At the start of the year, Mintel’s team of global expert analysts identified and analyzed four key consumer trends set to impact the US consumer market in 2015. As we prepare to release our predictions looking ahead to 2016, Mintel Trends analysts Stacy Glasgow and Jenny Zegler take a look at how the current year’s trends are playing out…

Get Smart

With “Get Smart,” we predicted that, “The world of synced devices, including wearable technology and smart home appliances, will become mainstream as trusted retailers and manufacturers satisfy consumer appetites for collecting data and controlling devices.”

As 2015 has progressed, we’ve seen a host of smart device launches – from IKEA’s unveiling of its HomeSmart range of furniture with built-in wireless charging spots to the launch of the June Intelligent Oven with cameras that recognize food and cook it automatically. Meanwhile, Forbes ventured that Nest had sold “between 1 and 2 million” of its thermostats as of April 2015.

On the wearables front, April’s launch of the Apple Watch delivered our predicted “shot in the arm” for the entire industry. Apple revealed that “sales in its first nine weeks exceeded those of the iPhone and iPad in their first nine weeks of availability.” No doubt this has informed IT specialists IDC’s hearty forecast that the worldwide wearables market will grow by 173% in 2015 to ship 72.1 million devices.

The usability of personal data collected from smart devices has been furthered, too. Insurer John Hancock’s Vitality program distributes Fitbit bracelets to customers and calculates premiums accordingly. Programs such as this lead 63% of executives surveyed by Accenture to estimate that wearable technologies will be widely adopted by the industry within two years.

Mintel research confirms that consumer interest in and adoption of synced gadgets continues to grow. Household ownership of smart televisions has grown from 20% in 2013 to 27% in 2015, proving just one of myriad ways in which consumers are steadily “getting smarter.”

My Wallet, My Way

In “My Wallet, My Way,” Mintel analysts projected that, “Consumers’ expectations for on-demand convenience are blurring the lines between digital and brick-and-mortar retail, not only driving immediacy in shopping, but also expanding it into any consumer interactions with businesses.”

Well into the year, those expectations have certainly intensified and in reaction, we’ve seen businesses innovate with approaches that streamline every step of consumer-brand interactions. Domino’s, for example, now allows customers to simply and swiftly text an emoji to order pizza.

The digital and physical worlds have become further enmeshed in order meet these shifting consumer norms, and retailers like Target have begun testing beacon technology that effectively connects shoppers with digital deals and information in a real-world context. Mintel’s Baby Durables US 2015 report indicates that consumers seek these personalized interactions; some 24% of parents who are baby durables owners say they want offers sent to their smartphone or tablet while shopping and/or in close proximity of an item on sale.

When it comes to product delivery, while click-and-collect services continue to pique consumer interest, in 2015 we’ve seen an especially strong showing of business models that promise utmost convenience and immediacy by sending requested products directly to where consumers are – everything from food to clothing to cars. Fast-food restaurants like Taco Bell have announced plans to begin testing delivery; Macy’s has expanded its same-day delivery service to 17 US cities; and New York-based start-up Vroom allows people to purchase a pre-owned car online and have it delivered to their door.

This concept has spread to customer-service-based industries as well. Sprint’s Direct 2 You program sends customers who are upgrading from an existing service a new smartphone – as well as a real Sprint expert – straight to their location, and Los Angeles start-up Heal sends on-demand doctors to patients within 60 minutes. We’re seeing options to eliminate inconveniences in every part of life; consumers can now even avoid the hassle of fueling up their cars with gas delivery service Filld.

Fight For Your Rights

Uprisings were in the air inspiring “Fight For Your Rights,” Mintel’s 2015 prediction that noted the, “Growing awareness of customer rights and corporate misbehavior will see consumers demand more fairness and justice from companies, with consumer input becoming almost integral.”

Consumers are, indeed, paying attention to company activities, with 63% of US adults agreeing that ethical issues are becoming more important, according to Mintel’s The Ethical Consumer US 2015 report. Moreover, shoppers are taking action as 35% of US adults will stop buying from a company that they believe is unethical even if there is no substitute for the brand, product or service. On the other hand, there also is a halo effect to buying products deemed ethical because 58% of US adults agree that buying products that are ethically produced makes them feel good.

The most important ethical factor chosen by 48% of US adults is worker treatment, connecting with the ongoing attention on wages. This year has seen continued petitions and protests to raise the minimum wage for fast food workers as well as calls to follow Seattle’s lead and establish higher minimum wages in specific cities. The gender pay gap also is being showcased by new concepts, including one-day only bar tab discounts for women and US pop-up shop <100 where women pay less than retail at a rate determined by the gender wage gaps in that area.

Consumer input turned the tide in the food industry in 2015 as leading food, beverage and foodservice companies responded to calls for more transparency. This has led to announcements regarding plans to remove artificial ingredients from General Mills’ breakfast cereals, Nestlé’s  chocolate candy, and menu items at Subway and “Taco Bell”. The industry also is facing pressure regarding wasted food, with France providing the most progressive model in which supermarkets are banned from throwing away food.

Gender Agenda

Progress was swift when it came to “Gender Agenda,” which stated that, “People are questioning traditional notions of gender, rejecting the restraints of stereotypes, and embracing the freedom to be themselves and do what they want.”

In the first two months of 2015, President Barack Obama mentioned the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in his State of the Union address. Gender also took a less formal field during the Super Bowl with ads that focused on the role of fathers and on boosting confidence in tweenage girls. On a much more glamorous stage, the Academy Awards, equal pay for women and overall acceptance were highlighted by Oscar winners Patricia Arquette and Graham Moore.

The year also was marked with momentous progress in acceptance of the transgender community. Personal care brand Clean & Clear featured transgender spokeswoman Jazz Jennings in its “See the Real Me” campaign. The insides of magazines weren’t all that featured transgender spokespeople, as Time and Vanity Fair magazines dedicated covers to Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. The latter’s speech accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the sports award ceremony, the ESPYs, was preceded by transgender-supportive ads from internet staples Airbnb and Google. These campaigns could connect with US Millennials, 58% of whom agree that ads today represent diversity in the US, according to Mintel’s Marketing to Millennials US 2015 report.

Coinciding with that movement, gender stereotypes were challenged in fashion, with UK department store Selfridges’ launch of its Agender Project, and in language, as Sweden added a gender-neutral pronoun. Parents also are influencing companies to recognize that gender stereotypes are relics of the past; just 21% of US parents cited “appropriate for a child’s gender” as an important factor when choosing an activity, as per Mintel’s Activities of Toddlers and Pre-schoolers US 2014 report. This year Amazon removed the gender categorizations of their toy sections; Target removed gender-based signs in its Home, Entertainment and Toy departments; and a growing number of US clothing start-ups have launched dedicated to offering gender-neutral clothing. Children’s dream professions also are losing stereotypical boundaries thanks in part to campaigns like #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

Stacy Glasgow is a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel. Stacy joined Mintel in 2013 bringing with her an exciting blend of CPG, agency and marketing experience. Her time is spent traveling the US engaging clients across global CPG, Beauty and Financial Services in meaningful discussions around the consumer trends that will propel their businesses forward.

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