Crucial consumer trends for 2011: a media perspective

Carat's Alastair Taylor provides food for media thought on's top 11 consumer trends for 2011.

International trendspotting firm released its list of top 11 ‘crucial consumer trends’ this week, highlighting shifts in how consumers view the marketplace.

In an effort to see how these trends will be reflected in the mediaverse, MiC asked Alastair Taylor, account planning director with Carat in Toronto, for his reaction to the list, and if the agency’s recently published Consumer Connection study could shed any light on what it means for media strategy in 2011.

Of the 11 top trends – which can be viewed here – Taylor selected three that are likely to have an impact on brand and media strategy in the New Year.

Pricing Pandemonium (#3):

‘Always-on connectivity is changing consumer spending habits in myriad ways,’ Trendwatching says. ‘For example, coupon clipping required planning and dedication, hence wasn’t that popular with consumers more interested in the here and now, but now is a near-effortless online activity. Furthermore, whipping out one’s smartphone at the counter, getting the latest deal via GPS, or barcode scanning is well, smart. And therefore a source of status rather than shame.’

Taylor, a UK expat now based in Toronto, says that brands should keep an eye on group buying as Aegis’s research indicates that over three million Canadians intend to buy a smartphone in the next 12 months. This will ‘virtually double ownership in Canada,’ he says and ‘flash’ sales are likely to proliferate as more people become connected all the time. The study also found that 1.4 million Canadians said they are open to receiving coupons and offers on their mobiles phones, Taylor adds, and a little over a million are open to receiving ads for things they are interested in through their mobile phones.

‘Canada as a culture is much more open to couponing experiences; the UK is pretty different. What the likes of Groupon offer is a socially acceptable, upmarket way of couponing. It’s actually about appearing to be smart with your money as opposed to being a bit cheap.’

Online status symbols (#5):

‘In 2011, you can’t go wrong supplying your (online-loving) customers with any kind of symbol, virtual or ‘real world’ that helps them display to peers their online contributions, interestingness, creations or popularity,’ Trendwatching says. ‘One extra element to watch out for in 2011 is new status symbols that straddle the ‘real’ and ‘online’ worlds. From physical manifestations of digital status (think personalized Facebook and Twitter memorabilia), to online recognition of physical activities (status updates or badges based on real-world visits), consumers will seek to display their online status symbols in all arenas.’

This is a trend MiC has seen creeping into the mediaverse in 2010 – see Molson’s “summer fun” badges as one example – and it’s a trend some of Carat’s clients are already embracing as well, Taylor says, citing Adidas’s recent social-media themed shelltoe models. As for Trendwatching’s reference to the blending of real and online worlds, Taylor says it’s almost becoming a moot point.

‘To me, this trend represents the end of digital silos in consumers’ minds,’ Taylor comments. ‘I think a lot of people still think of digital in its own silo, as well as TV, radio, etc. In reality, consumers don’t think like that. The virtual world is dead; it’s just part of the world now. Location-based services [like] Facebook and FourSquare are translating that boundary between online and offline.

‘I think what made Foursquare successful is the contrariness of it,’ he continues. ‘Previously everyone was trying to give consumers a reason for doing something, and in reality, all they needed was bragging rights. ‘I’m the mayor of Bar X’ suddenly became something important when in reality it has zero tangible value. That’s what I think is really interesting: the subtlety of associating yourself with that brand – it says something about you.’

Social-lites and twinsumers (#7): ‘Consumers as curators’

‘Consumers will talk more about brands in 2011 than ever before, and opportunities for brands that create engaging content that consumers want to share, or that have personalities that actually engage consumers will also be bigger than ever,’ the Trendwatching report states. ‘Making it easy for social-lites to retweet or ‘like’ this content is of course requirement number one.’

The internet is so vast and filled with ‘crap,’ Taylor says, brands who help consumers navigate their way to the good stuff stand to benefit from this trend significantly. According to Aegis’s CCS research, almost 50% of those polled said they agree that other people’s opinions are important to them, while 33% say that people approach them for advice before they purchase. The same study also found that 4.5 million Canadians use social media to share their ideas and over 40% can be classified as ‘connectors’ under the study’s classification (people who do at least two of the following, two to three times per month: play games online via PC or console; access social networking, or share content online more than once per week).

Will these trends continue to grow? Fizzle out? Will GroupOn look crazy for turning down Google’s $6 billion offer? We’ll check back in 2011 to see how these trends have evolved and changed in the year ahead.