The new status symbol consumers will be flaunting in 2014 may surprise you. It’s not a designer label or a well-known brand. Instead, it’s likely to be guilt-free consumption, perhaps of a new and unfamiliar brand.
That’s according to Trendwatching.com, an independent research firm with hundreds of trend spotters in 90 countries around the world. Of their top 2014 trends, here are four that seem particularly relevant to our industry, with suggestions on how to incorporate them into your business. They are:
- Guilt-free consumption
- Virgin consumers looking for clean slate brands
- The F factor: Friends, Fans & Followers
- Mychiatry: mind is the new body
Guilt-free consumption is the new status symbol for 2014, says Trendwatching. “Growing numbers of consumers can no longer escape an awareness of damage done by their consumption to the planet, society or themselves,” says the Web site. Yet, at the same time, consumers won’t substantially change their desire for status and consumption, leading to a never-ending guilt spiral.”
The solution is guilt-free status. One way to provide guilt-free status is to tell the story behind the brand and its products; a story that consumers can share with friends to prove their indulgence is responsible.
Increasingly, consumers want to know under what conditions their kitchen and bath products are made. Are the factories respectful of the environment? If so, how? Do they exceed emissions or other standards? Use solar power? Equally important, how are workers treated? Do they labor under substandard conditions? You’ll need to take consumers behind the scenes of the products they are considering so they feel comfortable indulging.
Consumers will increasingly care about recycling, from purchasing countertops made of recycled materials to knowing where their old kitchens and baths are going.
And, as part of guilt-free consumption, they’ll want to select water-saving and energy-saving products.
Be sure you know the facts and share specifics. As Trendwatching reports, “Warning: This trend is not about guilt-washing. Benefits for people and planet are at the core of guilt-free status symbols.”
CLEAN SLATE BRANDS
Due to the accelerating pace of innovation, many consumers today find themselves in the situation of buying something for the very first time, says Trendwatching, meaning there are more “virgin” consumers than ever, many of whom are happy to purchase new, unfamiliar brands.
This is especially true with kitchen and bath products, which are an infrequent purchase to begin with. If the last time a consumer redid a kitchen or bath was seven to 10 years ago, they are likely encountering loads of new products and new brands for the first time as they are shopping. Steam ovens, induction cooking, touch-less faucets and remote-controlled showers are just a few examples.
While these products may be familiar to us, they will likely be totally new to consumers, who need and want to be educated. At the same time, these consumers will be open to “clean slate brands,” says Trendwatching, that is, brands they’ve never heard of. This is a profound change in branding philosophy. “Heritage is the new baggage,” warns Trendwatching.
This trend won’t wipe out all desire for brands with history and heritage. Says Trendwatching, “There will still be some consumers, at least some of the time, who will want to turn to established, proven products from trusted, well-respected brands, or lust after illustrious brands that go back decades, if not centuries.”
However, many consumers are now attracted to unproven and unknown brands the way they were once attracted to established brands. In fact, ‘established’ is now often just another word for tired if not tainted, says Trendwatching. New equates to better. Old equates to boring.
So, if your business is new, don’t consider this a negative. Talk about how you started it to take a fresh approach to kitchen and bath design and to do things differently. If your business is older, first talk about how you’ve innovated in your firm by bringing in new products, using new design techniques or adding new technology. Then talk about your heritage. Lead with the new.
The same is true for the products you represent. Instead of saying XYZ Company has been in business for 100 years, point out that XYZ has come out with 10 new products this year, or was the first to develop a certain new technology. Then you can talk about its history.
THE ‘F’ FACTOR
So what about the trust and confidence that established older brands were supposed to convey? That’s all changed thanks to social media. Trust now comes from the F factor – that is friends, fans and followers, says Trendwatching. Some 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, up 18% since 2007, according to a Nielsen study. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information, with a 70% trust rating, up 15% since 2008.
The impact of friends, fans and followers on purchase decisions is a trend that has been with us for a while and will only accelerate in 2014, thanks to the expanding influence of social media.
Make sure you are authentically engaged in a dialogue with customers on social media platforms. It’s about conversations, not about pushing out messages.
Finally, in 2014, consumers will be taking more control of their mental well-being, as well as their physical well-being, something Trendwatching calls Mychiatry. The new direction in tech products, for example, will be moving from tracking physical health to tracking mental well-being.
One group driving this trend, says Trendwatching, is “time-starved, overworked, stressed and anxiety-plagued consumers” who want innovations that “offer much needed relief from the pressures of modern life.”
So, in addition to talking about the physical benefits of a spa bath, emphasize the mental benefits, too: relieving stress, offering a calm retreat, restoring equilibrium. Expect more interest in chromatherapy and aromatherapy as part of the growing desire for consumers to take charge of their mind-body connection. That’s guilt-free consumption, for sure.