Mintel Predicts 2011 Consumer Trends

CHICAGO -- While consumers are still reeling from the aftershock created by the global economic crisis, lessons have been learned, behaviors changed and consumer adaptability has created a new way of life, according to Mintel. With that in mind, the Chicago-based research company announced its predictions for the nine key consumer trends that will shape the year ahead.

In 2011, consumers are living for the long term with attitudes inspired by a changed value set, Mintel noted. “The effects of the global economic crisis have had long reaching implications and it is not just consumer behavior in the short term which was affected,” stated Alexandra Smith, global trends analyst at Mintel. “Indeed, these consumer trends for 2011 are a legacy created by economics, but now gathering their own momentum and are set to influence the global consumer mindset for a long time to come.”

Mintel’s 2011 Consumer Trends predictions are:

1. Prepare for the Worst -- With a heightened sense of what economic collapse looks like, thanks to the global recession, a renewed emphasis on prevention will drive consumers to think defensively. In the U.S., a third of consumers said they’re using debit rather than credit, and debit transactions are forecasted to rise nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2010. Consumers want to know what they’re getting themselves into -- no loopholes, no hidden costs and no pricey upgrades. So 2011 may see the need for brands to demonstrate how a product or service delivers long-term benefits or prevents problems down the road, Mintel reported.

2. Retail Rebirth -- With online experiences developing rapidly, discounting is a no-win battle for brick-and-mortar retailers against the Internet. In the U.S., 35 percent said their choice of store is determined by special offers or discounts. In 2011, brands may need to get more creative to lure consumers into stores, offering more than just retail by becoming a venue, not just a shop. Service may extend into advice and demonstrations, while exclusivity and environment may also be key aspects to engage consumers with real life, not virtual, shopping experiences.

3. Where It’s App -- With smartphones becoming the dominant mobile force, Quick Response (QR) codes and app technology will pique interest, provide portals into unique experiences and improve quality of life, Mintel predicted. In the U.S., sales of smartphones grew 82 percent from 2008 to 2010. 2011 will see people take a deeper interest in where they are -- from the city to a specific store -- presenting brands with an opportunity for increased location-based services, promotions and solutions. To capitalize on consumer awareness of technology, brands will need to take QR codes beyond niche understanding, using it to explain and offer exclusive content.

4. No Degree, No Problem -- Economic uncertainty has changed the workplace and the meaning of job security for the foreseeable future. As a result, consumers will continue to question higher education’s ROI, and alternative channels for learning will gain credibility. In 2011, Mintel foresees more lifelong learning in the workplace, corporate-sponsored degrees and companies investing in employees through education and training rather than salary or benefits. Meanwhile learning while doing, rather than learning in a lecture hall, may become a focus.

5. On Her Own Terms -- Women are earning and learning more than men, creating new gender roles in business and consumerism. In 2011, age is no longer an easy marker for lifestage. Opportunities lie for brands to focus less on the year the female consumer was born, and more on where she’s at with her life right now. In the U.S. in 2008, 27 percent of men reported being the sole cleaner in their household; in 2010, that number jumped to 32 percent. So, 2011 may see a counter trend to the “metrosexuality” of men in a “masculinization” of women.

6. Retired for Hire -- People are working beyond retirement -- either due to financial need, or because they have grown attached to a lifestyle of leisure and pleasure. With half of Americans having no retirement account, the number of over 65s working will reach nearly 20 percent by 2014. In 2011, this group may prove an untapped market for advertisers, affecting a number of consumer sectors. Vitality, energy and longevity will become key product qualities in the food and drink sector, while health and beauty messages may need to center on anti-aging properties, nutraceuticals and older models to reach this target group, according to Mintel.

7. The Big Issue -- Consumers’ attitude toward weight is polarizing, pitting the rise of the super-healthy against the eternal appeal of indulgence. Thirty-four percent of U.S. adults age 20 and older are obese. Therefore, 2011 may see a wider array of products catering to an obese market: from portion control and more information on packaging, to low-cost healthy fare and products to firm and salve chaffed or sagging skin.

8. Garden State -- Modern city dwellers have a growing love of gardening. With fresh, organic produce still economically out of reach for many, consumers are finding their own ways to bring healthy home. In the U.S., 26 percent of internet users purchased vegetable seeds in past year, 19 percent bought vegetable/flower garden fertilizer and 27 percent said they like to grow vegetables at home. In 2011, rural tourism, working farm holidays and garden leisure may benefit, while rising food and commodity prices may be a boost for seed sales.

9. Who Needs Humans -- Moving into an ever-more digital era, automated technology has machines replacing people -- for better or worse. While cashier-less checkouts have become commonplace, machines are starting to creep into new territories, including hospitals, libraries, pharmacies and the home. 2011 may see certain jobs permanently displaced by technology -- that includes service jobs, not just manual or factory work. But backlash and balance-seeking may lead to an increased cache for hyper-personal goods and services, Mintel noted.

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