2010 to 2020

Harish Bhat | Updated on December 15, 2019 Published on December 12, 2019

Reflections on ten big consumer trends that dominated the past decade

In a short time from now, a decade will end. The ten wonderful, tumultuous years gone by have thrown up new consumer trends, many of which will also go on to shape the future. This year, I mark a personal milestone too — ten years of writing this monthly column on marketing. It is, therefore, appropriate that I dedicate this article to reflecting on ten big consumer trends that have shaped the world of marketing over the past ten years. Here is my list.

1. Digital is default

Topping my trends list is the powerful impact digital has had on all our lives. Today, virtually every step we take is impacted by digital — whether it be communication over our smartphone, purchase of goods using e-commerce, booking a train ticket, or ordering in food. This was not the case ten years ago. Therefore, marketing conversations have also been dominated by digital. Ubiquitous brands that are flagbearers of this trend — Amazon, Jio and Flipkart.

2. The sharing economy

We are now sharing stuff more than ever before, and ownership of assets is no longer so important at all.

Today, we routinely travel in cabs using a shared platform app. We book our holidays using shared platforms, too — and are happy to share homes owned by others, for vacations. We share workspaces and there are initial signs that we are willing to rent out shared clothing. The posterbrands of this trend are Uber and Ola, Oyo and AirBnB.

3. Health and wellness

People are prioritising health and overall wellness. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the overall cost of lack of health. This has led to an explosion of healthy foods and beverages, from organic vegetables to protein-enriched pulses. Natural skin creams and wellness spas are all around us, as are many gurus of wellness. Big brands that have led this trend in India — Saffola, Tata Sampann and Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living.

4. The experience economy

A trend that has steadily gathered momentum is consumers’ preference for experiences over mere products and services. Many middle-class families today prioritise the joys of travel over buying some new durable. For the affluent consumer, food has transformed into an experience to be savoured — with unique ambience, storytelling and delicious displays. Think of Emirates Airlines, Starbucks and PVR Luxe Cinemas. Everything is an experience.

5. National pride

The past few years have seen a surge of nationalism, leading to a large number of consumers feeling the tug of national pride. Drawn by this powerful sentiment, so many of us wish to buy products that we think reflect this pride in our heritage, culture and values. Two standout brands that have leveraged this trend are Amul and Patanjali, both proudly Indian, but both also so different from each other.

6. Rising aspiration

Over the past ten years, the rising tide of the Indian economy has lifted with it the aspirations of a huge middle class population. Increased affluence and constant digital access to modern lifestyles has fuelled these desires for a better life.

Across large cities and small towns, consumers aspire to buy the best brands in every segment.

Brands that market world-class products at accessible prices, such as Samsung and Westside, have benefited.

7. Age of connections

People have moved into an age of connections, driven primarily by social media. Hundreds of millions of Indian consumers are now connected with lots and lots of other people on Facebook, or Whatsapp, or Instagram, or TikTok. News, views and reviews about brands — good and bad, true and deep fake — now zip through these social networks at lightning speed, so marketers have to adapt to this relentless reality.

8. Loneliness

An unhappy trend has been the increased loneliness of people. There are many more lonely elderly people, single parents and single children, across India today, compared to ten years ago. Also, digital addiction has contributed to lack of real friendships, further accentuating loneliness. This has created new consumer needs, and opportunities — counselling and companionship services, also cafes, music concerts and literary festivals, where lonely people can still come together happily, at least for a brief while.

9. Technology affinity

The decade gone by has seen increased preference for products that incorporate some new technology or the other. From Fitbits, which can track tens of different metrics you may never really use, to swish restaurant menu cards displayed on the latest iPads, technology is everywhere.

10. Demanding purpose

Over the past few years, we have begun demanding that brands also do good to people or the planet; minimise use of plastic, champion gender equality or evangelise right sourcing behaviours. Consumers insist brands take a point of view in a relevant social space and bestow their love on brands that do so.

Do let me know if you agree with these ten big trends. Here’s wishing you a happy New Year and purposeful Decade ahead !

Harish Bhat is Brand Custodian, Tata Sons. These are his personal views.

Published on December 12, 2019

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