What trends are shaping consumerism in 2015? trendwatching.com's Director of Trends & Insights Maxwell Luthy shares some of the most important trends to know and what these mean for the spa industry.
Pulse: Can you give an overview of one of the most important consumer trends that entrepreneurs need to keep an eye on for 2015?
Luthy: The big idea that we're most excited about at the moment is probably one of our more controversial. It's called "Post-demographic Consumerism". It's about how consumers aren't fitting into the buckets marketing types used to try put them in. Their consumption patterns are no longer defined by traditional segments such as age, gender, location, income, family, status - the kinds of things people usually design their products around.
This has come about because consumers around the world have access to this sort of global brain of information that the Internet has provided, so they can access media, products and services from across borders and get inspiration for their own identities and lifestyles.
At the same time, especially in emerging markets around Asia and Africa, with increased urbanization, you find some people have been able to shed the traditional kind of cultural restrictions they've experienced. City living is more accepting of experimentation and trying new things.
Finally, thanks to an increased abundance of product choices, people now have the ability to say: "This is who I am and this is what I'd like to consume." And it sometimes conflicts with our traditional assumptions about people and how they might choose to spend their money or enjoy their time.
P: In what way has lifestyle impacted the way businesses offer value or determine price points for their products and services?
L: One of the trends we're quite excited about is "Currencies of Change", and this is anchored in the long-standing desire that people have for self-improvement, which is something your industry is quite familiar with - a desire to live healthy and live mindfully, to improve yourself at work or in different areas.
The problem is that most people have a motivation issue. Even with wearable technology and online education platforms, people still struggle to reach their goals. This is actually an opportunity for brands to motivate their consumers to meet these goals with incentives and discounts.
Another exciting trend is "Sympathetic Pricing". There are a lot of brands and businesses that tell people they care about their unique lifestyles and sympathize with them and their demands. Sympathetic pricing is brands actually putting their money where their mouth is and proving they care about consumers by offering discounts to alleviate pain points.
P: How does trendwatching.com gather its global trends?
L: We have a network of spotters in over 90 countries, and they send us information - from Boston to Beijing - with local examples of the sort of global or regional trends that we track.
Our analysts are constantly reading the business press and tracking thousands of sources online. Once we've seen the outline of a trend, we'll post it to our spotters, asking them:"Have you seen this in your area? Can you give us any examples? Can you tell us your own personal insight on the trend?" From there we fit the insights into our trend framework.
P: For entrepreneurs constantly bombarded with trends and fads, it is often challenging to filter from one the other. What's the best way to distinguish trends from fads?
L: The main difference is that fads come and go, whereas trends evolve. Almost every trend I've spoken about comes from somewhere, another trend or megatrend, and it's anchored in needs. Everything we write about is anchored in these core needs: status, convenience, safety and connection with individuals. They're not changing, and trends evolve out of that, whereas a fad just comes and goes and is based on novelty.
P: Is there a particular global shift of consumer behavior that you believe will impact the spa or wellness industry the most?
L: We have a trend about self-improvement which touched on a more core need for peace of mind or more efficient daily life. All the ways that we could probably improve probably relates to that. We tell all of our clients that every trend is relevant because they all stem from the core consumer wants and values, the desire for convenience, status, more connection with strangers and the ability to relax and rest. These are the drivers of any of our trends.
In the context of "Post-demographic Consumerism", business need to be willing to tackle their own assumptions, say "What is it we're assuming about our target audience or market?" I'm sure you're industry is as guilty as any of having long-held ideas about who uses your services and what they are like. Be prepared to question, reimagine, and even overturn the decades of assumptions you've made about your consumers.
With "Post-demographic Consumerism", we're not saying that you can't target consumers at all. Rather than target people for what experts are saying they should consume, one potential strategy for spa owners and managers is to use data that consumers are sharing about their own interests in order to target them by their own chosen identity.
P: In the world of business, where competitors conveniently copy each other, how can brands or companies become trendsetters rather than copycats?
L: There's no shame in copying - it's sort of like picking up the ball and running further with it, in a new context. Another service we offer is an exciting look at some of the things other people are doing. There's no shame in seeing that and being inspired by that because those people have 100 percent been inspired by somebody else.
If you are a spa brand and you see a marketing campaign by a local coffee shop you can ask yourself, "Why do I like this so much? Why does it resonate? How can I tweak this for my own clientele?" A lot of people think trend-based innovation is really expensive, and one other trend that's interesting is called "Politeness Pays", and it's about re-introducing good manners into communal areas of interaction.
P: Are there significant cultural differences among these trends in different parts of the world?
L: We do see differences. What's probably more surprising is the amount of similarity among consumers. We've always had spotters around the world, but this is the second year we had offices in Sao Paulo, Singapore, and Lagos. What's interesting is that the trend "Sympathetic Pricing" was first spotted in our Brazilian office, and since they shared it with us, we've been seeing a demand for it around the world. For instance, we've seen it in the Philippines. There's considerable behavior on a global level that's massively impacted by mobile technology.