Emerging Trends

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Emerging Cultural Trends

Three trends which have dominated 2019 and are expected to continue over the next several years include increasing desires for personal connections (over tech connections), increasing changes in the workplace, and increasing awareness of gender/sexual identities with increased inclusivity.

Trend: Increased Desire for Personal Connections (Over Tech Connections)

  • During 2019, Americans grew more interested in experiencing a greater connected-unconnected life balance, and increased the time they spent off social media and in “unmediated” engagements with others. An example of an unmediated engagement is a dinner with friends where phone use is disallowed. Notably, for the first time ever, social media use is down, though only about 4% in a year-over-year comparison.
  • Along these lines and amid the political and social turmoil of recent years, more Americans are “seeking normalcy,” or a return to a comfortable state. Part of this is reconnecting with family and friends in social engagements. Notably, among Amazon’s “hottest categories” right now are traditional board games.
  • With the reduction of social capital in recent decades, which was distinctly increased by the rise of social media, people are lonelier and feeling more isolated from others than ever before. Some companies are addressing this in creative ways, like Sainsbury’s, for example. The grocer/cafes have set up “talking tables” where patrons can sit indicating they are open to conversation with anyone else who’d like to join them. Experts state Americans can expect to see rises in F2F (face-to-face) and/or tech-disconnected events.
  • With the increasing rises in surveillance and personal data collection, Americans are also pushing back against related privacy concerns. In the US alone, companies like Microsoft have “called for the US government to start implementing laws on the use of facial recognition,” and consumers have given Amazon significant grief over their selling of its proprietary facial recognition software to the government.

Trend: Increasing Changes in the Workplace

  • Some trending changes in the workplace include increases in non-traditional work roles and environments, increases in flexible and non-traditional career paths, and increases in work-related tech innovations.
  • Non-traditional modes of working, like working from home and co-working, have been on the rise and are expected to continue to do so in the coming years. To meet this growing demand, several innovations have come on the market that “dissolve the notion of distinct and fixed spaces for work, home, and leisure.” One example is the e-NV200 WORKSPACe, which is a mobile vehicle that “amalgamates car and work spaces,” so consumers can work wherever they want to or even on the go without a loss of comfort, space, or office conveniences.
  • Additionally, as the gig economy grows, Americans can expect to see increases in collaborative and flexible career approach options, as opposed to the more-traditional “simple, singular, linear” career paths. A recent study by Harvard Business Review showed that 80% of US workers “desire more flexibility at work when it comes to location and schedule.”
  • Although established businesses are slow to come to terms with these non-traditional arrangements, workers are demanding these changes. Experts say “a new collaborative space is emerging between the corporate and freelance career” workspaces, and this will only continue to increase.
  • Companies and brands can expect increased pressure from employees and consumers to take specific stances on political and/or social issues. Research from Edelman’s shows that almost two-thirds of American consumers “want companies to take a stand on social issues,” and that pressure has brought a 17.4% increase (in six months) in companies willing to do so. One example is Patagonia’s $10 Million Tax Breaks, which gives monies to groups dedicated to helping save the planet, “an act they think the government should be undertaking.”
  • With this increased pressure for brand activism comes increases in morality and ethical marketing practices by brands. Companies that want to stay current and keep Americans happy are utilizing these techniques to demonstrate their support for specific causes or issues.
  • Another change in the workplace will be the continuing rise in autonomous tech and AI-driven robot employees. Chatbots have now become the norm, “for things like ordering pizza, choosing a mobile plan, or booking a hotel room,” and this will continue to increase in the coming years. More and more brands, like Walmart, are installing cashier-free check-out lines, or are employing AI-bot-based help/chat options, and this will become the norm in the future.
  • One example is Postmate’s Serve, an AI-bot that has become part of Postmates’ delivery fleet. This bot was not designed to replace humans, but to “be dispatched to areas with congested traffic, saving fuel and time.”
  • Other companies are engaging AI-bots for other things like conducting interviews, managing medical facility medicine cabinets (smart dispensaries), or for providing senior companionship, like Zora the Robot Caregiver.

Trend: Increasing Awareness of Gender/ Sexual Identities & Increased Inclusivity

  • With the rise of inclusivity and individualism movements in the US has come increased awareness of the varying gender and sexual identities of Americans; this specifically refers to non-binary genders and sexualities. In the coming years, we can “expect to see more visibility and understanding of distinct identities and ways of living, e.g., enbys, polyamory, aces, pansexuals.”
  • In 2019 and beyond, experts say there will be a continuing shift toward “inclusivity [and] individualism.” Organizations all over the world are addressing gender stereotyping at younger ages, and products are being developed to meet growing demands. One example includes apps that are “designed to assist people in unlearning gender stereotypes by altering key words via predictive text.”
  • Because of this increased awareness and increased demand for inclusivity, as well as the aftermath of the #MeToo Movement (and similar efforts), “more companies will be focused on their gender equality policies and seeking out more independent female directors.” Other experts note that “private companies are accelerating policies aimed at eliminating workplace harassment and supporting initiatives that encourage greater inclusion and diversity.”

Research Strategy

We identified these trends by searching for what experts across multiple industries believe to be the top cultural and sociological trends happening in 2019. From these, we extrapolated only those appearing across multiple expert lists and which are predicted to continue through the next few years, and synthesized them into our findings.

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Emerging Consumer Trends

Consumer trends that are expected to continue to have an influence include consumer data protection, the use of virtual assistants by consumers, and tech advancements to go along with them. Consumers are also becoming more educated and are changing their spending habits to suit their values and preferences.

