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OPINIONTechnology

Consumer Trends to Watch in 2019

Retailers would be wise to prioritize consumer-inspired relevance
Photograph: Shutterstock

Constant change is the new normal. And while the relentless pace of change can be daunting, the one thing any of us know for sure is that there’ll be more disruption ahead and standing still is not an option.

It means that retailers and consumer goods companies must learn to continuously adapt by developing fine-tuned abilities to sense and respond to—and even anticipate—evolving consumer and market demands.

So, what’s in store for the year ahead? Here are our top three trends and predictions for 2019:

1. Shrinking the Thinking

Convenience matters. But what we understand “convenience” to be is changing. And in 2019 brands need to be alive to the more nuanced trade-offs that consumers are willing to make. Gone are the days when convenience always meant “fast and easy.” Now, it’s multifaceted and context-dependent. Sometimes it’ll be about simplicity (“don’t make me think!”), other times it’ll be about precision (“give me exactly what I need!”). 

Look at how Amazon Go is shrinking the thinking and redefining convenience for the digital age. Their cutting-edge technology and data science aren’t just making the in-store shopping experience seamless, they’re also helping the company fine-tune the assortments they know will most appeal to consumers in each locality.

And what about the myriad new ways brands are helping customers cut out the complexity from day-to-day living? Whether it’s “help me do it” (meal kits), “do it for me” (Ikea and TaskRabbit), or “get it right for me first time” (hyper-personalized recommendations), smart brands are taking consumer convenience to new places. 

The catch? Convenience taken too far can be creepy. Retailers and brands will have to walk a fine line between offering superconvenient and cool experiences and making their customers feel exposed. Yes, there are huge selling opportunities in tapping into real-time data that, say, a consumer is shopping for new sneakers right now. But brands must always stay the right side of the line. The message for 2019—be smart and sensitive, not freaky and frightening.

2. The Death of Impulse? Or Its Rebirth?

Is this the end of impulse buying? In-store, we’re as likely to be looking at our phones as we are at the goods in the checkout aisle. Online, streamlined user experiences mean we click and buy as fast as we can. And the growth of subscription services cuts out yet another opportunity to act on impulse.

Truth is, simply stacking up products at the till with little thought doesn’t cut it any more. Retailers will need to get much better at capturing consumers’ attention—both in-store and online. And consumer goods companies will need to be less reliant on retailers’ store promotions and point-of-sale placements, working hand in hand to maximize their use of data to deliver greater relevance in the shopping experience.

Think about how superconvenient shopping at Amazon Go gives consumers ample opportunities for impulse buying. After all, if we can just pick up a cookie and go, what’s to stop us resisting temptation? Consider too how social media creates a vast wealth of data-rich touch points for instant, hyper-relevant shopping.

So will 2019 see the death of impulse buying? Far from it. It’s just changed. And retailers and brands will need to work harder to make it happen.

3. The Consumer Maker Movement

The consumer maker movement continues to tap into our deep needs for creativity. Yes, it’s an established trend. But it’s not going away. And in 2019 more and more successful retailers and consumer goods companies will be opening the doors to their organizations. They’ll be welcoming individual makers inside to help shape the brand and truly unleash their creative side.

Experiences like in-store cooking classes give consumers the chance to get their hands on products while receiving curated guidance in how best to use them. Or what about Waitrose’s Supper Club in the U.K.? It’s a clever cookery experience which brings together consumers’ needs for creativity and expertise with their desire to connect with other people.

Forward-thinking brands are already opening up their product development processes to their customers. Orkla Foods have redesigned their corporate headquarters, including a deli-inspired “Our Kitchen” entrance space that functions as a meeting place for employees and customers, offering taste-testing and insights into product development. It’s part of a clear industry trend—brands are breaking down the barriers between their value chains and their customers. Who knows where it’ll stop?

Make Consumer-Inspired Relevance Your Resolution for 2019

In this new era of digitally-born disruptors and consumer control, people are increasingly buying because of a brand’s relevance to their needs in the moment. And with today’s technologies, companies can increasingly see and act on these fluctuations in the moment.

It makes being inspired by evolving consumer needs and alive to technological possibilities the essential play for every consumer goods brand as they seek to achieve relevance at scale.

Laura Gurski is senior managing director, global industry lead, of consumer goods and services for Accenture.

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