Top 15 Consumer Trends in 2021 and Beyond

There are many new consumer trends taking shape over the past 18 months – some were inevitable, and others were accelerated by COVID. But which consumer trends are the most crucial to monitor as you map out marketing campaigns to round out 2021 and beyond? We have 15 consumer trends here that are likely to have the most impact and opportunity for brands below!

Consumer trends shift constantly. We’ve seen this historically, even without a pandemic. And brands that pivot along with them do well, here’s why:

  • They pivot to combine marketing with doing good in the world, strengthening their relationships with their consumers.
  • 71% of consumers say that if they think a brand is putting profit over people, they lose trust
  • Fifty-eight percent of consumers can recall at least one brand that pivoted to better respond to their needs, and 82% said this led to them doing more business with the brand.

And now for that list of trends to pivot toward . . .

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Consumer Trend #1: Streaming Obsession

We all learned to keep ourselves entertained while in lockdown, and that led to hike in streaming – with a particular kind of content taking hold.

65% of consumers stream content to their TV, and in 2020 Smart TV usage doubled. So, consumers found not only relief from boredom, but comfort in their streaming capabilities. But what are they watching? You’d think after the year and half we’ve had, that something cheerful might be appealing. But as it turns out, dystopian stories are what consumers are turning to.

In particular, Netflix’s Squid Games is incredibly popular right now. This show touches on the separation of the rich and poor, and desperation born of the latter – something many families across the world can relate to after the pandemic. It fits the mood, and offers companies a way to connect with their audiences’ mood and sentiment to provide content that they can relate to.

Now may not be the time to produce something about an exclusive offer, for example, as many consumers are still feeling unhelped and forgotten by their government, with Squid Games placing a fine point on the disconnect. The consumer trend here is not only streaming, but the subset of content that is resonating. Brands would do well to monitor streaming habits as part of their consumer intelligence gathering efforts.

Consumer Trend #2. Demands for Brand Activism

Consumers are more conscious of where their dollars go and what they support. In fact, many consumers shop retailers that support causes that resonate with them, and they’ll go one step further and boycott those whose ethics do not align with their own.

Some of this was no doubt fueled by the pandemic as consumers observed some brands being insensitive to the situation. Whatever the reason, consumers are now watching more than ever to see what brands are investing in. Buyers are thinking beyond price and developing value-based buying habits. And at the heart of this new way of shopping is sustainability, equality and diversity. Brands can succeed by doing good in the world, and this strengthens long-term consumer relationships.

Consumer Trend #3: Longing for Pre-pandemic Experiences

The pandemic changed our routines from “always available” to a pre-planned day. The ease we once had when it came to shopping, for example, has shifted. Consumers are craving the pre-pandemic conveniences and spontaneity that they realize was taken for granted. And businesses are under pressure to provide these comforting experiences in a new, evolved way.

They want coffee on the go or the luxury of shopping and then stopping for food somewhere spontaneous. It’s all about providing a seamless transaction between brand and consumer. And the only way to know what consumers want at all times is to monitor conversations with social listening and tap into emerging consumer trends. This way, you can know your audience better and provide them with exactly what they want, but in a way that meets their comfort levels.

This could mean outside concerts or specific shopping events designed to keep participants safe. The effort – and understanding – will not go unnoticed, even if they aren’t ready to participate in person yet.

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Consumer Trend #4: Treat Yourself!

Distrust of leadership and government grew over the past year and a half. Due to this mistrust, consumers are putting themselves first. And this consumer trend is seen in self-splurging.

Low-cost luxuries such as alcohol, packaged foods and even video games are on their list of buys. Consumers are spending money on themselves or their homes as a way of helping themselves feel better.

Brands should be ready to deliver what they want, or risk losing out altogether. Emotional targeting could be a brands “in.” Ninety-five percent of purchase decisions made are emotionally based. Tracking sentiments over time reveals what your consumer is feeling and this unlocks associated purchase behaviors.

Brands use this to meet consumers where they are – sometimes literally, at the door as they come into a store! Having offers ready that match consumer needs is a powerful draw.

