Consumer trends reveal not only the general inclination of the population, but also offer clues around its trajectory. Since businesses need time to create valuable commodities, figuring out this intel can help brands anticipate consumer demands. And this is why staying ahead of consumer trends is so important. Let’s see what 2022 has in store for us all.
What Has Changed Since Last Year?
New trends revolve around the way people spend their time, how they consume, and their general attitude towards business.
For instance, from an environment marked by anxiety, we see people seemingly more determined to grab life by the horns and take action to confront their fears. In the case of the coronavirus, the public is conscious of the lingering threat as new variants pop up even now in 2022; but the world is no longer reacting with fear and trembling. Rather, it is taking the necessary precautions and going on with life. As healthy living gains prominence, COVID is no longer at the center-stage.
We are also seeing a warmer embrace of technology. What used to be a contrivance is now turning into a way of life. The physical and digital world are quickly merging. Work used to be somewhere you disappeared to for eight hours; but for many people, it’s now just a slot in their daily schedule – thanks, in big part, to technology.
As part of this, having gained popularity only a few months ago (although much older), “metaverse” is no longer a gaming colloquialism. People are now talking about ‘metaverse’ as they do ‘internet.’ And its full potential remains to be seen.
Finally, we are observing a movement towards protection of the environment. Consumers are calling for brands to use more sustainable means of production. Millennials are particularly proactive. Many are even willing to spend more if it means spending it on environmentally safe commodities. At the same time, we know that consumers are also concerned about their spending.
Through sharing, reusing, repairing, re-selling, and recycling, the new consumer generation will not simply throw money at the problem but find even more efficient ways of saving the environment. If there is a Planet B, people are open to exploration. But they are insisting, “We are here, now.”
All these changes will have a direct impact on how business is conducted from here on and consequently, this will impact the bottom line.
Top Trends this Year
The top trends in 2022 inhabit five pillars:
- Health & wellness
- Behavior and attitude
Let’s see what’s happening!
To protect the limited resources of our planet and ensure a future for coming generations, consumers are increasingly adopting sustainable practices. They are also calling on brands to do the same. And many have responded.
1. Environmental proactivity
Along with industry standards and government regulation, social pressure is mounting on the corporate society to be more proactive in environmental protection. Research shows that 75% of millennials will pay more for environment-friendly products. For Gen X it is 63%, 64% for Gen Z, and 57% for Boomers. However, there is much skepticism with over half of Americans saying they don’t trust companies’ claims about protecting the environment.
Any brand can respond with simpler steps to prove their intentions, such as providing a filtration system instead of bottled water to employees, reducing use of paper, using more energy efficient bulbs, allowing telecommuting, improving air quality, and setting up recycling bins at strategic points within the premises. It may not be a total revolution of your production process, but it gets you on the way and demonstrates a willingness to change.
2. Frugal Living
Consumers have become increasingly frugal over time. The ongoing supply chain crisis shocked many who were used to getting what they wanted with minimal effort. A recent report[ by Accenture questions whether this is the end of abundance thinking.
And, hard as it is to believe, targeting the frugal consumer can be a lucrative marketing strategy. Frugal consumers are associated with self-control, less materialism, and independence. In marketing to this segment, use laudable terms such as “thrifty,” “careful,” and “prudent.”
Recommerce is short for “reverse commerce.” It is a relatively new concept to the public that refers to the selling of previously owned (new or used) products. Spurred by an increase in awareness of sustainable consumption, the modern consumer is shifting towards sharing and recirculating items across a wide range of product categories including electronics, textile, and even food.
The world’s biggest retailer has already embraced this shift. In May 2020, Walmart partnered with thredUP to launch its resale platform which opened with nearly 750,000 pre-owned items, including luxury products. Depop and Patagonia are doing great things here as well. You can embrace the trend by offering your customers means for refurbishing, repairing, recycling, and sharing commodities. For ideas and inspiration, download our Walmart case study to see the different business models and product segments best attuned to recommerce considerations.
Health & Wellness
Consumer interest in healthy living and wellness is growing rapidly. McKinsey & Company estimates the size of the global wellness market to be upwards of $1.5 trillion and accumulating at more than five percent per year. And consumer interest in health and wellness impacts business across the board, not just those modeled on the industry.
Self-care has gained priority as consumers realize that through their own lifestyle, they can almost completely take charge of their health. Global research has found that in the past three years, the priority on wellness among consumers has increased by 65% and a recent survey showed that 80% of Americans are integrating self-care into their lifestyles. And this weighs heavily on trends in this subset . . .
According to CDC, telehealth visits increased 154% in March 2020. From that point on, consumers have continued to embrace this previously under-adopted mode of health care. In the first quarter of 2021, telehealth app installations were up an additional 33%.
It is estimated that more than 71,000 new health and fitness apps were launched in 2021. Healthcare brands are clearly getting in on the trend. If you are in this industry, other categories to consider for app development include meditation, yoga, relaxation, and fitness.
