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CHICAGO — It seems nothing changes faster than consumers' demands and needs — and that won't change in 2015.
With the new year approximately two months away, Mintel trend analysts identified four key U.S. consumer trends that will have the most impact in 2015. They are: smart technology; the blending of digital and brick-and-mortar retail; a growing awareness of consumer rights; and the rejection of gender stereotypes.
The world of synced devices, including wearable technology and smart home appliances, will mainstream as trusted retailers and manufacturers satisfy the consumer appetite for collecting data and controlling devices, according to Chicago-based Mintel.
"Smart innovations are no longer the domain of start-ups," said Stacy Glasgow, Mintel's consumer trends consultant. "Major players such as Amazon, Apple, Google and Samsung, as well as retailers, are embracing the trend and raising consumer confidence in it."
Mintel's research finds that interest is high as 59 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in using an app or website to control their home. Yet, savvy consumers are recognizing there should be synergy between these smart services. Four in 10 U.S. consumers would like to buy technology products that easily connect to products they already have.
Compatibility is likewise a concern, since 22 percent of all U.S. consumers have already purchased a wearable device like a smart watch or Fitbit.
Smart devices also go beyond health and home economics, with telematic devices that monitor driving habits. Going forward, data-collecting device manufacturers will invite companies to become analysis providers. The next stage will be for banks, grocers and doctors to do more to develop data relationships.
My Wallet, My Way
Consumer expectations for on-demand convenience are blurring the lines between digital and brick-and-mortar retail, driving immediacy not just in shopping, but also expanding it into any consumer interactions with businesses, Mintel said.
The Internet has disrupted traditional approaches to shopping, setting up an expectation not just for convenience, but for immediacy. Brick-and-mortar retailers have melded with the digital as more locations offer in-store pickup for online orders and, on the other side, virtual-only services open physical stores, the research firm noted.
"The ability to get hands-on with what was formerly only virtual could gain more customers for these e-commerce retailers," Glasgow said. "Companies are also bridging the customer relationship gap left by online-only interactions with unique service approaches like creating community spaces, as insurance provider State Farm did with its Next Door Café."
Expanded Wi-Fi plans for trains, planes and even Uber-mobiles will ease the ability to shop while in transit and encourage more "click-and-collect" services, such as the grocery pickup service being tested by Walmart.
"At the heart of this trend is that our on-demand, instant gratification culture is spreading," Glasgow said. "These conveniences also are not only for city dwellers as more business models, including in-store pickup or subscription services, bring the benefits of modern life to suburban and rural residents. This 'at-your-convenience' expectation is likely to influence other customer service-based industries, and we predict that consumers will want to see more customized, on-demand access to financial services, health care and more."