It’s that time of year again, when retailers hastily replace their Halloween displays with holiday merchandise and we release Gartner’s Top Consumer and Cultural Trends. This series documents the critical shifts in consumer behavior that will have cross-category, cross-demographic impact over the next year. The latest slate explores consumers’ growing sense of urgency around societal challenges.
But before we turn our attention to this year’s Top Trends, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on last year’s Top Trends. What became of the important shifts in the consumer landscape we wrote about this time last year? As you might expect, many of these trends are still going strong.
- My Data, Myself: This trend explored consumer mindsets around personal data and focused on a subset of consumers interested in personal data as a reflection of their identity. In 2019, increasing concerns around data privacy mean consumers are not only keen to deepen their self-understanding through personal data. They also increasingly seek a fuller picture of how data is being used to impact their life in meaningful ways (think: jobs, loans, healthcare). Now, in late 2019, consumers look for marketers to provide more than transparency; they want to take control. For instance, Facebook created the “Off-Facebook Activity tool” to give users more control over how their “off-Facebook” activity is used (or not used).
- Hoping Mechanisms: This trend captured consumers’ fascination with love stories as a form of comfort and escape. Consumers’ love affair with love is still going strong in late 2019. This year, Netflix kept the rom-com momentum going with hits like The Perfect Date and Always Be My Maybe. Meanwhile, as we move into the holiday season, Hallmark plans to release 40 new Christmas movies. Moving into 2020, consumers want at least some of their entertainment to be familiar and predictable, with limited risk of unexpected twists and turns.
- Amazon Ambivalence: This trend highlighted the unease many consumers feel over their Amazon dependence. Despite the continued increase of Prime membership households this year, concerns linger over the megacorporation’s employee treatment, environmental impact and effect on small businesses. For the first time since 2010, Amazon lost its crown in the American Customer Satisfaction Index, dropping just below Costco, which has strategically played up its employee wages and treatment compared to those of Amazon. Amazon has created initiatives to address the above-mentioned consumer concerns. The company launched “Our Positions,” taking a stance on hot-button political and social issues and detailing its response and actions. Marketers need to keep an eye on this retail giant’s every move and, importantly, consumer reaction to those moves.
- Authentic Beats Accessible: This trend detailed the success of minority-culture-focused content that emphasizes authenticity rather than accessibility. That success paved the way for additional authentic narratives in 2019. For instance, The Farewell (July 2019) is full of cultural “Easter eggs” discoverable by those who put forth a bit of effort. Creators with unique and diverse perspectives will continue to provide cultural deep cuts sans translation to a broader audience of culturally curious consumers.
- Politicized Third Place: Heading into 2019, this trend reflected consumer concerns about “third places” (restaurants, parks, stores, etc.) turning into politicized zones of potential conflict. Consumers are still navigating heightened tensions, resulting in uncertainty, mistrust and fear. This trend has only intensified with the heartbreaking recurrence of mass shootings in the U.S., which has consumers emphasizing the values of safety and security in third places. Rebuilding societal trust is a joint effort and should be a key initiative for marketers responsible for not only the buying experience in third places, but the entire end-to-end customer experience.
Given the relevance of last year’s trends, you can feel confident that Gartner’s newest Top Trends are worth the read.