5. Sustainable Nutrition
Consumers are picking out their food more carefully too. Far more plant-based options are available now than three years ago. In 2020, plant-based food sales grew by 27%. This trend seems to be driven jointly by concern for the environment – it is more sustainable to grow fields of vegetables than rear fields of cattle – and desire for healthier living.
Sustainable food is a great opportunity for businesses that want to make money and make change. Research has revealed that given the right push, many consumers are willing to make healthier, more sustainable lifestyle choices. As some parts of the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition while others experience obesity and wastage, businesses are in a position to redistribute resources for a more balanced world.
6. Mental Health Awareness
Many people found it hard to cope during COVID isolation. In 2020, up to 40% of adults in the United States were dealing with something, be it anxiety, depression, trauma, stress-related disorders, substance use, or suicidal ideation. Thankfully, these issues are being spoken of and mental health has become a topic in public conversation.
I find it fascinating that Koru Kids – a nannying company that largely recruits university students – is now framing its recruitment strategy in terms of taking ‘care of your mental health’. This is from Instagram. pic.twitter.com/vHqZM6taBS
— Tomiwa Owolade (@tomowolade) March 2, 2022
Brands can participate in various ways. As technology continues to play a significant role in information access, communication, and care, mobile application development is one way to contribute. Further, any brand should provide its own employees with access or opportunity to improve mental health.
7. Physical Fitness
It is not just mental health that consumers are focusing on but also bodily health through physical fitness – which, incidentally, has a great impact on one’s mental health. There has been increasing demand for home exercise equipment. In 2020, Tonal, a strength-training home gym, saw a 700% YoY increase in sales. Nutrition has also been key in physical fitness with supplement sales growing by 35% in 2020.
Businesses that can offer access to products and services that appeal to the growing demographic of consumers seeking a healthier lifestyle are at a great advantage. Restaurants, gyms, equipment manufacturers, and app developers are all invited.
Sanitizing, frequent handwashing, and disinfecting surfaces are common practices that are likely to stay. To an extent, mask-wearing too will be common in the future. This is not just because these practices are required but also because consumers have become more conscious of the germs and dust surrounding us.
Even as the coronavirus clears out, consumers want assurance that businesses are keeping a clean environment. For in-store shopping, businesses can do this through touch-free payment, sanitization stands, and other such methods that minimize contact with or clean the surfaces. A more convenient online shopping experience should also be provided for consumers who want to avoid the store altogether due to germ-consciousness.
Accelerated technological evolution increasingly empowers consumers with access to information and convenience in sourcing product options. And social media has been instrumental in giving the 20’s consumer a louder and more impactful voice in not just demanding for better solutions but also holding brands accountable on important societal issues.
As advances in 5G and IoT continue to unfold, the market is ripe to make good use of these faster and more efficient technologies. Consumers will soon be able to integrate multiple devices to fit their vast requirements e.g. using the smartphone for social media, the PC for work, and tablet to control home appliances. This is already happening to some degree, as Google reports that 90% of consumers use multiple devices to accomplish a single task on the internet. Most notably, in 2022, we are likely to see a tremendous growth in the following technologies that are relatively new to consumers.
9. The Metaverse
For those who don’t know, the metaverse idea was developed by Neal Stephenson back in 1992 in the novel Snow Crash. It refers to an immersive digital reality separate from the physical world. However, the 21st century metaverse is likely to be an extended reality rather than separate from the physical.
It is predicted that this reality is next, and will blur the lines between physical and digital existence. It will be a game-changer for business allowing brands to market, sell, and transact with consumers seamlessly.
As Thomson Reuters Foundation put it, cryptocurrency is moving from “the fringes of finance to the mainstream.” If they have not adopted it yet, many consumers are at least aware of it. Government support has contributed in a large part to the awareness and exploration. In September 2021, El Salvador made bitcoin legal tender and a number of central banks across Europe and Canada have mulled over the idea of their own digital currency.
There are still many who do not believe it is the future of finance. Environmental concerns, potential financial risk, and fraud are some of the biggest hindrances to universal adoption of cryptocurrency. Again, government plays an important role with countries such as China, Egypt, Qatar, Bangladesh, and Morocco going as far as banning it. Some businesses allowing the option of payment in crypto, but it remains to be seen how this will all play out.
Years from now, we may come to be grateful for the changes leading to the Great Resignation. It’s possible that some workers left their jobs and became happier. It’s also not unlikely that some companies became better as a result of the forced adjustment caused by COVID. Further, the reorganization, which is still happening, has obviously created a more conscious consumer who feels better suited to where they are now vs where they were before, assuming we judge this based on personal statements from people who quit their jobs to rethink that focus!
The biggest trends in relation to this are the increasing work-from-home arrangements and the consumer-creator who is exploring his/her natural talents in collaboration with business.
11. Work from Home
It’s becoming clearer that working from home wasn’t going to be a short-term arrangement but rather a complete shift in the way people did their jobs. According to a September 2021 report by Gallup, 25% of full-time employees in the United States are now doing all of their job from home while 20% are working from home part of the time. Nine in 10 of employees hope this will continue. In fact, three in 10 say they are “extremely likely” to leave their job if their employer doesn’t incorporate remote work in their schedule.
