Consumer Trendspotting

It’s a new year, and with it comes the opportunity for a fresh start for retailers as well as consumers. As in new years past, I’m inundated with a flurry of trend forecasts, surveys and predictions. One of the more interesting ones to cross my desk comes from JWT, New York, one of the world’s biggest marketing communications brands. It is the firm’s seventh annual year-end forecast of trends that will impact consumer behavior going forward.

“10 Trends for 2012” is a good read in general. And at a time when consumer behavior is so in flux, it provides retailers with some interesting insights as to what will be motivating their shoppers — and how they can best act on those behaviors. Not surprisingly, economic uncertainly and technology are driving several of the trends, according to the report.

“With our annual trends forecast, we aim to bring the outside in — to help inspire ideas beyond brand, category and consumer conventions — and to identify emerging opportunities so they can be leveraged for business gain,” explained Ann Mack, director of trendspotting for JWT.

Here’s JWT’s take on the trends to watch this year:

1. Navigating the new normal: As the new normal becomes a prolonged normal in the developed world, more brands will open up entry points for extremely cost-conscious consumers. Markets will find new opportunities in creating stripped-down offerings, smaller sizes and more accessible products and services.

2. Live a little: Stressed and worried consumers will look for ways to live a little without giving up a lot; loosening up once in a while by splurging on treats.

3. Generation gap: Enabled by technology, twenty-somethings, a “Lost Generation,” will transform itself, with many of them starting their own businesses.

4. The best of shared value: Increasingly, some corporations are deciding that making a profit and achieving social progress are not mutually exclusive goals.

5. Food as the new eco-issue: The eco-impact of food choices will become a more prominent concern as stakeholders drive awareness around the issue and rethink what food is sold and how it’s made.

6. Marriage optional: A growing cohort of women is taking an alternate life route, one that doesn’t include marriage as an essential checkpoint.

7. Reengineering randomness: As individual worlds become more personalized and niche — and the types of content, experiences and people we are exposed to become narrower — greater emphasis will be placed on reintroducing randomness, discovery, inspiration and different points of view into our worlds.

8. Screened interactions: Consumers will be interacting — touching, gesturing and speaking — more and more with interactive screens.            

9. Celebrate aging: Popular perceptions of aging are changing — for the positive — and consumers are redefining what the term “old age” means and when it begins.

10. Objectifying objects: Expect to see more “motivational objects,” items that accompany digital property to increase perceived value, and digital tools that enable creation of physical things.

The “10 Trends for 2012” report is available at JWTIntelligence.com.

mwilson@chainstoreage.com