Wellbeing and future-proofing our bodies is also becoming nothing short of a global movement. As consumers, we’re investing in wearable tech, athleisure wear, wellness pursuits, mindfulness, buying farm-to-table, bean-to-bar, seed-to-skin, organic, fermented, probiotic, cold-pressed everything to ensure our continued good health. “Natural” is becoming the watchword for all of this. [...] Consumers are exchanging previously trusted products and brands for New Natural alternatives, from feminine care to fertility.
Alongside this we’re seeing a rising appreciation for bacteria—no longer something to be cleaned away, but recognised as healthy and essential to our daily lives.
One thing that’s becoming clear across the board is that consumers are joining the dots in multiple areas of their consumption patterns and lifestyles. Food decisions are no longer simply based around service and price—they are made holistically, as food is assessed for its environmental impact, health benefits, the purity of its ingredients, and the creator brand’s treatment of livestock and employees. Health isn’t viewed in a silo either.
Diet, beauty, wellbeing, mind, body, fitness: all are viewed by the consumer as one big ecosystem to maintain. Brands, once judged on their desirability and products, are now being judged on their value systems, on whether they are innovators, on whether they are promising to change the world. Interestingly, this has become a talent retention issue, as companies instill value systems and culture to attract demanding millennials in a competitive job market. Across all sectors, consumers are differentiating between brands based on concern for the environment.
Technology, of course, continues to be the thread running through everything we do. Of all the retailers, innovators and brands we spoke to, most were excited about the prospect of Oculus Rift, which launches in 2016. We’re increasingly comfortable with technology that knows us, is cognitive, intuitive and adaptive to our needs. Vast data pools—more to follow— are creating highly nuanced, granular profiles of consumer behaviour. But alongside that comes a rising thread of consumer anxiety and irritation at highly targeted advertising (we’ll see how this plays out with Apple’s ad-blocking software).
“Privacy and trust will be a big part of 2016 for brands,” says chief technology officer at Mirum, J. Walter Thompson’s global digital agency. “Brands have abused consumer trust through outright abuse of consumer data entrusted to companies and services, and lax engineering and security practices. Consumers will start to react.”
According to Pagefair, ad blocking has grown globally by 41% in the past year and 48% in the United States. There are now 198 million active ad blockers. As a result, says Phillips, brands will have to work much harder, and be more transparent, to earn consumer trust.
There’s no doubt that ad-blocking technology could provide major challenges in 2016. “Users have taken control and are blocking advertising after years of abuse by brands. Is it too late? I think not. Will it become too late soon? I think so. Brands can follow Apple’s lead and start taking steps to protect their consumers instead of using their data as though they owned it.”
Watch, and wait. Here’s to 2016 and beyond.