Five consumer trends to watch if you want to find successful niches

I’ve been reading an interesting article published by Euromonitor International called Emerging Markets during Crisis: Business Strategy in Times of Uncertainty and recently written by senior research analyst Fernando CRUZ (https://www.linkedin.com/in/fdocruzalvarez/en).

Although I was not surprised by his research findings, my own experience leads me to think that these trends are really global. You can observe them both in emerging markets and mature markets and they are so strong that they guide consumers’ behaviors not only in periods of instability but also at any time these days.

The five trends spotted by Cruz are:

1. Convenience

Cruz is observing that “…urban life is demanding and frequently involves long travel times between home and work….”. This is only one of the reasons why people always ask for more convenience. The need for convenience is not new. Actually, most inventions came from human beings’s willingness to make life easier. This need is to source in the primary times of humanity. But what is interesting today is that while trying to make life simpler and more convenient, we actually made it more complicated ! The more we invent new solutions to problems, the more we seem to create new problems coming out of complexity. Pressure on life organization in big metropolitan areas is just enormous and hard to manage. It’s not only about commuting, it’s about meals, kids, parents, job, personal life,… My wife regularly tells me: “We should talk organization today” ! And I tend to say: “yes darling, later please” and I’m dreaming of having a robot taking care of all this for me and the family 🙂  So, all new solutions to these organizational problems will be welcome. There is a never ending source of opportunities here that marketers should grasp. The trick is to be the first one or  the most efficient or the cheapest. Choose your formula !

2. Indulgence

Cruz defines an indulgent purchase as “acquiring something to be enjoyed as a special pleasure but that is normally understood as wrong or unhealthy“.  Junk food and sugar-sweet products but also alcohol and tobacco or any relaxing drugs are of course unhealthy but we see an emerging trend of “healthy indulgence” definitely coming out these days. More convenience may help you manage life problems but it doesn’t bring happiness. And happiness is a key value in our post-modern times. We need to feel good for ourselves. The “slow food” movement, originated in Italy a few years ago is a nice refuge value for some of us. Food is always re-comforting, it brings the ones we love together, it’s a way to relax. Some will pair this with wine tasting, some others will develop their talents as cooks. There is a huge market there ! But all activities linked to “a better self” like sport, yoga, meditation, nature hiking,… are multiplying. Everyday, new ideas are emerging leading to micro markets. Be creative, there are opportunities for years in this area !

3. Transparency

In his research report, Cruz gives the example of how people choose their tourism products: “Driven by the advantages of the online channel, sales of tourism products via the internet have grown rapidly in recent years, as this channel provides information, transparency and comparability”. For sure this is not limited to tourism. We look for transparency when preparing a buying decision but we also want transparency on how brands and suppliers are managing their supply chains. What materials went into the products we buy ? Were they manufactured in ethical social conditions ? Do they respect the environment ? And I could post here an infinite number of information that customers and citizens want to know. A number of companies don’t know how to answer this particular need but some innovative guys in the Silicon valley launched startups who detail their cost and margin calculations to anyone. Wow ! What a change in culture. My fellow marketers, don’t be afraid of transparency: go for it and fit the need !

4. Nostalgia

It was so good in the past ! Life was easier, we didn’t have so many problems, we were so happy, bla bla bla… We forget our parents’ hard times and if we would travel back in the past, 30-40 years ago, we would come back as quickly as we went ! Actually, we want to keep the best of these fantasized times. Some products we were already using as kids, some brands our mothers already used, some “feel good” images of the past… I supervised my first final thesis about “nostalgia marketing” about 10 years ago. It was very new. Now, it’s very trendy ! Want an internet radio with a design of the 1950’s ? A vinyl record that you can digitalize on a smart record player ? Dress like Humphrey Bogaert ? Everything is possible. The trick is to combine heritage with technology or fashion. Look at Burberry or  The Mini Cooper. You get the best of both world. Dare to be old. Team with a baby boomer to know how life was in the 60’s, then imagine new “old products” or relaunch forgotten brands !

5. Status

Being a very old human need, status always evolved as do cultures and societies.  Cruz again recalls the evidence that “status triggers a set of emotions, such as pride, satisfaction or superiority. Frequently, consumers buy objects to reflect these emotions and communicate them to other people“. We need to please, to be appreciated, to feel recognized as valuable by people around us and, if we can’t make it to the top, we need to compensate. Brands, fashion and product design, also customer care are some marketing tools helping us to feel important. And what is most interesting today is the link with a strange paradox. We want to be perceived as “different” but we continue to copy others.  There is a huge opportunity here for those marketers and entrepreneurs who can reconcile both of these needs of their target markets. Customization, one to one marketing, micro-niches are the answer. For example, in a number of emerging markets, “buying foreign brands” is a status symbol. But consumers who do that don’t feel so unique. So, it you offer a unique creative foreign brand only available in limited volume, you double the status effect ! Think of it !

Finding niche markets is not a problem if you watch smartly how trends evolve. All behaviors we observe tend to show us the way. Be immersed in the society. Look, hear and smell markets !

Be inspired !

And…thanks to Fernando CRUZ for leading me to reflect about all this !

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