The year 2020 has shown us how changeable the modern reality can be. One may wonder, to what extent does it even make sense to read predictions, trends, forecasts for 2021? It should be noted that the pandemic has not so much changed the world as become a catalyst for many phenomena that have long existed. It was this exceptional situation that allowed them to develop and reach a wide consciousness. Thus, even if we must remain vigilant and ready for change, as well as cognitively flexible, it is still worth keeping a close eye on the so-called trends, because even though they may seem to be a niche for now, you never know which ones will become mainstream and when.
The Mintel report includes seven trends that cover different areas of consumer life. The first – not coincidentally – is the redefinition of health. Here, on the one hand, we see the impact of the pandemic on re-evaluation in consumers’ lives, and on the other, a shift towards a very holistic approach to well-being, covering virtually all lifestyle aspects. It is worth emphasizing that mental health is as desirable as physical health. Moreover, the experience of the pandemic will further stimulate more positive and inclusive health messages; for example, physical activity has ceased to be associated solely with the “aesthetic body” and attention has also begun to be paid to its relevance to mental well-being. It can be expected that as the pandemic passes, consumers will rediscover an appreciation for health and a healthy body.
The power of the collective is another trend that signifies the community’s agency and influence over brands’ actions. Not only in Poland, but around the world, 2020 seems to be a breakthrough year in terms of social mobilization, organizing, mutual aid, but also activism, strikes and demonstrations. The scale of political and socio-economic challenges allows us to suspect that mass consumer pressure for systemic changes, especially in the area of sustainable production and respect for the planet, will grow. Charity campaigns, which had a dimension of building a positive image a year ago, may not be enough for consumers in the future. It is to be expected that communication will have to be backed up by actual brand actions reflecting the values promoted by the brand. Activities for local communities and causes will be more credible for consumers.
Changing consumer priorities is another trend, here specifically in the context of ownership. A shift towards minimalism, conscious consumption, more careful planning of expenses does not necessarily have to go hand in hand with an absolute lack of pleasure. It is precisely those products that give us relief and joy in everyday life that we are able to invest more in, also expecting higher quality. Consumers are therefore looking not only for affordability and convenience, but also for safety, protection and durability of the goods. With the expectation that spending on superfluous goods will not be a priority for much longer in an uncertain economic climate, brands must deliver real benefits if their products are to become essential.
The need to connect and meet others is the aftermath of pandemic isolation and loneliness, with many consumers discovering large swaths of empathy, the need to engage and help each other. The need to belong, to build oneself a tight-knit group and a community around oneself has become very important. So brands that are able to connect people, provide opportunities for collaboration and support will win.
Virtual life is not even a trend anymore, but our reality. On the one hand – deprivation of physical contact, on the other – the need to escape from everyday life have influenced the increasing digitization of life. Trends observed in such digital spaces as gaming will increasingly influence other interactions of consumers and brands, be it in retail, entertainment or communication. It’s worth paying attention to making online spaces as inclusive as possible for everyone, as a larger and more diverse group of consumers will be using them.
Sustainable spaces are also the result of changing consumer attitudes towards the environments they inhabit. We have begun to pay more attention to our surroundings, both those closest to us (as evidenced by pandemic home renovations) and the neighborhoods in which we live. What implications could this have for business? It will give an advantage to brands that offer both small, individual and broad, systemic solutions to big problems related to improving one’s living space, urban planning, energy consumption and ease of movement, safety or ethics of actions. What’s more, as consumers become more environmentally conscious, they will demand more than just climate neutrality, leaning toward brands that actively work to repair the environment. Along with greater attention to their immediate surroundings, consumers may also lean toward hyper-locality – from supporting local communities and initiatives to using mostly local businesses and services. Growth at all costs is proving too expensive – unsustainable, as well as increasingly at odds with what people expect from brands.
Despite the fact that pandemic, the digital world has become a security solution for many of us, there has also been an increased awareness of the negative effects of digitizing more life spaces. Thus, digital consumer dilemmas will become more and more common. Increasing dependence on technology goes hand in hand with increasing technology fatigue. Brands should pay attention to being transparent about data use and respecting privacy to reduce consumer digital anxiety. Introducing “turn-off” policies, not having to be online all the time, and redesigning technology solutions to reduce the likelihood of addiction and risks to users’ mental health and well-being will be a priority.
While these trends may seem like huge logistical challenges for companies, often requiring a reassessment and re-evaluation of their entire business strategy, they are not disruptive ideas or innovative discoveries, but rather a return to the values that the pandemic has taken away from us. From a marketer’s point of view, taking the high demands of consumers in terms of quality, environmental, social and technological awareness into account may not be easy, but from the point of view of consumers, which we also are – it seems that we have great reasons to be satisfied.
Commentary and compilation based on Mintel 2021 Global Consumer Trends report: Weronika Szwajda, Creative Strategist Saatchi&Saatchi