Five Consumer Trends to Watch in 2018

At the end of every year, we stop to marvel at the changes we’ve seen and make predictions for the months that lie ahead. These two activities go hand in hand, especially when it comes to consumers and technology. Where we came from influences where we’re going, and why.

This year, consumers made some big changes that will impact how companies market and manage their brands. Here’s a look at five consumer trends you can expect to see in 2018, and what they could mean for you.

1. Media consumption is getting a makeover

There’s no doubt about it: media consumption habits are changing. Just consider TV. eMarketer reports there are now more than 22 million adult “cord-cutters” — 33% more than last year. Consumers are opting instead for streaming services like Netflix, digital players like Hulu, and over-the-top (OTT) options that allow them to avoid traditional paid TV.

Because of that, TV’s share of total media ad spend in the US dropped to about 34% this year. Advertisers are rapidly revising their marketing plans, targeting the channels and platforms consumers like best to ensure they reach their desired customers.

2. When it comes to screens, bigger is no longer best

Meanwhile, smartphones are becoming the digital device of choice. As CMO.com reports, tablet traffic decreased by 20% year-over-year, and desktop traffic went down by 14 percent.

We’re seeing more reliance on smartphones than ever, not just with regard to media but shopping activity as well. Adobe Analytics data shows that on Thanksgiving Day, 46% of traffic to retail sites came from smartphones. That represents an increase of 17% over last year and marks the first time that consumers spent more time shopping on their phones on Thanksgiving than on their desktop computers. We predict that even more consumers will migrate to their smartphones for shopping in 2018.

3. Consumers now expect a shopping experience that’s convenient and friction-free

If there’s one thing these shopping habits tell us, it’s that consumers value convenience. Customers demand a seamless experience, regardless of whether they’re buying online to pick-up in store, making a purchase in-store that will be delivered to their home, or using a coupon code in-store that they found online.

In response, some brands are merging with companies that can help them provide a superior cross-channel shopping experience. In 2017 Amazon acquired Whole Foods Market, and consumers can now pick up their Amazon packages in many Whole Foods stores. Walmart acquired delivery company Parcel, in large part so they could offer same-day delivery to customers in New York City, while Target’s acquisition of Shipt will allow the brand to offer same-day delivery and better compete with rivals like Amazon.

These changes will impact the customer journey and get other brands thinking about how to stay competitive and relevant in the transitioning retail space.

4. In the eyes of your customers, experiences beat things

Chalk it up to YOLO: this year we learned that consumers would rather have an experience than a material thing.

Data from Deloitte shows that more than a quarter of American consumers prefer to buy an experiential gift like concert tickets or restaurant meals than tangible goods. Their preferences aren’t what they used to be, and as noted by eMarketer, that had “made it hard for brick-and-mortar retailers to attract young shoppers.”

Not to worry: brands can still come out ahead by investing in pop-up stores, in-store experiences, and intriguing packaging. Consumers, and young shoppers, in particular, will be attracted to exciting and unconventional shopping adventures.

5. Consumers want transparency from companies and brands

Finally, we’ve noted a trend in consumer attitudes toward sharing their data, along with what it takes for them to become loyal to a brand. After all, there’s much to be learned following the Equifax breach this year. Now more than ever, consumers want companies to be transparent about how their customer information is being used, and what brands are doing to try to influence their decision-making process.

In its seminal research study on the future of data sharing, the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School found that more than 75% of consumers are willing to share personal data with a brand they trust. The report’s advice to supply relevant offers, help consumers gain control over their data, and provide greater transparency overall still rings true today. Brands that are able to do this can maximize an opportunity to build loyalty and generate more sales.

All of this and more lies in store for 2018. With their evolving habits, behavior, and preferences, consumers are bound to make it an interesting year.