Richard Cope
Richard is a Senior Trends Consultant, bringing the latest consumer trends to Mintel clients through bespoke presentations and represents Mintel at global conferences.

At the start of the year, Mintel’s team of global expert analysts identified and analysed four key trends set to impact the UK consumer market in 2015. As we move over halfway through the year, Mintel’s Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope takes a look at how our 2015 trend ‘Get Smart’ is playing out…

With ‘Get Smart’, we predicted that “The world of synced devices, home appliances and wearable technology will start to mainstream, as trusted retailers and manufacturers move into the market and convert consumer appetite into action”.

Mintel’s data finds that Internet of Things (IoT) technology was something of a divisive issue amongst consumers, but that it held definite potential as well. Proving this since our prediction, in our Device Integration and the Connected Home UK 2015 report, half (50%) of UK adults (rising to 69% of Millennials) declared that they would like to improve connectivity in their home, while 50% stated that they either had no interest or were undecided. Uptake might be modest, but potential seems strong, as shown in the splits for existing ownership of/interest in smart set top boxes (37%/24%), smart TVs (27%/36%), smart kitchen appliances (13%/30%), smart smoke detectors (8%/35%), smart thermostats (7%/36%) and smart audio speakers (8%/30%).

Thrift and convenience would appear to be the factors that might convert this interest into action, with 58% of consumers believing that the installation of smart heating devices would help towards reducing their energy bills, while 47% said they would expect day-to-day tasks to become easier to perform thanks to IoT products.

As 2015 progressed, we saw a host of smart device launches – from IKEA’s unveiling of its HomeSmart range of furniture with built in wireless charging spots, to Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual home assistant Echo going global in June, whilst Forbes ventured that Nest had sold “between 1 and 2 million” of its thermostats as of April 2015.

The hospitality and catering sectors have also pushed the cause and possibilities of smart security and home appliances, with Starwood Hotels in the US offering apps to allow consumers to unlock rooms with phones and Virgin Hotels launching ‘Lucy’ – another app that can change the room temperature, order room service and act as a tour guide around town. In the kitchen we saw South Korea’s SK Telecom and Hyundai create a line of connected furniture with touchscreen controls and the June Intelligent Oven originate in San Francisco as a smart appliance using cameras to recognise food and cook it automatically.

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”, adding that the iPad had sold 3 million units in its first 11 weeks on sale. This has doubtless informed IT specialists IDC’s hearty forecast that the worldwide wearables market will grow by 173% in 2015 to ship 72.1 million devices.

In 2015, as highlighted in our predictions, we’ve seen wearables get prettier – in the form of Misfit and Swarovski’s Shine range of devices, featuring crystal solar charging – and also get more serious, by becoming the black box recorders on our wrists that determine the deals we get from insurers.

What started as a marketing gimmick in Russia, with Alfa-Bank’s Alfa Activity programme granting preferential interests to customers who could prover their business with their Fitbit, Jawbone or Run-Keeper device, soon became a harbinger of policy futures. In the US, insurer John Hancock’s Vitality programme distributed Fitbit bracelets to customers and calculated premiums accordingly, leading 63% of executives surveyed by Accenture to venture that wearable technologies will be widely adopted by the industry within two years.

As the year pressed on, a host of innovations convinced Mintel that in the long-term – beyond 2015 – it was the needs of Seniors – whether they be energetically working into their 90s, or be less mobile and housebound – that would ultimately guarantee that both wearables and smart home technology would prevail. In wearables we saw American brands Lively and Unaliwear create smartwatches for seniors that track activity and send medication reminders and Israel’s Institute of Technology create a ‘Sniffphone’ breathalyser smartphone attachment capable of detecting early signs of diseases like cancer in breath particles.

In the home, China’s Jeejen developed a smartphone for seniors that came stored in a daily medicine case that sends reminders if a dose has been missed and A.I. Nemo appeared as a ‘smart companion robot’ aimed at keeping people in touch with their elderly relatives. We also contended that Amazon’s launch of its Dash’s smart, branded ordering buttons for staple products like washing powder was neither an April fool or an easy to mock shortcut for uber-busy Millennials, but in fact a very prescient product to warm the hearts of those 37% of UK seniors who back in 2013 told us they liked shopping online because they are less mobile than they used to be.

As a coda to all this extra-reliance on connectivity we also predicted a host of counter innovations to help us cope and switch off – and have seen these develop in 2015 as predicted. Our favourites so far include the city of Antwerp’s division of pedestrian pavements into normal and ‘slow’ phone lanes, Innocent’s tech-free ‘Unplugged’ festival outside of London in May and Dolmio’s Australian launch of a pepper grinder that, once used, shuts down Wi-Fi, in a bid to preserve the sacrosanctity of dinnertime.

Richard Cope is Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel. He works as a trends analyst, consultant, presenter and facilitator on bespoke client projects. As a globally recognised leading trends commentator, he is regularly called on by media worldwide to provide insight and analysis into consumer trends.