People seem to get lost in discussions about digital transformation, yet they are at the center of today's business innovations. Technology, customization, and sustainability are the three main drivers changing consumer behavior, according to a Euromonitor International report. Meanwhile, Gartner analysts say tomorrow's technology will be people-centric.
The ubiquity of smartphones has made technology indispensable in everyday life, Euromonitor's 2019 Megatrends: State of Play notes. Customization builds on technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G to reinvent how people shop. Sustainability reflects growing consumer activism about environmental impacts, the London-based research firm says.
"The change in consumer demands will contribute toward a rise in investments amongst emerging economies, driving businesses to develop innovative strategies to meet those demands," says Alison Angus, head of lifestyles at Euromonitor.
More Than Meets the Eye
Euromonitor predicts eight changes in consumer behavior will cause the greatest disruption across industries. By analyzing these megatrends, organizations can build long-term strategies to remain relevant, the report notes.
Connected Consumers Smartphones and other connected devices have given consumers multiple ways to interact with digital content and companies, but they also have created greater dependency on those devices. In this time-pressed environment, organizations will need to ensure that consumer interactions provide value, the report advises.
Healthy Living Consumers have a holistic interest in physical, mental, and spiritual wellness. The report points to growing interest this year in health-related technology services such as genetic testing and personalized nutrition analysis.
Ethical Living Almost three in 10 consumers say purchasing eco- or ethically conscious products makes them feel good, according to Euromonitor's 2019 Lifestyles Survey. Euromonitor predicts concern about the environment, sustainability, and labor practices will be one of the most significant market disruptors in the coming years.
Shopping Reinvented Connectivity gives consumers more information about products and services, so those organizations need to be able to engage with them "anytime and anywhere," the report says. These consumers demand more personalization, budget-friendly experiences, and greater convenience.
Experience More Euromonitor points out that consumers are seeking experiences more than possessions. This is pushing businesses to emphasize experiences, experiment with marketing strategies, and become more consumer-centric.
Middle Class Retreat The middle class in developed nations is becoming more budget-conscious and selective about purchases, the report finds. Yet because the middle class remains vital to the consumer market, this megatrend may impact other megatrends.
Premiumization Consumers will spend more on the products and services that matter most to them, Euromonitor says. They are seeking more personalized and convenient service, and products that appeal to wellness and happiness.
Shifting Market Frontiers Euromonitor says economic power is shifting to fast-growing economies in Asia and Africa. Businesses investing in those regions will need strategies that are "sensitive to the environment and local communities."
Building Smart Spaces
Technology trends are revolving around people, too. At this month's Gartner IT Symposium in Orlando, Gartner analysts identified 10 strategic technology trends that may reach "a tipping point" within the next five years. All are based on the concept of creating "smart spaces" in which people and technology interact.
"Multiple elements — including people, processes, services, and things — come together in a smart space to create a more immersive, interactive, and automated experience," says David Cearly, a vice president at Gartner.
Hyperautomation Although this trend began with robotic process automation, it now involves combinations of machine learning and automation tools. In addition to tools, organizations need to understand all the steps of automation and how automation mechanisms can be coordinated, Gartner says.
Multiexperience Garter predicts technologies such as conversational platforms, virtual reality, and augmented reality will shift the user experience by 2028. This will enable businesses to provide a multisensory experience for delivering "nuanced information."
Democratization of Expertise This trend is about giving people access to technical and business expertise without extensive training. For example, Gartner expects that data analytics, application development, and design tools will become more useful for people who don't have specialized knowledge.
Human Augmentation Once the stuff of science fiction, Gartner predicts the use of technology to augment physical and cognitive abilities will grow over the next 10 years. An example would be a wearable device that provides access to information and computer applications.
Transparency and Traceability Privacy regulations and emphasis on protecting personal data have made transparency and traceability key elements of data ethics. In building these capabilities, Gartner says organizations should focus on AI, ownership and control of personal data, and ethically aligned design.
The Empowered Edge Edge computing puts information processing, content collection, and delivery closer to the sources and consumers of that information. Although currently focused on the Internet of Things, Gartner expects edge computing to expand to applications such as robots and operational systems.
Distributed Cloud This technology distributes public cloud services to other locations, in contrast to the current centralized cloud model.
Autonomous Things These physical devices use AI to automate functions once performed by people. The concept is to develop technologies that interact "more naturally with their surroundings and with people," Gartner says.
Practical Blockchain New blockchain applications such as asset tracking and identity management can provide more transparency, lower costs, and settle transactions more quickly, Gartner says.
AI Security Increased use of AI for decision-making raises new security challenges such as increasing points of attack. Gartner advises focusing on protecting AI-powered systems, using AI to enhance defenses, and looking out for AI-based attacks.