A cultural eye on trends shaping consumer behaviour

Posted: May 30, 2014

by Hazel Barkworth, Cultural Insights Project Director, Added Value

When we look at the small cultural shifts that beckon change – the emerging behaviours that are just reaching the mainstream – it seems that consumers are going to expect more than ever.  Here are the top 6 trends shaping consumer behaviour right now:

1. Multiplicity. We are increasingly expecting things to do more that involves interacting with all our senses, offers us a range of touch points to play with, and involves us entirely in new experiences.

There is a growing desire for multiplicity and experiences are expected to offer more. We’ve grown used to sensory experiences being enhanced, but now we’re seeing the clashing, blurring and even confusing of senses. The same is happening in storytelling – rather than just one story, we are seeing powerful story worlds with multiple strands of narrative on multiple platforms, allowing the various threads to permeate viewer’s lives. It is no longer enough to immerse the viewer in an experience, and people are rejecting the idea of passive on-looking. They are now craving active participation.

Camilla Fanning, Added Value South Africa added that the frozen-yoghurt craze caters well to this need for active participation. The concept centres on self-service stations resulting in customised sweet treats that can be taken home or eaten at the colourfully decorated eating area within the store. Competing Frozen-yoghurt franchisers, Wakaberry and Smooch, have gone as far as creating their own merchandise available for purchase on-site creating another touch-point to engage with their customers.

2. Hyper Efficiency.  We are seeking and discovering ever smarter and more efficient ways to solve age old issues – such as keeping fit, lack of space and limited resources. The results are sleeker, quicker and utilise things that have previously been ignored.

This sense of intensity is also reflected in the desire for super-charged forms of efficiency. From health to homes, people are utilising every last bit of space and time.  High-impact, superfast diets and fitness plans are gaining popularity, and – with space at more of a premium than ever – people are seeking smart ways to integrate a range of functions into one property. With a growing awareness of how limited resources are, innovations are creating valuable assets out of the otherwise unused, and a new wave of so-called ‘serious games’  and collaborative digital platforms are smartly mobilising  our collective intelligence and imagination.

Camilla Fanning, Added Value South Africa said that examples here include www.mygarage.co.za, a customised garaging storage solution developed to help tackle the clutter, and S.W.E.A.T. 1000, a high intensity exercise regime that burns 1000 calories in one hour – an attractive proposition in today’s time-pressed lifestyles!

3. The New Industrial Revolution. Science is no longer a closed world, just for geeks. Digital and technological advances are enabling us to create in new ways – leading to new creative forms, and helping us see a new appreciation of the digital as a thing of beauty.

This use of science is no longer just for experts. We are in the midst of a new form of industrial revolution where technological advances are enabling people to make the transition from users to creators. We’re seeing a new appreciation of the digital as a source of inspiration, and the means to create are now in the hands of everyone. Coding has gone fully mainstream, and the rise of 3D printing is hailing a new era for industry. Soon everyone will be a manufacturer, able to create what they want, when they want it.

Camilla Fanning, Added Value South Africa added:Digital has transformed ‘home photography’ in such a way that almost everyone considers themselves to be amateur photographers. Taking into account the sophisticated nature of smartphone cameras and countless applications readily accessible to smartphone users, people are able to photograph, edit and create their own photographic masterpieces

4. Escape. In a world of austerity and grown up responsibility, we are seeing the increasing desire to let go, to let loose and indulge in childlike freedom or sheer hedonistic joy.

People are demanding more from every type of experience. This can come in the form of escapism – in a time of austerity, we’re seeing the desire to indulge. In a turbulent and ever more serious world, there is a craving for silliness and outright frivolity. People are seeking occasions that allow them to let go of all responsibilities and inhibitions, and embrace outlandish hedonism.

Camilla Fanning, Added Value South Africa noted that base jumping is a prime example.

5. Mindfulness. In a world full of buzz and surface interactions, people are seeking more depth and meaning. They are craving time away from the stimulus of the internet, making their leisure time more about self-development, and taking their own ethical responsibilities seriously.

This intensity can also come from a very different angle, in the form of mindfulness. In a world full of buzz and surface interactions, people are seeking more depth and meaning. Leisure is becoming as much about self-development as pleasure-seeking, and there is a growing sense of earnestness, consideration and thoughtfulness. People are craving time away from the stimulus of the internet, and are severing their connection to technology. People are also becoming increasingly aware of the ethical impact of their everyday lives. They are encouraged to think about– and take responsibility for – the ethical status of the things they do, buy and support.

In South Africa, the Random Acts of Kindness phenomenon is a prime example, according to Added Value South Africa’s Camilla Fanning. Also, some more progressive companies are offering time away for employees – non-paid – to recharge. For instance, Added Value allows staff a sabbatical to re-energise and learn something new.

6. Super Personalised. Personalisation has been taken out of the hands and tastes of consumers. This is not just bespoke you select – it is also bespoke that selects you. Advances in technology mean that products are able to read consumers and give them what they want – sometimes without even being asked.

The cultural shifts we are witnessing show a move towards the wholehearted and intense. People want all aspects of their lives to be rich and full. These trends give us a clear sense of where culture is heading, and brands this year will have to work hard to meet consumers’ demands and expectations. Nothing should be done by halves.

Added Value South Africa’s Camilla Fanning has several examples, the Famous Grouse, Johnnie Walker and Coca-Cola personalised bottles. Woolworths, too, is playing in this arena offering, for example, new moms gift vouchers for baby products but other consumers vouchers based on an analysis of their regular spending patterns.