Key consumer trends for an uncertain 2009
Against a global background of citizens and businesses being shaken rudely into uncertainty by the economic crisis, Mintel has forecast the five main ways in which consumers are likely to adapt and make the best of 2009.
To begin with, in a kind of a backlash against the fast pace of the modern world, people will try to take greater control of their lives and find pleasure in the simple things, the company predicts.
Faced with financial insecurity, shoppers will seek out businesses and products they feel they can trust and, although they will inevitably cut back on their spending, consumers will continue to treat themselves to little luxuries and fun activities.
"People around the world are feeling insecure and are already looking to re-establish a sense of stability in their lives," explained Joan Holleran, director of research for Mintel. "In the coming year, it will be more important than ever for businesses to respond quickly and creatively to changing consumer needs and desires as they become more selective in how they spend their money."
The five consumer trends predicted for 2009 are:
- Consumers in control Over the years, people have become more confident and demanding about how they live their lives and spend their money. Even as a recession hits, they'll want to stay in control of their choices wherever they can. Consumers will seek out products and services that give them exactly what they want, when they want it, especially as their budgets tighten. And the internet will be key in this role, because it shows every option available and gives consumers the power to demand more while also allowing them to influence others through user reviews and feedback.
Manufacturers will respond with products that suit people's specific needs and lifestyles. Those companies that give consumers precisely what they want or give them the freedom to customize their purchases will do well, while those that fail to do this will see consumers walking away. In addition, Baby Boomers will be of particular interest to businesses, with many companies moving beyond traditional 'old age' products and services toward ones that embrace the active, healthy lifestyles of many older consumers.
- Simplify and purify Faced with fast-paced modern life, many people will seek convenience and simplicity. As people take control of their everyday lives, they will also demand that companies communicate with them honestly and openly. From understandable ingredients to clear company practices, consumers will want complete transparency when it comes to the products they buy.
As consumers look for more authentic, easy-to-understand products, companies will need to market their brands in a simpler, more direct way. Fresh, clean and pure will become essential values, as manufacturers focus on clear ingredient labels and product positioning. Brands that can communicate what they really stand for and show how they can make life easier will earn consumers' trust and loyalty.
- Rebuilding trust Today's consumers have high standards and will demand value for money, as well as consistently high levels of quality, safety and service. Crumbling economic markets, food scares and toy safety problems have fuelled an era of doubt and insecurity. Throughout 2009, people will seek out trusting, open relationships wherever they can, and they will want to know all about the products they buy, from where they were sourced to how they were manufactured. Because of this, people will cling to the long-standing, nostalgic brands they know and love, looking for products with a real sense of familiarity.
For many companies, especially those in the finance sector, the road to rebuilding trust with consumers will be long and difficult. But it will be a priority. Manufacturers will need to back up their words with actions and conduct business in a more open and honest way, and reassuring consumers that they are acting in the customers' best interests will become a primary concern. Also, as companies see shoppers sticking to already-familiar products, long-standing brands will move into new markets to exploit their position as trustworthy companies.
- Trading down As purse strings tighten, consumers will look for every possible way to make their budgets stretch further. For example, people will trade down to cheaper store brands, at out less or simply choose not to update their wardrobes. But everyone will still crave a little treat now and again. As a result, shoppers will mostly trade down to budget-friendly solutions to save money but, occasionally, they will also need to indulge in small-yet-affordable luxuries such as premium chocolate, designer sunglasses, or even just a favourite moisturiser.
As consumers split between the low and high end of the market, manufacturers will follow suit. Many companies will start to focus on value brands, but there will still be room for products that bring a little luxury to everyday life. The middle market will increasingly be squeezed and is going to have to prove its worth when faced with competition from newly improved basic lines. Beyond this, many companies will position their products as a more affordable alternative to going out. For example, expect to see premium ready meals that give a "restaurant-like experience" at home, or beauty products that provide a "spa-like feel".
- Playfulness, lightening the mood In tough times people don't only crave life's little luxuries but they also need to enjoy themselves. Small playful distractions such as neon make-up, fun-to-eat food, or interactive stores will become increasingly popular as people look to let their hair down a little and have some fun.
Companies will begin to focus more on products and experiences that are light-hearted, and those that offer real entertainment will have a significant competitive advantage. Beyond this, manufacturers will launch products specifically designed to enhance people's moods in unique ways. From food and beauty to household cleaners, Mintel expects to see a widening range of products that soothe, energise or simply lift the spirits.