November 2018 saw global trend spotting agency, Foresight Factory, hold their annual conference in London, UK, showcasing the trends that will shape the year ahead.
The conference featured eight new trend themes, as well as a view on which of the more established trends will be energized in the year ahead.
Brexit and the European Union
Brexit, the departure of the UK from the European Union, is now imminent, although the implications for the UK remain unclear. With any number of outcomes possible at this stage, each scenario would have different implications for the UK economy. No deal, for example, could shave 2 percent off potential GDP growth by 2020 according to Foresight Factory’s economic partners, Oxford Economics. During the conference, they explored the topic of what consumers think about Brexit.
Foresight Factory’s recent research in the UK reveals that remainers (those who would prefer the UK remain part of the EU) are more pessimistic than leavers (those who are in favor of the UK leaving the EU) – 69 percent of remainers think the UK economy will worsen as a result of Brexit (vs. 21 percent of leavers), and that the British people are more optimistic about their personal finances than the economy as a whole. However, 17 percent of UK adults are considering stockpiling goods that they think might become more expensive, rising to 25 percent among Millennials.1
So, the year of Brexit is coming, and with it some significant impact on UK consumers, but what about the global economic picture in 2019?
The Global Economy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently gave its health check on the global economy and spoke about a number of “clouds on the horizon” we should all be aware of in 2019.
The first being that we’re likely to see less balanced growth. In recent months, the IMF has downgraded growth expectations in a number of markets including the UK, the Euro area, Brazil, South Africa, and Korea. Although the global economy is still growing, these local downgrades will affect the global momentum, and growth as a whole has been downgraded for next year, down from the 3.9 percent expected in April, to 3.7 percent.2
Another cloud that could darken the global economy is the threat of trade conflict, potentially between the United States and China, as well as between the EU and the UK.
The IMF also worries about how well-prepared we are for widespread recession, if all of their anticipated risks were to materialize.
Social and Environmental Changes
Finally, longer-term challenges remain, including the slow growth of workers’ incomes, perceptions of lower social mobility, and the intertwined issue of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its impact on the labor market. Not to mention the issue of climate change, which is now much more of a medium term threat – the latest report from the United Nations warning that the window to limit temperature rises to 1.5 degrees is rapidly closing and could close entirely within only 12 years.3
The Impact on Consumers
These macroeconomic indicators signal that we are entering 2019 in cautious economic mood. How is this affecting consumers?
The “Sustainable Me” trend speaks to the changing consumer response to a rolling zeitgeist of uncertainty and disruption. It describes a core need that Foresight Factory believes people will devote more attention to: the need to make their lives as shock-proof as possible, and to proactively prepare for the future so that they can survive in style.
As the conference demonstrated, in today’s world we are not exactly facing a future of predictable certainty. Whether economic uncertainty, algorithms and artificial intelligence replacing humans in the workplace, or perhaps the prospect of never being able to retire, consumers increasingly feel that it pays to be prepared – financially, physically, and from a career and skills perspective. Foresight Factory predicts that this “prepper mindset” is one that more consumers will adopt.
This is evident in Foresight Factory’s recent UK consumer study which found that 62 percent of UK Millennials want more control over their future (vs 42 percent of all consumers). 30 percent of UK consumers say they want more control over their career progress, and over a third say they want more control over their finances, with Millennials again over-indexing here.4
Globally, it’s over half of consumers who describe themselves as liking to plan or be organized, and this desire to plan is very closely linked to the need to have more control over finances, productivity or wellness measures such as weight.
Foresight Factory believes that this mindset leaves consumers open to messages promoting long-term planning and an emphasis on self-reliance, which would appeal to the 57 percent of global respondents who say they “prefer to be independent and not have to rely on others for my needs.”
A majority of global consumers carefully budget their finances every month, and 39 percent of global consumers describe themselves as thrifty, with a third saying they would like to be thriftier in the future than they are today.
So, what kind of opportunities does the Sustainable Me trend create?
There’s a big opportunity for brands to share expertise and guidance via content marketing to help consumers manage finances and build wealth. From a Customer Experience perspective, brands should consider and embrace the “prepper mindset” on the path to purchase, visualizing future product benefits, and stressing the long-term value of the brand. Another opportunity is to analyze consumer data and use this to incentivize them to stay on track to achieve their goals.
The Trending 2019 conference went on to explore other prominent new trends including “Neo Civility,” which describes how people are trying to adjust to each other in an era of cultural flux – an era where the old ways of doing things are gradually being challenged – and where issues that were once marginalized or taboo are being brought into the foreground.
The Lifestage Delay explores how more consumers are thinking about delaying major life milestones, including having a baby. The currently accepted lifestages are being increasingly challenged, as the norms of previous generations are questioned by those growing up today. A generation ago, one in ten (11 percent) of UK women aged 45 and at the end of their childbearing years were childless, today that has risen to one in five (18 percent)5. The last time childlessness was at this rate was for women born in the early 1900’s, many of whom lost husbands or potential husbands in the first World War or were constrained financially by the Great Depression.
We also see the same trend happening in the United States, were the number of childless women has doubled in 40 years to 12 percent, and in Japan where childlessness is currently at 27 percent. Clearly this is a growing trend in many developed countries.6
Lifestage Delay gives rise to a new Child-Free consumer segment, who can be seen taking a more selfish attitude towards their lifestyle, ensuring that their needs are prioritized. Over half make sure they get a good amount of rest and leisure time in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, compared to only 36 percent of those with children. In addition, just over half eat fast food on a monthly basis, compared to three-quarters of women with children, because they have more time to prepare healthy meals. Finally, the Child-Free are much more likely to socialise out of the home, with nearly 70 percent in the UK and 76 percent in the United States socializing out of home at least monthly. This suggests they prefer out-of-home leisure activities and will spend more on their socializing.7 There is an opportunity for brands here to position their venue as somewhere that caters to this group’s tastes and interests.
IGT is partnering with Foresight Factory to create a 2019 Trends Report which will look at the most significant trends that will impact the lottery industry in the near future. Look out for this report which will be released on the IGT Lottery Blog in 2019.
1 Source: Foresight Factory | Base: 1005 online respondents aged 16+, GB, 2018 September
2 Source: The International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook, October 2018
3 Source: United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, published October 2018
4 Source: Foresight Factory | Base: 1005 online respondents aged 16+, GB, 2018 September
5 Source: Office for National Statistics
6 Source: Foresight Factory / Office for National Statistics (www.ons.gov.uk), November 2017
7 Source: Foresight Factory | Base: 97 online respondents, women aged 35-45 without children, GB, 2018 July
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