Ten Trends That Will Shape The Way We Live This Year
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Ten Trends That Will Shape The Way We Live This Year

Expect a new type of frugality as many change their spending to buy more secondhand items.

By ANN-MARIE ALCÁNTARA
Tue, Jan 18, 2022 11:03amGrey Clock 4 min

Consumers will evolve past being frugal this year by becoming more aware of their spending behaviours and looking for alternatives to buy goods in less traditional ways, said market research firm Euromonitor International in its annual prediction report.

The company’s annual trend report forecasts what consumers will value in the coming year and how companies should adapt to those behaviours. This year, consumers will change their spending in subtle ways. They will also even experiment with the metaverse, the research firm said.

“We see the middle class resetting and thinking about their spending, but we see that way beyond—everybody’s being a lot more frugal,” said Alison Angus, head of lifestyles research at Euromonitor.

Euromonitor traditionally begins the forecasting process around July. The fast-spreading Omicron variant has slowed down recovery efforts across industries and among consumers, but many of the forecasted trends are unaffected, Ms. Angus said.

Ahead are Euromonitor’s predictions for global consumer trends in 2022:

Supply-chain workarounds

Product shortages and disruptions have spurred consumers to use subscription services or buy secondhand to find what they want. Companies need to adapt to these individuals by offering alternatives to items, said Ms. Angus. Virtual queue systems present an opportunity for shoppers to get a place in line and hope they receive a product, the research firm said. Offering rental or refurbished products is another chance to keep that customer’s loyalty as does enticing them with exclusive or presale items.

Climate change becomes top of mind

The 26th conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP26, made consumers think about their everyday actions in relation to climate change, said Ms. Angus. People are looking to cut back on food waste, reduce their plastic use and recycle more. Sixty-seven per cent of consumers surveyed by Euromonitor stated that they tried to do something every day to have a beneficial impact on the environment. Climate change and sustainability are trends that continue to evolve from previous years, but in 2022, younger consumers will have more of an impact on their peers, parents and grandparents.

Senior citizens optimize their digital lives

The pandemic forced many people to adjust their behaviours, such as shopping for groceries online for the first time. That trend was especially popular among seniors. Now, this group of consumers want to continue their digital use, and companies should respond accordingly by offering training, support and making products that are easy to use, the research firm said. For some companies, it may mean making an app or website function the same across all types of devices such as a laptop or smartphone, Ms. Angus said.

Taking control of finances

The pandemic’s instability caused many consumers to become more aware of their finances, as well as experiment with investing and trying out cryptocurrencies, the firm said. Companies should offer ways to educate consumers about their financial services or make products more accessible, such as lowering fees, Ms. Angus said.

Prioritizing personal values and goals

Thirty-four percent of people in the latest survey preferred to spend money on experiences as opposed to products in 2021, compared with 27% in 2015. Companies need to address the change by becoming flexible to what consumers want, whether they are still working or looking for a new job opportunity. “Last year, we were talking about consumers rethinking their priorities and what their life wants to be like,” Ms. Angus said. “This year…they’re actually making the changes.”

The metaverse switches from experiment to a reality

Consumers who were forced to conduct their lives online via video chats are now changing their behaviour to engage with digital worlds and communities, Ms. Angus said. Virtual concerts, sales of nonfungible tokens and dressing avatars are behaviours that consumers are tapping into, and some companies are meeting them there, the research firm said. “Any business can’t afford not to be thinking about this,” Ms. Angus said. “Because it is happening and consumers are going there.”

Secondhand loses the stigma

Buying items secondhand is no longer stigmatized. It has become a sought-after option for consumers who want to have unique items or are shopping on a budget. Options such as gift cards or buyback programs that promote secondhand shopping behaviours from consumers are winning them over. Companies should meet this demand by addressing consumers who want to bring in older versions of items and receive a voucher or repair them in-store, Ms. Angus said.

City residents opt for suburban and rural perks

People who stayed in cities and didn’t flee to the suburbs during the pandemic now want some of the advantages of living outside a city, such as having access to green spaces. Others want more services closer to their homes, with many still working from home, the research firm said. Companies should aim to bring shops and services closer to them that don’t require a train or car ride. “Making everything accessible to consumers within 15 minutes,” Ms. Angus said.

Indulgence in self-care and happiness

Fifty-six per cent of consumers expect to be happier in the next five years, the firm stated. To reach that nirvana, people are buying products that help their mind and body, such as cannabis products or meditation courses. Personalized shopping experiences that can predict a consumer’s needs will become a key component in reaching these people, Ms. Angus said.

Hybrid approaches to socialization

As the pandemic continues, consumers are becoming fragmented: those who want to go back to their normal lives and engage in social activities, and those who remain cautious. This means hybrid possibilities, such as digital visits or waiving cancellation fees, can address the needs of different consumers, the firm said. Products and services need to become multifaceted and seamless to serve this split consumer base, Ms. Angus said.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: January 17, 2022.



