Top Consumer Trends for 2011

Predicting consumer behavior is always risky, particularly in today’s uncertain economic climate. But global market research firm Mintel has taken on the challenge, identifying nine key consumer trends for the coming year. From shopping for bargains to working beyond retirement age, a good number of the trends are tied into the recession and its lingering aftermath.

“These consumer trends for 2011 are a legacy created by economics, but now gathering their own momentum and are set to influence the global consumer mindset for a long time to come," said Mintel Global Trends Analyst Alexandra Smith in a statement.

Here are the trends -- as defined by Mintel -- to watch for in 2011:

1. Prepare for the Worst
With a heightened sense of what economic collapse looks like thanks to the global recession, a renewed emphasis on prevention will drive consumers to think defensively. Consumers want to know what they're getting themselves into: no loopholes, no hidden costs and no pricey upgrades. So, 2011 may see the need for brands to demonstrate how a product or service delivers long term benefits or prevents problems down the road.

2. Retail Rebirth
With online experiences developing rapidly, for brick-and-mortar retailers, discounting is a no-win battle against the Internet. In 2011, brands may need to get more creative to lure consumers into stores, offering more than just retail and be a venue, not just a shop. Service may extend into advice and demonstrations, while exclusivity and environment may also be key aspects to engage consumers with real life, not virtual, shopping experiences.

3. Where It’s App
With smartphones becoming the dominant mobile force, quick response (QR) codes and app technology will pique interest, provide portals into unique experiences and improve our quality of life. In the United States, sales of smartphones grew 82% from 2008 to 2010.

Geography and status can be redefined through retail, presenting savvy brands with an opportunity for increased location based services, promotions and solutions. To capitalize on consumer awareness of technology, brands will need to take QR codes beyond niche understanding, using it to explain and offer exclusive content.

4. No Degree, No Problem
Economic uncertainty has changed the workplace and the meaning of job security for the foreseeable future. As a result consumers will continue to question higher education's ROI and alternative channels for learning will gain credibility.

5. On Her Own Terms
Women are earning and learning more than men, creating new gender roles in business and consumerism. In 2011, age is no longer an easy marker for lifestage. Opportunities lie for brands to focus less on the year the female consumer was born, and more on where she's at with her life right now.

6. Retired for Hire
People are working beyond retirement -- either due to financial need, or because they have grown attached to a lifestyle of leisure and pleasure. The number of over 65s working will reach nearly 20% by 2014. In 2011, this group may prove an untapped market for advertisers, affecting a number of consumer sectors. Vitality, energy and longevity will become key product qualities in the food and drink sector, while health and beauty messages may need to center on anti-aging properties, nutraceuticals and older models to reach this target group.

7. The Big Issue
Meanwhile, 34% of U.S. adults age 20 and over are obese. Therefore, 2011 may see a wider array of products catering to an obese market, from portion control and more info on packaging to low-cost healthy fare.

8. Garden State
Modern city dwellers have a growing love of gardening and a need for nature and with fresh, organic produce still economically out of reach for many, consumers are finding their own ways to bring healthy home.

9. Who Needs Humans
As we move into an ever more digital era, automated technology has machines replacing people -- for better or worse. The year 2011 may see certain jobs permanently displaced by technology -- that includes service jobs, not just manual or factory work. But backlash and balance-seeking may lead to an increased cache for hyper-personal goods and services.

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