This is noteworthy for brands especially in how they reach consumers through marketing. For instance, techniques that targeted people on their way to work such as billboard advertisements are likely to be impacted. Additionally, products targeting people in relation to their position as daily commuters will take a hit. On the other hand, marketing on the internet is likely to deliver great results as people spend most of their time on their devices. Smart-home technology also presents a potent avenue for marketing.
12. The Consumer-Creator
Technology advancement has borne new opportunities for consumers to find new revenue streams. Some are adopting side-hustles while others are throwing themselves fully into what might previously have been hobbies but have since turned into revenue earners. A Microsoft study showed that more than 40% of the global workforce was considering quitting during the Great Resignation. No doubt, a considerable part of this consists of people pursuing their passions.
Business will need to view their consumers as not just buyers but also potential collaborators and, in some cases, competitors. One way you can work with your consumer-creators is bringing them on as influencers to help promote your products to their audiences. You can also collaborate with them to actualize their idea to both bolster your position and also make sure they don’t take it to a competitor or become one themselves. Incidentally, funding is becoming easier to get. You can think of other ways depending on your business and what you observe among your consumer-creators.
Behavior & Attitude
The modern consumer is fickle and also very deliberate in what they are doing. The integration of technology in their lives both positions them to be reachable while making it incredibly hard for brands (with all that access) to get to hold onto them long-term. Consumer loyalty is not dead, but people have so many options now and they are more willing to try new things, raising the bar for brands all around.
The purpose-lead consumer will be easily distracted! There are nuances at play that businesses need to consider going forward. For example, we will see that the same progressive consumers seem to be adopting the behavior of a bygone century with the nostalgia trend – with a twist. Modern business needs to make sense of this.
13. The Nostalgia Trend
Consumers are feeling nostalgic for an earlier period when things were simpler – much simpler. To illustrate, Shelina Taki, Senior Director of Strategic Planning & Insights at PMG, shared some data collected on this trend in a recent NetBase Quid LIVE presentation.
Through social listening, PMG discovered over 13 million mentions related to nostalgia over a 12-month period during the pandemic. These mentions, Taki said, translated to over 2.2 trillion potential impressions for brands that engaged with the trend. Why the 90’s? Apparently, millennials are steering the nostalgia trend and we all know they are just coming of age now, with employability and purchasing power
Taki shared a few tips on how businesses can use the nostalgia trend. First, brands must know how to tailor old experiences to a new world. An example of this is how Pokémon GO brought an old game to the internet age. Second, brands should incorporate consumer insight into new products. This goes well with the consumer-creator revolution. You can collaborate with consumers to find a hit e.g. how pandemic indoor wear has gone on to influence fashion.
14. Purpose, Lead the Way
Research conducted by GWI revealed treating oneself and indulging to be among the most important things to consumers at 39%. Saving money seems to be the most important at 53% and spending time with loved ones coming in close at 47%
Looking at other trends, it becomes apparent that consumers are more purpose driven. Whether that purpose is to make something of their life, adventure-seeking, or simply to enjoy life, there is greater focus and determination in what one does with their time.
Brands are already using this trend to appeal to consumers by egging them on into whatever they are interested in. This can be seen with Samsung’s “Unfold Your World” campaign, Visit Dubai’s “A Brand New You,” Lexus’ “No Ceiling,” and “Play Has No Limits” by PlayStation.
15. The Attention Recession
As people unplug to go see the world outside, The Economist warns of a looming attention recession. Even before the pandemic, it was hard to keep the attention of the consumer. However, with the pandemic, consumers were always alert for news on the latest developments creating the attention boom. But now consumers are turning their attention elsewhere. Eyes are off the news and onto games and movies. Ears are plugged shut with music while social media continues to claim a huge chunk of the daylight.
Brands can adapt to this by going where consumers lead. Additionally, they should value actual engagement more than surface metrics that don’t reveal much about the targeted consumer. This will require knowing where your specific consumers are online, as the answer is never obvious. And it doesn’t hurt to see where your competitors’ audience is talking as well!
16. The Imperfectly Perfect
The social media stereotype is that people share only the good, and even that embellished, of their lives. Interestingly, during the lockdown people started sharing even the bad and the ugly, and the trend continues. This has changed even the modern influencer. As described by Adweek in 2019, the influencer used to have “flawless skin, structured cheekbones, perfectly manicured eyebrows, and posts that elicit an air of mystery.”
Mystery? That doesn’t work as well as it used to with consumers. The modern consumer is more impressed with the imperfections. Across all age brackets, people seek the story behind the scenes. What did the influencer give to get what they have? What are the physical and emotional struggles of the athlete? In connection with this, there is a growing class of influencers who sell ideas rather than commodities – the #genuinfluencers. Brands, take note.
Are you overwhelmed by these consumer trends? You don’t need to be, once you know what you are looking for. Reach out for a demo today and we will show you how you can navigate the terrain on your own and make category-shaping discoveries!