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The Lifespan of Large Appliances Is Shrinking

Appliance technicians blame a push toward computerisation and an increase in the quantity of components inside a machine

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Our refrigerators, washing machines and ovens can do more than ever, from producing symmetrical ice cubes to remotely preheating on your commute home. The downside to all these snazzy features is that the appliances are more prone to breaking.

Appliance technicians and others in the industry say there has been an increase in items in need of repair. Yelp users, for example, requested 58% more quotes from thousands of appliance repair businesses last month than they did in January 2022.

Those in the industry blame a push toward computerisation, an increase in the quantity of individual components and flimsier materials for undercutting reliability. They say even higher-end items aren’t as durable.

American households spent 43% more on home appliances in 2023 than they did in 2013, rising from an inflation-adjusted average of $390 to $558, according to Euromonitor International. Prices for the category declined 12% from the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2023, according to the Labor Department.

One reason for the discrepancy between spending and prices is a higher rate of replacement, say consumers, repair technicians and others. That’s left some people wishing they had held on to their clunky ’90s-era appliances and others bargaining with repair workers over intractable ice makers and dryers that run cold.

“We’re making things more complicated, they’re harder to fix and more expensive to fix,” says Aaron Gianni, the founder of do-it-yourself home-repair app Plunjr.

Horror stories

Sharon J. Swan spent nearly $7,000 on a Bosch gas range and smart refrigerator. She thought the appliances would last at least through whenever she decided to sell her Alexandria, Va., home and impress would-be buyers.

That was before the oven caught fire the first time she tried the broiler, leading to a 911 call and hasty return. The ice-maker in the refrigerator, meanwhile, is now broken for the third time in under two years. Bosch covered the first two fridge fixes, but she says she’s on her own for the latest repair, totalling $250, plus parts.

“I feel like I wasted my money,” says the 65-year-old consultant for trade associations.

A Bosch spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the company has been responsive to Swan’s concerns and will continue to work with her to resolve ongoing issues. “Bosch appliances are designed and manufactured to meet the highest quality standards, and they are built to last,” she said.

Kevin and Kellene Dinino wish they had held on to their white dishwasher from the ’90s that was still working great.

The sleeker $800 GE stainless steel interior dishwasher they purchased sprang a hidden leak within three years, causing more than $35,000 worth of damage to their San Diego kitchen.

Home insurance covered the claim, which included replacing the hardwood down to the subfloor and all their bottom cabinetry, but kicked the Dininos off their policy. The family also went without access to their kitchen for months.

“This was a $60 pump that was broken. What the hell happened?” says Kevin, 45, who runs a financial public-relations firm.

A GE Appliances spokeswoman said the company takes appliance issues seriously and works quickly to resolve them with consumers.

Increased complexity

Peel back the plastic on a modern refrigerator or washing machine and you’ll see a smattering of sensors and switches that its 10-year-old counterpart lacks. These extra components help ensure the appliance is using only the energy and water it needs for the job at hand, technicians say. With more parts, however, more tends to go wrong more quickly, they say.

Mansoor Soomro, a professor at Teesside University, a technical college in Middlesbrough, England, says home appliances are breaking down more often. He says that manufacturers used to rely mostly on straightforward mechanical parts (think an on/off switch that triggers a single lever). In the past decade or so, they’ve transitioned to relying more on sophisticated electrical and computerised parts (say, a touch screen that displays a dozen different sensor-controlled wash options).

When a complicated machine fails, technicians say they have a much harder time figuring out what went wrong. Even if the technician does diagnose the problem, consumers are often left with repairs that exceed half the cost of replacement, rendering the machine totalled.

“In the majority of cases, I would say buying a new one makes more economic sense than repairing it,” says Soomro, who spent seven years working at Siemens , including in the home-appliances division.

These machines are also now more likely to be made with plastic and aluminium rather than steel, Soomro says. High-efficiency motors and compressors, too, are likely to be lighter-duty, since they’re tasked with drawing less energy .

A spokeswoman for the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers says the industry has “enhanced the safety, energy efficiency, capacity and performance of appliances while adding features and maintaining affordability and durability for purchasers.” She says data last updated in 2019 shows that the average life of an appliance has “not substantially shifted over the past two decades.”

When simpler is better

Kathryn Ryan and Kevin Sullivan needed a new sensor to fix their recently purchased $1,566 GE Unitized Spacemaker washer-dryer. GE wasn’t able to fix the sensor for months, so the couple paid a local technician $300 to get the machine working.

The repairman also offered them a suggestion: Avoid the sensor option and stick to timed dries.

“You should be able to use whatever function you please on a brand new appliance, ideally,” says Sullivan, a 32-year-old musician in Burbank, Calif.

More features might seem glamorous, Frontdoor virtual appliance tech Jim Zaccone says, but fewer is usually better.

“Consumers are wising up to the failures that are happening and going, ‘Do I really need my oven to preheat while I’m at the grocery store?’” jokes Zaccone, who has been in the appliance-repair business for 21 years.

He just replaced his own dishwasher and says he bought one with “the least bells and whistles.” He also opted for a mass-market brand with cheap and readily available parts. Most surprisingly, he chose a bottom-of-the-line model.

“Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t guarantee you more reliability,” says Zaccone.

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