24 December 2019

The Future Consumer - The Tipping Point

What the future consumer looks like and why it matters to you

At the start of a new decade, we’ve reached a tipping point. 

There’s the old world where the internet is something we access when we want - via desktops, phones and tablets. But we’re swiftly entering the new world where everything is connected and online. And it’s a world consumers are eager to enter. Technology continues to evolve at an astounding rate and buyers are fuelling the pace of change as they embrace the benefits of new apps and connected devices, and live in homes powered by the Internet of Things. 

For brands, understanding how consumers are changing - not just in their use of technology, but in their habits, lifestyles and values - is what will determine success and failure in the years ahead. The brands that are prepared will thrive. Those that think they can keep doing what they’ve always done will fall behind. It’s that simple. 

That’s why we commissioned our Future of Consumer Behaviour report. We spoke to over 5000 people all over the world to get their opinion on a whole range of topics like smart cities, digital finance, healthcare and shopping. And some of the results are pretty staggering. 

The pace of change

For example, in just two years, 25% of people think they’re be using voice-activated devices to buy online – up from just 8% today. In just five years, 43% of people think they’ll be using connected devices to buy products or services at least once a day. To put that in context, more than 50% of the world’s population doesn’t even have access to the internet yet. But the consumer expectation is there, and it means the tectonic plates of consumer behavior are going to keep shifting. 

As the world becomes more connected by the internet, it’s going to throw the question of who pays for the internet into even sharper focus. A slim majority of people (51%) think that ad-supported content is a necessary trade-off to get free or cheaper content. To target those consumers, brands are going to have to work out which areas this content is going to be most valuable. And for the 49% on the other side, brands are going to have to work out things like the maximum subscription cost for ad-free content that consumers are willing to pay.  

There’s a balance to be struck between consumers’ expectations around privacy and their desire for targeted, tailored advertising and products or services that reflect their preferences continues to be a high priority. Damningly, 93% of global respondents feel that there should be stricter regulations and fines for companies that expose customers’ data. As the volume of consumer data brands have at their disposal grows and grows, there’s going to be an even greater need for brands to use it responsibly - and, as importantly, be seen to be responsible. 

What consumers care about

The report also dives into what consumers want to get out of changing technologies. Better work-life balance is a high priority. A job that involves working from home at least 50% of the time is the most chosen option among respondents. Connectivity is key to making this ambition a reality, and points to the fact that individuals and businesses will need the home and office technologies to enable this kind of communication and remote working. 

The environment is also something people deeply care about. 79% think that climate change will cause global issues in the next 10 years and 72% believe it will impact them personally. Brands that are attuned to these preferences and concerns will succeed in the crowded marketplace, where a business’ eco credentials are increasingly as important as the products or services it offers.

The report also offers food for thought for brands who are always looking to shout about the next big thing or technological advancement. In our study, 87% of Chinese respondents say they’d love a coffee maker that makes a cup of tea or coffee ready for when they wake up. But the Teasmade, which does exactly that, was patented in 1901 and is still widely used. It’s an important reminder that companies should do research into how their consumers are actually using their products now, so they can show all the value they add and communicate about what they already do well.

You can download the full report here.