Consumer Trend #5. Frugal Finds

You have your spenders – now let’s consider your savers. Frugality has also taken hold of consumers. And this makes sense. The pandemic has driven home the fact that life is uncertain and anything can happen. This has left consumers feeling vulnerable, which has given way to the super-saver.

But this doesn’t mean they’re not spending. This consumer trend has customers shifting their priorities. They may buy less of something to afford a bigger item that will last longer. Or they may be trading in their more expensive skin system for an economical one. Once again, tracking emerging market insights will help your brand know if your target audience is trading up, down, or shopping around.

 

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Consumer Trend #6. The Marriage of Physical & Digital

Following the trend above is the need to adapt to our new normal. Even prior to the pandemic, we all felt the shift to a more digital world. Now, many more people than ever before are working, shopping and socializing online. Video calls, smart appliances and phones have kept us all connected and sane during isolation. And though we are beginning to see each other in person, these digital aids will stick around.

Brands wanting to keep pace will find combining this digital and physical world to be mandatory. Offering your customers personal shopping appointments or video consultations for a hair appointment, as an example, can offer your clients a slice of what they’ve become accustomed to, and that some even prefer. Adaptation has always been and will continue to be the norm for business and this applies to technology becoming second nature for even the most tech-averse consumers.

Consumer Trend #7: Telehealth & Wellness App Adoption

Telehealth visits increased 154% in March of 2020. From that point on, consumers embraced this previously under-adopted mode for medical appointments. Now, telehealth app installations are up an additional 33% (in the first quarter of 2021). And we also see interest in wellness apps like meditation, yoga, relaxation, and fitness are growing.

Smart brands are getting in on the app development game, with more than 71,000 new health and fitness apps launched this year.

Consumer Trend #8: Outdoor Oasis

When given the option, many consumers are choosing to dine outdoors. This comes from a combination of a pandemically discovered love for it, and a desire for safety. Creating your own outdoor options could be advantageous as consumers want to keep “streeteries” a permanent fixture of their dining experience. Open air structures, heating and cooling implements may be the best investment a restaurant or coffee shop could make right now. It’s not as simple as just throwing a few chairs and tables outside, consumers seek an aesthetic that will draw them in and help them forget about daily stresses. So, you’ll need to track consumer trends for what customers those needs are, specifically.

Consumer Trend #9: Diet & Sustainable Food Choices

If you walk into any grocery store’s meat department, chances are you’ll discover far more plant-based options available then you ever remember seeing prior to the pandemic. And that’s because plant-based food sales grew 27% in 2020.

This goes hand-in-hand with the consumer trend of supporting brands that support sustainability. As more people have become aware of how the meat industry impacts our earth, the switch to veganism, or even a flexitarian approach, has gained prominence. And this trend is continuing to grow.

 

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Additionally, consumers are supporting their local economies more than ever – so that has them shopping at farmers’ markets and seeking out more organic food options. So, consumers are seeking not just sustainability but also healthier eating options.

Consumer Trend #10: 24hr Brand Availability

Consumers want brands to be on-call. And with the rise in social media and virtual everything – consumers expect companies to respond faster in a crisis. Now, what you may call a crisis and a consumer may see as one, are likely two very different things. But in the consumer world, a mascara that has too much waterproofing is indeed a crisis. If they complain and your brand does nothing but roll their eyes, you could be looking at a bigger issue.

42% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media. An unanswered question, or worse, complaint, can lead to a lot of brand reputation damage. Finding ways to set your business up so that there’s never a break in the communication chain will help you stay out of PR crisis mode. Alerts in NetBase Quid are something to seriously consider!

Consumer Trend #11: Mental Health Awareness

Many people found it hard to cope during COVID isolation. More accurately, 40% of U.S. adults in 2020 were dealing something, ranging from anxiety, depression, symptoms of a trauma, and stress-related disorders, to substance use and/or suicidal ideation. This has led to an upsurge in mental health and counseling apps. And it’s an opportunity for brands to cast themselves as a leader in healthy living.