Consumer Data Protection

  • With the introduction of new laws and regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, which provides consumers with greater control over how their data is collected and used, people are now able to control where and how their personal information is used online.
  • The 2020 presidential election season is expected to inevitably generate new policy proposals and in this case, the Democrat front runners 'each have internet privacy, data and big tech squarely in their sights.' Bernie Sanders is quoted saying his internet privacy policy is simple, 'Our information belongs to us, not corporations.'
  • This is a trend because it is not only happening in most states in the U.S. (such as California) but also globally.
  • It is driven by the spotlight that was on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) throughout most of 2018 and the massive wave of influence it had on privacy updates and regulations worldwide.

Tech Advances and Virtual Assistants Use

Consumer is More Educated and is Spending Differently

  • The consumers' spending habits are changing, especially for the HENRYs (high-earners-not-rich-yet) who are individuals reaching 38 years of age this year. They’re 'buying for now, not for future investment' and are also in search of 'luxury brands that are aligned with their personal values and in tune with the digital way they prefer to engage with brands.'
  • The changing spending habits of the consumer is a trend because 'a large swathe of young people', the HENRYs, who make up the consumer base are becoming more selective with what they spend on.
  • This trend is driven by the fact that the percentage of the population with college degrees or higher has increased significantly. White and black Americans with a college education increased by 12 percent and Hispanics by 7 percent over the last 20 years. As a result, the consumer base has become more educated and knowledgeable and has developed different spending patterns.
  • It is also driven by the consumer's adoption of new tech and their preferred medium for digitally interacting with brands.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To identify 3 emerging consumer trends that are predicted to have influence over the next two years, the research team began by looking for previously compiled data that outlined emerging consumer trends and identified those that appeared on multiple lists as general trends. We also read through consumer research found on business magazine and market research websites. We also looked for and read through press releases, consumer behavior publications, and tech news publications.
Part
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Part
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Emerging Economic Trends

Three emerging economic trends that are predicted to influence the US economy of the next two years are the anticipated US recession, stabilizing US interest rates and increasing natural disasters in the country due to climate change.

Recession

  • Perhaps the most significant and consistently discussed economic trend in the US over the next two years is that of a recession.
  • Top-tier media and business outlets including The Washington Post and CNBC regularly report on growing expectations for this downward economic trend, which often manifests in the form of a domino effect of weakening production, employment, household incomes and consumer spending.
  • Notably, in August of 2019, the National Association for Business Economics highlighted that almost three out of four economists expected the US would fall into a recession by 2021.
  • Additionally, US economic leaders including Bridgewater Associates Founder Ray Dalio have increased their forecast for this trend from 35% at the beginning of the year, to a probability of 40% by the 2020 election.
  • Notably, a number of factors are believed to be driving this trend, including weakening US retail sales and industrial production.
  • Specifically, in November of 2019, economic forecaster and Co-founder of the Economic Cycle Research Institute Lakshman Achuthan highlighted that industrial production has fallen to a three-and-a-half-year low, while retail sales are experiencing a notable deceleration.
  • However, opinions related to this trend remain conflicted, with other economists as well as The White House maintaining positions regarding the US economy's continued strength.

Interest Rates

  • In parallel, a preponderance of financial media and analysts including CNBC, Forbes and Deloitte are expecting a near-term trend in the form of the continued suppression of US interest rates.
  • Specifically, the fed funds rate controls short-term interest rates in the US, which influence the prime rates for banks, the Libor rate, most adjustable-rate loans and credit card rates, among others.
  • Notably, many US business market participants believe that the Federal Open Market Committee will not increase its benchmark interest rate for the "foreseeable future," after the committee lowered the current fed funds rate to 2% this past September of 2019.
  • At this currently low fed funds rate level, the US Federal Reserve would normally be expected to continue raising interest rates, however increasing indicators of US economic weakness alongside growing expectations for a recession have driven the Fed to indicate that it will not proceed with further rate increases through 2021.
  • Ultimately, the consequences of this economic trend are widespread, including the temporary stability of many loans as well as higher savings deposit interest rates for US households.
  • However, some analysts, including Morgan Stanley, believe that the Federal Reserve will continue cutting interest rates, which could undermine this stability but might support renewed economic activity in the US.

Natural Disasters due to Climate Change

  • Finally, experts ranging from the business world (e.g., CNBC) to the US government (e.g., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are predicting an increasing trend of natural disasters due to climate change over the next two years and beyond.
  • This trend of major weather and climate events has been emerging over the past three years, with the average number of billion-dollar disasters in the US during 2016, 2017 and 2018 representing more than double the long-term average for the country.
  • Notably, a variety of research suggests that climate change in the form of global warming is likely making these natural disasters more frequent as well as more intense.
  • Going forward, major pillars of the US economy, including the insurance industry, are flagging natural disasters and climate change as a "top risk" for 2019 and beyond.
  • Additionally, the Richmond Federal Reserve has estimated that this trend will reduce US economic growth by 30% over the next century.
  • Meanwhile, the near-term ramifications of this trend in economic terms is also significant, with the fourteen events in the US in 2018 costing $91 billion in and of themselves.
  • Moreover, these disasters and global warming have much wider immediate impacts throughout the US economy.
  • For example, as the US experiences more heat waves, it undercuts food production and raises related prices, because corn and soybean yields in the country fall when temperatures rise above 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Research Strategy

Please note, for the purpose of this analysis, an emerging economic trend that is predicted to influence the US economy over the next two years was identified as a trend, factor, influence or other significant impact highlighted as a near-term trend by two or more credible resources. Moreover, each of the trends selected were flagged as those that will likely impact the US economy over the next two years.
Sources
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