As 2013 comes to an end, we look back at some of our key insights this year. A year when 18 of the world’s economies look set to have experienced negative economic growth, consumers in many developed economies saw their incomes stagnate for a sixth consecutive year, and when emerging economies stumbled for the first time since the financial crisis. However, 2013 was also a year in which consumers spent a predicted US$42 trillion globally with standout performances in the communications, health goods and medical services, and education sectors. All-in-all the 2013 consumer was still for the most part characterised by insecurity, but also interested in localism, healthy lifestyles, convenience and technology with a “saving without sacrificing” mentality emerging from our Global Consumer Trends survey.
Here are some of the year's highlights from our economic and consumer trends analysis:
- As ever, our seminal Top 10 Consumer Trends for 2013 article was the most popular of the year. This year we focused on spending on convenience nudging into the quest for value while recognising that consumers are increasingly moved by things local. Dominant current consumer trends under the spotlight in our analysis include the passion for eating and knowing more about food as a leisure activity, and an invigorated segment of mature working consumers. Living arrangements and lifestyles see different generations interacting more and most leisure activity is 'connected' while shopping has some tech elements too. A more gender-neutral form of consumption is emerging. Meanwhile, the power of particular consumer niches is entrenching, with brands trying to mirror and target those new segments.
- Digital trends continued to dominate in both advanced and emerging markets. Amply illustrated by the continuing increase in spending on communications globally – which comfortably outpaced average consumer expenditure in 2013. Reaching consumers through mobile devices became a vital marketing and sales strategy this year, with internet retailing exceeding US$600 billion.
- Despite a slowdown in growth, or perhaps because of it, our webinar How to Succeed in Emerging Markets gained a huge audience in April. Strategies for success identified in the webinar include: incorporating a local flavour into global brands, tailoring product sizes and offering multiple price points, identifying gaps in the market – including the creation of entire categories, the need to offer appropriate products and services, and the importance of working with local partners and entrepreneurs.
- With emerging markets slowing, attention turned to lesser known “frontier” markets which are continuing to experience strong growth. Investor interest in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to grow apace and in general a “beyond BRIC” approach to emerging markets has become crucial.
As 2013 draws to an end, our thoughts turn to the top consumer trends for 2014 and global economic prospects for the year. High unemployment looks set to continue to hamper spending potential in advanced economies and social unrest will continue to be a key theme. For consumers, post-recession coping strategies are the new normal in 2014 and things visual are capturing the consumer imagination.