As Mintel looks ahead to 2015, Trends Analysts Stacy Glasgow and Jenny Zegler examine the consumer behavior that will shape the US marketplace next year and beyond.

1. How does it look: Aesthetics are becoming more important in ‘smart’ technology

Mintel data finds that 22% of all US consumers have purchased a wearable device like a smart watch or Fitbit. While some consumers could be wooed by the possibility of personalized data, others will need to know that the device helps to express their personal style or fits in with their home décor. From choosing the accessories in a car to organizing apps on their smart phones, people have become used to the notion that their purchases adapt to who they are rather than vice versa. In the world of technological innovations, this means making sure style is a factor as well as service.

2. Show me the numbers: ‘Smart’ consumers are becoming more data hungry

The growth of wearable technology devices and smart home appliances has given consumers access to a wealth of information about their activity and choices. This ready access to data has transcended the initial motivations that might have inspired the purchase at first, such as weight loss or utility bill savings. Now that these early adopters understand how data collection can impact their choices, new avenues are emerging for companies to help consumers analyze their data, provide expert advice or incentivize them to share their numbers. Additionally, the desire to make numbers-driven decisions will expand into new industries, influencing retailers, financial services, insurance companies and medicine.

3. Convenience crossover: Online and brick-and-mortar channels blur

The 24-hour corner stores that used to be considered convenient were compromised by the internet’s “always open” policy. In recent years, we’ve seen internet retailers further target brick-and-mortar stores by offering immediacy through tests of same-day delivery or in-transit pick-up. As a result, consumers’ expectations for on-demand convenience are blurring the lines between digital and brick-and-mortar retail. We’re seeing brick-and-mortar retailers meld with the digital as more locations offer easier pick-up for online orders, and on the other side, virtual-only services open physical stores. Retailers and services who seamlessly bridge the gap can certainly stand to benefit.

4. The customer is always right: Monitoring and consultation becomes more integral to avoid offense

In the online age, the old adage “The customer is always right,” is becoming even more relevant. Consumers are more apt to take to the internet to vent frustration about poor customer service, questionable employee treatment, vexatious ingredients and out-of-date product positioning. Hashtag-powered online petitions, social media posts or viral videos then place companies on the defensive – forcing corporations to respond to this vocal, albeit somewhat anonymous, mob. In 2015, it will be integral for companies to be proactive. Marketers must begin R&D by monitoring social media chatter, consulting with fans and testing potential products, packaging or promotions to ensure that their plans do not risk offending consumers, most especially the digital dissenters.

5. Equality as an expectation: Consumers ditch stereotypes for inclusionary marketing

One of the more vocal, and viral, debates regarding product positioning has been about gender. People are growing more concerned about the glass ceiling limiting women as well as a perception that men are entitled to escape housework and parental duties. As internet chatter can easily lead to boycotts, the time has come for marketers to break free from traditional gender roles and encourage people to transcend age-old archetypes. This includes gender-neutral toys for children, acceptance of women in the c-suites and retailers that understand men are taking care of their appearance, and potentially the entire family’s shopping list.

For more information about what marketers need to know about consumers in the year ahead, click here to download your free copy of Mintel’s US Consumer Trends 2015.

In her work for Mintel’s Food & Drink platform, Jenny is dedicated to consumer trends through the lens of the food and drink industry. For this project, her expertise in global food and drink was complemented by collaboration with Mintel Consumer Trends Analyst Stacy Glasgow.

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