By providing their own employees access to mental health, brands create a partnership with vulnerable workers and consumers are watching for these community-driven brands to step forward. 71% of consumers say that if they think a brand is putting profit over people, they would lose trust in that brand forever. So being an example of a brand who cares is not only the right thing to do, it also makes financial sense in the long run.

Consumer Trend #12: Physical Fitness

It’s not just mental health consumers are focusing on, the whole person is important too. The long days of sitting on the couch and watching Tiger King during the pandemic led to a lifestyle change in those sick of just sitting around. Home exercise became a trend and it has stuck around longer than Joe Exotic.

Home exercise equipment has been in high demand. Tonal, a strength-training home gym, experienced a 700% YOY increase in sales in 2020. Nutrition is key here as well, with supplement sales growing by 35% in 2020. Taking that into consideration, brands will need to offer access to goods and services that appeal to that significant chunk of consumers seeking a healthier lifestyle.

For example, if you’re a quick serve restaurant, you’ll need to show consumers that healthy food can be made fast without sacrificing nutrition and health. It’s not particularly hard to do, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not listening. And staying on top means being aware of current consumer trends so your brand can adapt and evolve to capture a wider (or, as this case may be – healthier) audience.

Consumer Trend #13: Second-hand Shopping

Thrifty buys are to 2021 what flannel shirts were to the early 1990s. Consumers want quality, but they don’t want to empty their bank account for it. It’s this mindset that made way for re-pop shops such as Depop, which offer second hand top name brands at a discounted price.

Shopping this way offers consumers another value, and that’s supporting the individual. They share pride from shopping sustainably and not supporting fast fashion or unfair wages for workers on the other side of the world.

If retail brands want to pull attention back to themselves, they’ll need to find ways to appeal to the individual and spotlight their own company efforts in sustainability and workers’ rights. By highlighting their product with an empathetic story and how it supports the individual, brands may win in the end.

Additionally, they can offer their own second-hand shopping experience like Patagonia did. This savvy, eco-conscious brand created Worn Wear, their own second-hand store. It’s a way for consumers to trade in their older clothes to be repurposed or re-sold. And consumers’ trades give them money off of their next purchase.

worn-wear-from-patagonia

Consumer Trend #14: Sanitize Everything

Hand sanitizer, more frequent hand washing, and disinfecting surfaces are practices that are here to stay. Not just because they are needed, but also because these options help consumers feel safe.

Even after our world began opening back up, consumers wanted to know that businesses were doing their part to keep them safe while they shopped. And this is an ongoing consumer trend that brands will need to continuously revisit to be sure they’re hitting their safety mark. For in-store shopping, maybe this looks like more touchless payment methods, or free masks. Or virtual fitting rooms for your online customers.

Looking at top trending terms when it comes to shopping experiences can guide you. Below, we see technology is trending and when we explore a bit deeper, we see that online shopping fraud is the biggest concern within all four top categories:

online-shopping-fraud-is-the-biggest-concern-within-all-four-top-categories

This could mean that more people will be pushed to shop in-person, which makes providing them a safe environment all the more vital

Consumer Trend #15: Work Evolution Shifts Spending

Remote work has impacted how consumers spend. The affects are felt in technology and everything from eating to fashion. Consumers have largely switched from suits to yoga pants; they’re trying to recreate fancier meals at home; and they’re adopting lighter beauty routines.

People are becoming more bonded to their homes once again, and therefore are investing in it more as well. It represents their whole life now – where they work, eat, sleep, spend time with family and of course where they play. Remodeling homes, replacing furniture and expanding home offices are becoming new ways to spend. If brands wish to reach these new home-centric consumers, they’ll need to appeal to their inner homebody.

Overall, if you haven’t noticed, there’s been a theme: The Conscious Consumer. Each trend speaks to an increasingly global-minded, impact-aware consumer and this is having a ripple effect across every business vertical. Be sure to stay on top of relevant consumer trends to continue transforming to adapt to these new challenges and opportunities as they reveal themselves. Reach out for demo to ensure you’re watching the right places for the right things and aren’t missing out on insight that may define your category next quarter!

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