If there’s one thing 2020 should have taught us, it’s that predicting the year ahead is a galactic waste of time.
A year ago, who predicted that air travel would plummet 95%? Nobody. Who was advising us to stock up on toilet paper? No one. Which publication last December anticipated that this year’s top trending Christmas tree decoration would be an ornament of a dumpster on fire? None.
So you might think that predicting next year might be equally as futile. From our research, Nostradamus didn’t even bother to weigh in on all this.
So, at the doorstep of 2021, who in their right mind is going to bother reading tea leaves, tarot cards or crystal balls? Well, as it turns out, a thoughtful look at the future might still be worthwhile.
With a wary eye, we dared to take a peek back at our consumer trend predictions for 2020 and found – to our utter shock – that we were pretty dang on target. Overall, we’d give ourselves a respectable B+. Admittedly, we did not predict a global pandemic, but we certainly captured four (out of five) consumer trends that, if anything, came into sharper focus because of all that has transpired the past year.
Here’s how we fared:
The Status of Anti-Consumerism
A year ago we anticipated 2020 would see more people adopting a stance preferring moderation to abundance and self-care to obsessive achievement. COVID-19 and the wave of social justice demands threw this trend into sixth-gear. In 2020 conspicuous consumption of material goods was something practiced by only the most tone-deaf among us. (A+)
Data as Currency
We expected 2020 to be the year when consumers started to get greater control and leverage of their data. And sure enough, with the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act and Google’s announcement that it was phasing out third-party cookies, things are shifting that way. Moreover, Big Tech execs made multiple appearances on Capitol Hill this year to address antitrust and digital platform concerns. While we have yet to see checks deposited in our bank accounts from these companies in return for access to our data, we are seeing a noticeable shift to greater accountability. (A-)
We anticipated that the boundaries between home and work would dissolve further and increased on-demand expectations would drive brands and people to exhaustion. Suffice it to say, we had no idea just how accurate we’d nail this. For many Americans, the boundaries between home and work didn’t just dissolve – they completely disappeared in 2020 as WFH turned living rooms into offices and kitchens into breakrooms. (A+)
12 months ago, we anticipated that busy work lives and shortened attention spans would drive the growth of digital micro-learning platforms. These platforms did indeed boom in 2020. However, it wasn’t for the reasons we suggested. Rather, much of this growth was driven by less busy work lives rather than increased time pressures. This year, consumers found themselves with time on their hands and an inherent desire to learn. Micro-learning has also been accelerated by businesses seeking to re-skill their workforce. Additionally, schools have had to radically adapt their curricula to accommodate remote-learning platforms. COVID-19 threw a barrel of fuel on this trend. (A+)
Well, we can’t be right all the time. We thought we were being clever by following the demographics when we anticipated growth in products that catered to singletons. Little did we know that forthcoming COVID-19 lockdowns and fears of community spread would encourage shoppers to make fewer trips to the grocery store. The upshot was that when they finally did venture out, they made bulk purchases. If anything, 2020 was the year of pallets of soup – not single servings. We bombed this one. (F).
So what’s the takeaway from all this?
The upshot is that no matter what is happening in the world around us, there are certain human needs consumers will seek to fulfill. The trends we outlined above speak to the unwavering need for status, fairness, freedom, knowledge and convenience. Pandemics will come and go, and economic, societal and political winds will blow in different directions, but by focusing on the fundamental needs of people, we can’t go too wrong.