumer hands. How incredible would it have been to “join” Felix Baumgartner in 2012 as he became the first person to break the sound barrier (without the help of a machine) by falling 23 miles from the Earth’s stratosphere. The stunt, which was conceived, produced and broadcast by Red Bull, captured the world’s attention and pulled in 8m live views on YouTube. Just think of the social currency this would have represented, had we been able to experience this alongside Felix in virtual reality.
2) The world around us
A ‘mega trend’ that’s been evolving for decades is the importance of protecting our environment and the world around us. One of the key components identified by Trendwatching is the population’s rising concern regarding waste and the vast amount generated by today’s mainstream consumerism.
In response to this concern, we’ve seen the rapid growth of the peer to peer economy, through which consumers are sharing resources when they would otherwise be sitting idle. Consider Airbnb for example, whereby the site’s users are leveraging value from their property during periods when they are away, or a spare room is not in use. We’ve seen this roll out across every sector possible, from carpooling to gardening equipment! Rather than tools sitting unused in a garden shed, or a passenger seat in a car going empty, consumers are finding ways to leverage value out of these unused resources, and in so doing have created an expectation of being able to do.
This trend has shifted our conception of what waste is and the value it can hold, resulting in new ways of minimizing it. In 2017 consumers will embrace brands that capture this idle capacity and start to claim lost value from wasted resources in innovative ways.
A Spanish food bank charity, Banco de Alimentos, tapped into this trend by leveraging the idle capacity of the return journey made by food delivery companies. Rather than the delivery mopeds and cars returning back empty, they ran a campaign that saw ‘takeaway’ food drivers picking up food donations for the charity’s food bank.
For consumer brands, if we can craft campaigns that empower customers to drive value, either personal or charitable, from otherwise wasted resources, we are providing not only a great story but a genuine benefit beyond the product USPs.
3) Incognito Individuals
The third trend David explored was the growing consumer desire to dispense of out dated social prejudices and to express themselves freely online.
We unfortunately continue to see old prejudices play out in new ways online, in a stark reminder that instances of racism and sexism are still rife, but the positive news however is that people are determined to express themselves and be a voice in the world that is recognized – a desire that’s becoming ever stronger and widespread.
In response to this desire, consumers are embracing new tools, services and platforms that strip away their identity and allow them to be whoever it is they want to be online, removing any of the prejudices that may surround an individual if their identity is known.
Early adaptors of this principle (remember anonymous social apps Secret & Whisper?) faced spectacular failures as they inadvertently facilitated extraordinary levels of harassment and abuse towards their users; an unfortunate trait that second generation apps have now sought to address in order to both allow user anonymity and a safe environment in which they can talk freely.
Candid for example uses artificial intelligence to filter out abusive posts and as consumer expectations shift to demand more civilized online spaces in which they can have their voices heard, free from abuse, the big players like Twitter are swiftly following suit, implementing AI to do the same.
So, with Snapchat now boasting 150 million users, each using filters and playing with disguises and social anonymity, it’s clear to see the growing trend for tools that can safely facilitate such expression.
As an agency team we must consider how our campaigns can empower consumers to truly be the person they want to be and give them control over how they express their voice in the world.
4) Big brother brands
Consumers today live in a ‘surveillance society’. One in which brands are building complex digital profiles for individuals and using the data to deliver highly personalised services.
This trend is seeing consumers embrace brands that can intelligently watch and soak up information for the purpose of personalisation. They are happy to exchange intimate knowledge for an incredibly personalised experience.
Google Home for example, the voice activated device powered by Google, that launched earlier this year, connects to your Google account and acts as your personal assistant, scanning emails photos and calendars to create personalised schedules, reminders and suggestions to improve existing services.
Who wouldn’t want a reminder that it’s Nan’s birthday tomorrow or have the latest ‘James blunt’ sound-alike artist added to your Spotify playlists based on your listening preferences.
For PRs this means personalisation is going to be more important than ever, and the most successful campaigns are going to need to deliver achingly relevant messaging in order to gain cut through.
The full report covers a total of 5 key trends is now available for download from Trendwatching; http://trendwatching.com/trends/5-trends-for-2017/
Director of Digital Influence