Consumer trends

Consumer trends

Considered but resilient consumption:

“The Lipstick Effect” is the phenomenon of the rise of small self-treating on make-up and gadgets when people forego extravagant purchases such as cars and holidays in times of recession. This tendency is all about consumers’ sustained need to enjoy consumption and express their identity despite their pressured lives. Overall, consumers may scale down on purchases and live with delayed gratification by saving and investing more in retraining and putting more energy into getting better value. But the definition of value will be different for different products. For instance, consumers will seek the lowest price for products that serve basic needs such as food, whereas in self-treating and small luxuries, the value of feeling indulged is given precedence. The Lipstick Effect endures.

Age of uncertainty:

“When there’s so much uncertainty, volatility and anxiety, it’s harder to define trends. You’re not so much trying to predict the future as trying to create a conversation about where the future might go. Most of the time you’re illuminating the present,” says Sydneybased futurist Richard Watson, author of new book “Future Files”. Commentators, journalists and bloggers are certainly signalling 2009 as a year of fear, anxiety and uncertainty for consumers who, in order to fight back against these pressures, will need to engage with them using resourceful coping strategies. These include immersing themselves in the safety and comfort of their home cocoons, voluntarily trimming spending, redefining their relationship with brands so that this becomes more of a dialogue rather than a one-way brand-to consumer communication and reinventing and re-launching themselves through retraining, thrift, bargain hunting, revised leisure time aspirations etc.

A new shopping aesthetic:

Value redefined as quality:

Value rather than cheapness will now count when consumers have to choose between brands when making purchasing decisions in the year ahead. Hence consumers will reward brands focusing on quality with loyalty. In this new retail landscape, value equates to quality, longevity, sustainability and meaning. This last attribute indicates that consumers seek consumption that they also perceive as adding value to their lives.

Popular international consumer rating site, Qype, stands for quality not hype. This revival of consumer interest in lasting quality replaces the “little and often” approach of recent years. Mass consumption has also led to mountains of discarded cheap synthetic clothing at landfill sites that worry ethical consumers. Commentators and bloggers are arguing that fast, throwaway fashion, central to our transient, disposable culture is slowing down. Says a spokesperson from UK supermarket ASDA: “We did a survey with our customers at the beginning of the year. They said they are now making product choices around quality and value for money.”

This consumer perception of value in quality will extend to clothing, food and the home – e.g. timeless pieces that will remain stylish rather than one-season fast fashion outfits. The design boom of recent years has been fuelled by fast-turnaround trends and seasonal collections that ape the fashion industry. Expectations are for a design aesthetic reverting to the original premise of design: creating useful things that last.

Female “Frugalistas”:

Brands keen on recession-proof marketing to women will need to realize that women are currently serving not just as the family CPO (Chief Purchasing Officer) but the CTO (Chief Thrift Officer). Time-starved women have heavily relied on convenience products and services to manage their multiple responsibilities. While money is tight, women will feel obliged to forgo the price premiums they have been paying for this kind of help and take on the labor themselves. By shifting their marketing focus from super-convenience to ingredients (like jarred sauces), food brands, for instance, will capture their share of women now seeking ‘made from scratch’ foods. The best messages will focus on the bright side of home cooking such as making memories cooking together etc. Fast food chains are already jumping on the bandwagon.

Builders, estate agents, manufacturers, retailers and e-tailers can also adopt new strategies to keep women buying. Psychologist Judy James says the frugal attitude of women doesn’t seem to have caught on among men. She sees the downturn as having brought out the Alpha Female ‘warrior’ side of women, bringing their competitive and strategic skills to the fore.

Interest in financial services will rise. Former Fashionistas are now researching on investments to justify their purchases. One blogger describes this as a shift from “indulgence shopping” to “investment shopping”. Even Gen Y is expected to “do” delayed gratification.

Focus on wellbeing and DIY healthcare:

Health and wellbeing translated as consumer satisfaction looks set to be a resilient consumer concern – even if it is accompanied by more selftreating and “DIY doctors” as part of the fashion for self sufficiency, itself driven by uncertainty.

The huge consumer interest in “alli” the only FDA-approved over-the-counter weight loss product is significant. The product’s strap line urges consumers who don’t like what they see in the mirror to “change your vision, challenge yourself to do things differently.” These capsules prevent the body from absorbing all fat consumed, while this diet plan is accompanied by “mialliplan”, which includes an interactive online journal for users and other motivational tools.

Consumers will remain concerned about their surrounding environment – including nature, society and public policy. Countless consumers are still aspiring to aspects of celebrity lifestyles to feel good about themselves: “This season is all about celebrity fragrances and endorsements,”

says Felicia Milewicz, beauty director of Glamour magazine. Dolce & Gabbana have just called on Scarlett Johansson to front their debut make-up campaign.

A parallel return to the real world and old world values:

Paradoxically, a degree of “unplugging” is predicted too, as many consumers relinquish digital acquaintances for more human contact, reclaiming personal or family time. Recent eye-catching ads from Dentyne chewing gum play upon this unplugging trend. For instance: “chatroom full” features a photo of happy youths and then the strap line: “minimize buddy list, maximize buddies. Make face time.”

While people will be more self reliant, “we” not me will thrive and family and community will be pushed back together. This return to the familiar means consumers may be less likely to experiment dealing with people and brands they don’t know, because they don’t trust them – brands will become more receptive to values as a result. There is an aspirational element at work here stresses futurist Richard Watson. Just as owning a mobile phone was once seen as a mark of sophistication, using one sparingly or not at all is becoming a signal that a person has sorted out their priorities or has staff to do this: hence the phrase ‘digital diets’ and an interest in analogue products such as fountain pens and vinyl records.

This feeling is also behind a lasting interest in the authentic and the enduring in consumption, which is craved by consumers to give them a sense of safety and control in uncertain times.

Imbys (in my back yard) will continue to be vocal proponents of buying from small businesses, handmade items and importantly, local and national products.