Gartner's 10 consumer macro trends

Johannesburg, 23 Apr 2012
Read time 5min 50sec

Research house Gartner has identified 10 consumer macro trends that will shape the technology, media and service provider markets over the next decade.

Gartner says the trends converge around questions of value - what consumers value enough to pay for, how consumers' values are changing, and how technology and service providers can respond to this to increase their sales and margins.

The trends are extrapolated from Gartner's report “Market Trends: Consumer Macro Trends, Worldwide, 2012-2022”.

1. The great depression, part two: consumer confidence and the new normal

Consumer technology markets are being redefined by a new set of consumer expectations and values shaped by global economics. In mature markets, many consumers have cut back on discretionary spending in the wake of successive financial crises. However, consumers seem to put a higher value on media and communications products in times of recession as they cut back on more expensive substitutes.

Tough times create “buyer's markets”, so technology and service providers must adjust their operations to accommodate changing consumer expectations by switching to more recession-friendly marketing messages, a greater range of affordable or value product options, more strenuous customer engagement efforts, and improved customer experience.

2. The impact of acceleration/deceleration: the temporal digital divide widens

Structural acceleration is changing consumption patterns, leaving some consumers behind. Acceleration means consumers expect regular and increasingly frequent product upgrades.

Acceleration theoretically gives consumers more spare time to do the things they want. In reality, they experience the reverse. The most valuable product technology and service providers can deliver to consumers is extra time in the day. Products and services that help consumers fill their time more productively and/or pleasurably are the most compelling

3. Women wanted: unlocking gender opportunities

The consumer technology market is trending towards producing and marketing more female-friendly technology products targeted at the market's single biggest demographic: women. Women are underrepresented in key job roles within the technology and media sectors. This is a missed opportunity as women typically control from 70% to 80% of household spending.

Technology and service providers should conduct a gender audit and invest, if necessary, in recruiting suitable talent to redress under-representation of women in key decision-making and creative roles.

4. The power customer replaces consumer power

Technology facilitates customised shopping experiences and puts greater power in consumers' hands.Consumers have unprecedented access to information to make more-informed decisions about switching between brands.

Dealing with empowered consumers makes life more challenging for brands, but is an opportunity for competitive differentiation to organisations that invest in meeting the demands of power customers. Technology brands must assess and improve their ability to interact and develop a relationship with their customers through customer care initiatives, including after-sales and technical support.

5. The social information lifeline

Consumers are increasingly turning to social networks for news and information and tuning out of mainstream media news feeds. As a result, news format and content are progressively being reconstructed around social media channels.

News media and content providers must move to a multiscreen distribution arrangement using social, mobile and interactive channels. Social media will continue to challenge traditional brand relationships and business models, and a whole-organisation response will be required in building a cohesive social CRM programme.

6. Humanity 2.0: consumers become the computer's 'killer app'

The market is being driven by self-reinforcing patterns of technology usage that are fundamentally changing consumer behaviour. The self-reinforcing characteristics of technology usage show that not only will the consumer technology market grow, but it will also take a bigger share of the consumer wallet in the future, as well as creating new markets.

Technology providers must anticipate changes in consumer behaviour early to create a credible presence in the new media environment. At the same time, two-thirds of the market are later adopters, who are slow to absorb new services and digital interactions. Technology and service providers should consider developing bridge products and services that will allow later adopters to embrace these technologies and products.

7. Renegotiation of consumer trust

The consumer market is seeking new institutions, brands and values to trust in. The collapse of confidence in traditional institutions following bank failures, government collapse, corruption, economic and civil unrest and the disruption to previously accepted 'norms' like local communities and nuclear families, has sent consumers searching for new brands, values and social organisations they can trust. Brands that help customers through hard times can build strong emotional and cognitive loyalty among consumers, leading to significant opportunity for brand extension.

8. Changing channels: brands chase the migration of consumer mind share

Consumers are shifting online, but still expect a multichannel brand experience. In terms of scale, retail stores will remain dominant revenue generators for some time to come, and the importance of online channels depends on the product.

However, customers don't think in channels; they just shop, and retailers must make the shopping experience as integrated and seamless as possible. Technology and service providers should build multichannel operations around business intelligence systems to understand consumers' voices of the customer, using business analytics to track the behaviour across channels, reallocate resources and rebalance priorities as necessary.

9. The death of complexity

The consumer market is becoming less tolerant of complexity. Although consumers tend to buy products with ever-richer features, they often prefer those that are simple and intuitive. The ability to provide appealing and intuitive user interfaces has become a critical point of differentiation among competing technology providers.

As technology becomes more complex, vendors need to invest more in keeping the user interface simple and intuitive. Technology and service providers must focus on simplifying technology, pricing, brand messaging, and feedback and interaction, and consider offering chargeable help services for consumers challenged by installing and configuring new equipment and services in their homes.

10. The destiny of demographics and rise of the mainstream middle-class

The focus of innovation and consumption is shifting to emerging economies. By 2030, China will have the world's most rapidly aging population, aging faster than Germany or Japan and, by that time, India will be world's youngest in terms of population trajectory.

Demographics impact consumption patterns, as do consumer culture, values and attitudes, and expectations. Class matters to brands because the middle-classes tend to control a disproportionate share of the national income and make brand choices based on factors other than price. Technology and service providers must increase engagement and exposure to emerging markets; recruiting and building an understanding of local consumer needs and preferences, and applying those to the broader innovation process and strategy.

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