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Today’s consumers are redefining their values and priorities, leading to the birth of the New Consumerism. This New Consumerism unites many of the key consumer trends of our time and is impacting on a whole host of industry sectors, from fashion to food to travel to transport.
These trends, which on the face of it may seem disparate, in fact share many of the same drivers. Understanding this is vital in order to reach consumers today and tomorrow. Why is this? Because the drivers offer the key to understanding the motivations, attitudes and priorities of consumers and the decisions that they take each and every day.
The Drivers of New Consumerism
Post-recession, consumers embraced the “thrill of thrift”. From the success of second-hand clothes retailing in Eastern Europe to the proliferation of online comparison websites in the UK to ugly fruit and vegetables in French supermarkets and to online platforms facilitating the sale of second hand goods such as Te Lo Vendo in Latin America and BuyBackWorld in the USA. This “make do and mend” mentality – repairing, recycling and upcycling – is an underlying feature of the New Consumerism;
Sustainability is more and more integral to the business model of consumer goods companies and becoming increasingly important in the minds of consumers. Sometimes perceived as a luxury, in fact at its best it sits well with thrift, offering cost-savings to manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike. It’s a central force behind the sharing and circular economies – about giving priority to what you already have – as well as trends such as frugal innovation, which at its heart promotes using as few natural resources as possible.
Technology is enabling and facilitating many of the features of the New Consumerism. Without the internet it’s hard to imagine the growth of the sharing economy, the buying of time or the rise of the gig economy and the search for work-life integration. Technological advancements in manufacturing and materials enable huge gains in resource efficiency aiding the circular economy and driving frugal innovation.
Authenticity – and the move towards conscious consumption – over and above conspicuous consumption – also drives the New Consumerism. From the desire for authentic travel experiences – simply staying in someone’s home rather than a hotel chain, to engaging the services of a local guide, through to strong sales of niche heritage brands in the luxury goods sector such as boutique jeweller Mellerio are just two examples of the importance of the authentic and the significance of story-telling for a brand.
Wellbeing is a trend which continues to drive consumer behaviour and is an underlying principle of the New Consumerism. Wellbeing isn’t just about healthy eating or natural products; it’s a factor in the prioritisation of time: “time for myself” ranked the third most important factor in personal happiness in our Global Consumer Trends 2015 survey. It has links to both the sharing and circular economies and the prioritisation of experience over belongings.
Simplicity is also central to the New Consumerism. An antidote to endless choice, constantly updated products and services and unnecessary and complicated features, the search for simplicity is crucial to the idea of consumers reassessing their priorities – from the increased interest in frugal innovation to the sharing economy and beyond.
Freedom from, and freedom to do, can be the ultimate in luxury or a basic human right. Freedom has become a craving for many consumers in an always-on world. As a central facet of the New Consumerism, freedom sits well in particular with the sharing economy – removing the constraints of ownership, with the trend of buying time – providing the freedom to experience life, and with experience – the prioritisation of doing, seeing and feeling over having more “stuff”.
Why does this matter? An awareness of these trends will enable a securer understanding of today’s consumer landscape. Of course it would be simplistic to think that we are all “New Consumers” now, but tapping into these drivers, and monitoring the impact of the eight key trends forming the “New Consumerism” on your industry sector and the broader consumer goods industry will bring you closer to your consumer.