With the beginning of a new year (and decade) comes the inevitable slew of articles predicting what trends will influence consumers’ habits in 2020. There’s a dizzying array, many of which don’t seem like news at all. Here’s our take on what could have the biggest impact on consumer behavior and spending in the coming year.
Sustainability has been a “trend” for a long time now; so, at first glance, it’s surprising to see it considered for another year. But several micro-trends—some of which you may have already seen the beginnings of—suggest that sustainability will continue to be a hot topic in 2020:
- Elimination of single-use plastics: Think restaurants and coffee shops eliminating plastic straws and hotels swapping out their small toiletries in favor of bulk dispensing.
- Regenerative agriculture: A way of farming that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, and enhances ecosystem services. C+R helped a few clients explore this topic in 2019, and according to the experts, more companies will be looking for ways to create products that help, rather than hurt, the planet.
- Buying local and source traceability: This will continue to be important for a growing number of Americans.
Because sustainability is so important to the next generation of shoppers and consumers, we expect it to become a theme, if not a mantra, for many brands’ successes.
Gen Z Comes of Age
When you use the second trend—the emergence of Generation Z as adults—as a lens through which to view the first trend, it’s perhaps not surprising that sustainability is projected to be important despite its long tenure on trend lists. Gen Z (and Generation Alpha behind them) care passionately about the environment, even more so than their parents and grandparents.
In 2020, the oldest of the Gen Z cohort will be entering the workforce and making buying choices with discretionary income. They’ll also be voting in the presidential election (1 in 10 eligible voters will be Gen Z). Companies (and politicians) looking to court these consumers will need to cater to their unique demands. For example, according to a Business Insider survey (as reported by Forbes, 2020), while Gen Z’s primary choice of where to shop is based on (like most) price, the fact that they document their lives on social media leads them to feeling pressured to frequently appear in new clothes, fueling increased demand for sustainable clothing options like rental and retail.
Indeed, “fast fashion” is definitely “out” for these young consumers, who not so long ago were snapping up cheap looks and wearing them just once or twice. Too many of those looks ended up in landfills and spurred a generation to reject the practice of buy-quick-and-throw-away, which potentially contributed to driving Forever 21 into bankruptcy. They’ve closed 200 stores at a time when the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, an industry organization that promotes transparency in fashion, footwear, and textiles, is growing. Other sustainable fashion companies include Rent the Runway, which offers special occasion clothing to be effectively shared among multiple users, and Poshmark, the high-end online thrift company that lets shoppers re-buy others’ fashions at a fraction of their initial retail cost. What will be the next trend in sustainable fashion? Look for fashion retailers to start phasing out plastic hangers at stores near you.
trends in qualitative research - A Renaissance
The final trend is one we at C+R are particularly excited about, as it is one of many emerging trends in marketing research: the resurgence of qualitative research. While qualitative research has, of course, never gone away (even focus groups), the use of the research methodology is expected to grow in 2020. Companies want to hear directly from their consumer base, and costs are decreasing as online platforms and mobile phones allow users to record and submit video diaries, give real-time feedback on products and messages, and record how they interact with websites. Brands who have shrinking budgets and need ever-quicker turnarounds for insights can find a wealth of options with their qualitative partners to move business strategies along efficiently.
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At C+R, we think this year has a lot of promise, and we’re excited to be along for the ride. When thinking of your long-term goals for your brands, plan for how you can extend the planet’s life along with your product's. While everyone else is still talking about Millennials, learn about Generation Z to get ahead of the curve with what young adults need. And embrace the richness of a qualitative discussion—in our practice, pairing that with behavioral or quantitative data paints the most effective picture of current and upcoming market dynamics.