As we approach 2021, we know that the path to purchase is continually shifting and becoming hyper-fragmented. Even the direct-to-consumer markets, which have seen phenomenal annual growth, are seeking opportunities to future-proof themselves against shifting consumer priorities. More so than ever, that’s the shift that matters – it’s no longer a path to purchase, it’s a path to people. Aligning with this mindset will be the difference between growth and stagnation.

There is no more

With global material resource use expected to more than double by 2050, and high-income countries currently consuming 10-times more per person than low-income countries, we will need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths to maintain our current levels of consumption.

This presents an opportunity for brands to not only evolve this critical consumer-led relationship, 

but also generate estimated cost savings of €600 billions by 2030 in Europe alone.

The circular economy has been valued as a trillion-dollar opportunity, and brands that start planning, researching and innovating now will gain a market edge with a new breed of consumer more likely to challenge how a purchase impacts the planet. The EU’s Circular Economy Mission to India in September 2018 found that the reducing resource depletion could “unlock $0.5 tones for India by 2030”.

The climate challenge

As shifting climatic boundaries and extreme weather events reshape urban areas and communities, opportunities will emerge to engage these markets with new goods and services, and for brands to take a lead in creating design-led solutions. Sectors with raw materials already under pressure from climate change, such as coffee and beer, are acting to ensure they can adapt.

On a human level, climate change is beginning to have as measurable an impact on consumer well-being as economic and political uncertainty has in the last few years. Psychologists and mental health professionals are referencing climate anxiety as a growing stress factor.

The population shift

There will be increased polarization around income, with spending power among the middle class in developed economies continuing to weaken. Income inequality is growing, and the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest widening.

In developed regions such as the US, Western Europe, Japan and urban China, middle-income groups are under pressure. Ageing populations and increasing automation will continue to restrict spending power and limit confidence. The response will be the elimination of the middle market, with reinvention and disruption in the value sector.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that rising income inequality between 1990- 2000 took nearly nine points off GDP growth in the UK, and between six and seven points in the United States, Italy and Sweden.

Who will we communicate to

WGSN has issued a cool report regarding 3 types of target brands will have to engage in the future:

The Compresionalists: In a heavily divided society, pressure is one unifier bridging all socioeconomic gaps. From burnt-out Millennials to time-poor Boomers, everyone is suffering. The Compressionalists are exhausted and under pressure. This is a group that needs brands to help make their lives better.

Kindness Keepers: In an era of Twitter wars and internet trolls, hate spreads at the swipe of a smartphone. However, a growing tide of kindness is pushing back. Kindness Keepers aim to build bridges through low-key acts of power, equitable community developments and by bursting their own filter bubbles.

Market Makers: Western consumers may feel fragile, but in India, Africa and Southeast Asia they are experiencing a wave of optimism that will result in social and political change. Entrepreneurial and go-getting, Market Makers are energized and creating their own opportunities.