Thought provoking and inspirational
The British Council
Tom Savigar is Trends Director of The Future Laboratory. He masterminds a group of 2,500 creatives, designers, analysts, stylists, DJs, gamers and academics to keep ahead of what's new and what's next. His work helps companies understand and meet consumer needs.
Tom characterises the key shift to have emerged in the recession as New Sobriety. Rather than the ' little and often' approach that dominated recent years, the new motto across fashion, food and home is 'fewer and better.' It represents a move away from the infatuation with newness and reinvention towards a more sober and sensible aesthetic.
In a different vein, Tom explores changes in the world of online. Social networks, bloggers, collaborative branding and the referral culture are all making the internet increasingly female. Meanwhile, right brain attitudes are becoming more prevalent in the tools, technologies and search engine techniques that we use to navigate the web.
Tom's presentations offer practical insights into diverse markets - from the ethical to the 'no frills' sector. He considers the whole customer experience and how new technology will enable ever greater interaction.
Away from corporate assignments, Tom maintains his interest in fashion, textiles and design, working with students to sharpen their sense of the market. He also finds time to develop his own fledgling designer menswear label.
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Q: What are the emerging consumer trends?
A: One is that many people are saying 'no' and becoming ever more judgmental In their attitude to health, alcohol and diet. Spearheaded by these new neo-conservative 'localists' and spurred on by recession, this shift carries huge implications for brands and retailers.
Q: So how are we changing our diet?
A: Some consumers are now weighing up organic over local produce. Young people are embracing GM, whilst the older generation home in on hyperfoods in the hope of extending their longevity. What's next, food grown in transit?
Q: And how will marketers and advertisers respond?
A:With advertising in the doldrums and blatant product placement despised by savvy consumers, we're moving away from separated advertising and content. In the new landscape, embedded marketing could mean that TV characters become the main conduit to a suite of brands.
Q: What other major shifts are afoot?
A:The world economy will increasingly be based on what The Economist calls 'womenomics.' Female-run businesses will double in the next decade to more than 2 million, with ten times more in the FTSE-100. The question is, how will men respond to the growing numbers of alpha females?
Extract from JLA Speakers Breakfast
The New Sobriety and Online Reliance
We are entering a time when instead of the 'little and often' approach to consumption, 'fewer and better' becomes the norm. What does that mean for retailers?
In the next five years we will see austerity as an important indicator. People have gorged on cheap fashion in the same way as they have gorged on cheap food - but now they want their vegetables. Consumers will ask how long a £25 Tesco cashmere jumper will last. Would they be better off going to a luxury brand?
The economic slowdown affects a new generation of consumers who take luxuries for granted and equate value with quality over cheapness. Survival is not simply about dropping prices. People are feeling the pinch, but want products to last and are prepared to pay for quality. Luxury retailers can survive the next 18 months, but will have to do a lot more to get people through the door or click onto their website.
Online access is ubiquitous and spans all generations of consumers. Customers have shorter attention spans and are used to looking at comparison sites before demanding a better price in store. British politeness is being challenged as we move into an American-style service economy.
Customers have a positive attitude to online shopping - 77% think it is more convenient, and 71% believe it offers more choice. It is empowering and offers a sense of convenience and one-upmanship. This links into the new sobriety - with staying in as the new going out, people are shopping in their dressing gowns for Louis Vuitton.
Woolworths has been bought and is tipped to become the newest biggest online challenger to Amazon in the next two years. Why weren't they doing that before?
We are seeing the rise of the female web. Globally, more new users, social network subscribers and entrepreneurs are women, and the Internet is changing accordingly. The most successful websites are about collaboration, empathy and experiences.
Social networking is not going to go away. Last year £4.2 million was earned on MySpace. Young entrepreneurs see it as their Portobello Market. People shop, bank, find friends, seek medical advice online. 43% believe the Internet is a trusted source of information - more so than friends and family.
Top Shop now sell more on MySpace now than they do on Topshop.com. Customers have a wiki on their desktop scrolling dresses, and while they chat with friends about going out, can make the purchase with one click.
But for all the talk about the rise of the digital native, humans still want an interactive experience. We go into Borders and look at the book, then buy it on Amazon. We do things with our eyes, ears, mouths and hands that are sensorial - that's why the death of the bookshop hasn't happened. It just means a shift - a re-calibration of what the store is for, what a server is there to do. People want an authentic Internet experience, not a robot talking to them.
We are seeing the rise of meta-tagging, people searching for companies by emotional tags. Customer generated content is increasingly becoming the make or break element of your website. You cannot exist unless you bring the consumer into the conversation.
Retailers must collaborate, and be seen as an engaging and passionate brand for the connoisseur consumer. This is now a mainstream concept. Consumers will connect with brands via stories and emotions.
JLA: To what extent can one accurately predict consumer trends?
TS: On broad social themes we work 2-5 years ahead. To date we've been very accurate - we began highlighting problems of deficit finance living 3 years ago.
JLA: Will this recession dramatically change previous assumptions?
TS: It is accelerating many of the trends that had already begun to take effect - authenticity, community, sobriety, 'less stuff'. Consumers are re-evaluating their relationship with product, and the downturn is bringing this process into focus.
JLA: How can you retain brand loyalty - isn't it all about price now?
TS: We still vote Waitrose our favourite retail brand, not because it's the cheapest but because it offers value for money. It's more expensive, but better. Consumers will expect their brands to deliver better.
JLA: Should business be focusing on core competences or innovation?
TS: Both. A business that fails to innovate is a dying business. A business that doesn't understand what it does best is losing its way. Neither are advisable.
JLA: Is technology necessarily the starting point for innovation?
TS: Technological development defines innovation in this era, but it's never all there is. A company that can innovate in the way it deals with its most important resource - staff - might do so in a highly tactile, face-to-face manner.
JLA: How will the attitude to risk will change in the recession?
TS: Undoubtedly the mood amongst consumers is for safety. However, brands that are prepared to be brave and take risks will prosper and grow.
Social and cultural trends in 2009
Rather than the 'little and often' approach to consumption that has dominated in recent years, 'fewer and better' is to become the new motto across fashion, food and home.
A troubled economy, have-it-now culture and the growth of 'premiumisation' are creating a new high-end, high-touch home retail model that requires brands to rethink their attitude to design, delivery, service and personal after-care.
The Female Web:
Social networks, female bloggers, collaborative branding and the growth of referral culture are making the internet increasingly female. Meanwhile, right-brain attitudes are being seen in the tools, technologies and search engine techniques we use to navigate the web.
The rise of experience culture, immersive marketing and a need to embrace value are bringing about a free-to-try approach to retailing that has already seen terms like 'freevertising', 'freenomics' and 'freetractive' enter common culture.
The lines between business and leisure are blurring, as the changing nature of work puts an end to the work/life balance. This shift in attitudes and leisure practices affects every sector from travel and tourism to media and finance.