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.”
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.