Swelling masses of urbanites with lifestyles to suit – style, tech and convenience-savvy – soak up new cultural influences that are blending with fresh brand experience-led approaches.
This piece is the first in a weekly series of consumer comments exploring each of the trends Euromonitor International identified in the recent TOP 10 CONSUMER TRENDS FOR 2012 article.
The richness of the masses
In 2012, Euromonitor International forecasts that there will be 3.7 billion urban residents worldwide. The number of urban dwellers globally will continue to increase, both in 'traditional' megacities such as New York but also in new hubs such as Chongqing and Guadalajara. Meanwhile, a whole mass of new arrivals to cities, often falling into the so-called 'bottom of the urban pyramid' category, may have less disposable income but aspire to a higher consumption that will extend to more space and health cover.
City dwellers make up a rich tapestry of consumer types increasingly sophisticated, demanding, connected and interested in new brand offerings and experiences. Everything from tastes in cuisine and culture to shopping preferences and technology-driven real-world meet ups and interactions are broader. This allows for an often buzzing brand creativity responding to busy city consumer needs in food service, fresh and packaged foods, clothing and the arts. 2012 megacities are hubs of new and established ethnic groups and culture, older people with trend-sensitive lifestyles, students, highly skilled and low income migrant workers, consumers on city breaks, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) consumers and cross-generational households.
World's Fastest Growing Cities: 2012 and 2030
Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics
A practical need for sustainability and space for respite from stress
In megacities in developing countries with pollution and overcrowding all too apparent, the importance of green issues and sustainability seem self-evident to consumers. But these issues are also pressing in developed country cities groaning under the volume of traffic. They also appeal to consumers because green concerns offer an antidote to city pressures. The current consumer interest in city-based agriculture is an interesting aspect of this trend. On the heels of visible bike- and car-sharing city schemes comes electric car rental.
Technological innovation and the adoption of computing, mobile devices, and rich sources of data are changing the cities in which we live, work, and relax. A digital landscape overlays our physical world and is expanding to offer richer, empowering experiences that complement the physical experience.
For consumers with shorter attention spans, 2012 is seeing mobile, social, real-time, location-aware services and products making instant gratification more possible and expected, particularly in cities. More shops offer tech-led services for consumers such as information on products for smartphones to process, or self check-out options. Cities are also using the net to connect their citizens in novel ways. New London-based social enterprise, The Amazings, links retirees with opportunities to share their skills and knowledge.
World's 10 Biggest Cities: 2012 and 2030 - Number ('000)
Source: Euromonitor International from national statistics
Brand experiences appeal to style-conscious urbanites
Urban centres are retail culture hubs and offer a plethora of shopping experiences from revived old-style street markets with updated facilities to climate-controlled malls. New malls, just like more compact inner-city supermarkets, tend to be smaller and more lifestyle-based. Retailer Target's CityTarget stores, due to open in four US cities this year, will be small-format supermarkets. With online shopping possibilities richer all the time – in terms of both consumer choice and lower prices – consumers are looking for a better shopping experience when they buy in the 'real world'.
Many wealthier urbanites aspire to work and relax in the local mall. Bruce Shaw, managing director of Australian global architecture and interior design company Buchan Group said: “A lot of things have been added with hotels, residential and office space so they're going to become more a mixture of eat, work, live, play destinations.” Mr. Shaw adds: “It makes sense in terms of where people want to live, with growing demand from Asian communities where people have for a long time lived in higher density accommodation with retail service and entertainment at their doorsteps.”
The often quoted example of stores that offer experiences are Apple stores, where visitors feel that they are learning about computing in a stylish environment, a little of which they take away with them. Many brands from banks to transport companies to 'green' brands to high street stores to luxury are adopting similar approaches. They aim to become part of daily routines via cultural collaborations as well as offering customers lifestyle inspiration. Grocery chain Kochhaus in Berlin, for instance, is structured by meal recipes. Nike has turned a sports store in Tokyo into a running club and UK Asda supermarket chain has launched a dating website matching people based on their shopping habits.
Culture is one of the things playing a growing role in the experience of consumption. Cultural venues are increasingly the settings for product placement and endorsement. Last year, the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art hosted the 'Culture Chanel' exhibition, aiming to introduce Coco Chanel to a wider public in China and possibly offer a better excuse for spending thousands of dollars on a genuine outfit, rather than a fake.
Anne Pasternak, acclaimed visionary of public art in the USA, admitted to the Wall Street Journal Magazine in February 2012 that she is careful about collaborating with and seeking funding from fashion brands, which journalist Marshall Heyman noted has become the art world norm. There is a trend among luxury brands to celebrate themselves with a museum, the latest instance being the Gucci Museo in Florence. The importance of consumption to city consumers is material for artists too. Two new murals by celebrated graffiti artist Banksy have appeared in London. One of them, painted on an empty building near the Canary Wharf financial district, features the message “Sorry! The lifestyle you ordered is currently out of stock”.
In 2012, consumers (and more brands) have realised that advertising is about communicating ideas and engaging the public with the product on display; it is almost art. At Reebok's exhibition in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, visitors tried the brand's new pair of shoes on inside the museum, turning this museum into an offline advertising venue.
3D advertising in the form of projections on buildings is melting the boundaries between style, art, fashion, culture and advertising and is popular with consumers globally. International detergent brand Ariel launched a new formula this way in Dubai in July 2011. The 'World's Deepest Cleaning Test' was a visual spectacle that showed a downtown building go from derelict to sparkling new.
Look out for the second in the series: TOP 10 CONSUMER TRENDS FOR 2012: Consumer Vigilantes Speak Up!
About Euromonitor International's Annual Study, Global Youth Survey and Quick Pulse Surveys
Euromonitor International's Annual Study surveyed 16,000 consumers of all ages (15-65+) in eight mature and developing markets in July and August 2011, questioning respondents on the following themes: health and wellness, food and drink, technology, shopping and leisure, personal traits and values.
Euromonitor International's Global Youth Survey reached out to young consumers living in 15 countries with the largest and fastest-growing youth populations. Fielded August-September 2011, the survey questioned 16-24 year olds on the following themes: financial expenditure, food and drink, technology, leisure activities, personal traits and values.
In Quick Pulse surveys, Passport Survey reaches out to Euromonitor's network of in-country analysts and in-house researchers around the world in order to find out more about current consumer attitudes and habits on a wide variety of topics, from economic outlook to daily activities.
Note: Euromonitor surveys are online surveys; all respondents are drawn from the online population in any given country, not its population as a whole. This means that in emerging markets, respondents tend to be more educated, affluent and urban.