Click on the banner to visit our new and improved consumer trends blog!

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012: A year of (continuing) empowerment?

Observation:   Because the intent of this site is to share consumer trends, I typically avoid offering forecasts or predictions.  I consider myself a trend watcher, not a futurist.    But that having been said, one collection of trends—when considered as a whole—seems to have gained enough momentum that I could safely suggest we’ll see more of it and in more variations than ever before:  Consumer Control.

Holiday spending through online and mobile site channels out-performed all other sales growth, and by a significant margin.  Digital devices helped consumers find the best deals, while reducing the time required to shop for those items. 

Reconciliation—changing one’s household financial management—is another example of taking (or regaining) control.  For more on the topic, see “The reconciliation of 2011,” posted 1/2/12 (earlier today).   Over the past two or three years, many consumers have paid-down some of their consumer debt over the past few years and reduced their overall spending so as to enjoy more discretionary income (discretion = control). 

A recent New York Times article suggests that younger women are leaving the ranks of the unemployed… to re-enter the classroom (click here to see that story).    Lots of people are setting-up shop at Me, Incorporated; starting their own company or working as independent contractors after having difficulty finding a good job in their career field.  Either of these alternatives are good examples of consumers asserting greater control, in this case, in the way they buy into the job market (or lack of one). 

While the efforts have been somewhat less visible with the onset of winter weather in northern parts of the U.S., the Occupy Wall Street movement might be yet another example of consumers trying to assert greater control… over a system that they perceive to be broken or a financial landscape that they do not see as fair and equitable.  One might even argue that the roots of this empowerment reach all the way back to the Arab Spring of 2011, when thousands of people decided to wrestle control over their destiny away from a dictator or regime, from Tunisia through Egypt, Libya and beyond.  (If people on the other side of the world are prepared to protest even under a hail of gunfire, setting up a pup tent in a park just doesn’t seem all that difficult.) 
Implications:   Once consumers have had a taste of control, it is unlikely they’ll decide they want less of it… unless relinquishing that control results in a major convenience gained or a major stress lost. 

How is your company, product or service sharing control over the purchase experience with the customers who buy it?  Do you offer a digital channel for them to do research or even buy through?  How about mobile?  How can you offer appreciated choices/control that your competitors do not or cannot?

Certainly, this is not the first time I've written on the topic of Consumer Control; indeed, more than 100 stories in the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog contain a reference to the issue (click here to see the category).  But 2012 stands to be a year where Consumer Control becomes more and more conspicuous, to more and more companies and categories.

Mike Anderson, for the Elm Street Economics consumer trends blog. A service of The Center for Sales Strategy, Inc.

No comments:

Post a Comment