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.

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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What’s still keeping American workers out of the office?

At a time when restaurants, planes and concert arenas are packed to the rafters, office buildings remain half full. Thinly populated cubicles and hallways are straining downtown economies and, bosses say, fragmenting corporate cultures as workers lose a sense of engagement.

Yet workers say high costs, caregiving duties, long commutes and days still scheduled full of Zooms are keeping them at home at least part of the time, along with a lingering sense that they’re able to do their jobs competently from anywhere. More than a dozen workers interviewed by The Wall Street Journal say they can’t envision returning to a five-day office routine, even if they’re missing career development or winding up on the company layoff list.

Managers say they will renew the push to get employees back into offices later this year. The share of companies planning to keep office attendance voluntary, rather than mandatory, is dropping, according to a survey released in May of more than 200 corporate real-estate executives conducted by property-services firm CBRE, one of the largest managers of U.S. office space.

A battle of wills could be ahead. The gap between what employees and bosses want remains wide, with bosses expecting in-person collaboration and workers loath to forgo flexibility, according to monthly surveys of worker sentiment maintained by Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who studies remote work.

Escalating expenses

One reason workers say they’re reluctant to return is money. Some who have lost remote-work privileges said they are spending hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of dollars each month on meals, commutes and child care.

One supercommuter who treks to her Manhattan job from her home in Philadelphia negotiated a two-day-a-week limit to her New York office time this year. Otherwise, she said she could easily spend $10,000 a year on Amtrak tickets if she commuted five days a week.

Christos Berger, a 25-year-old mortgage-loan assistant who lives outside Washington, D.C., estimates she spends $2,100 on child care and $450 on gas monthly now that she is working up to three days a week in the office.

Berger and her husband juggled parenting duties when they were fully remote. The cost of office life has her contemplating a big ask: clearance to work from home full time.

“Companies are pushing you to be available at night, be available on weekends,” she said, adding that she feels employers aren’t taking into account parents’ need for family time.

Rachel Cottam, a 31-year-old head of content for a tech company, works full time from her home near Salt Lake City, making the occasional out-of-town trip to headquarters. She used to be a high-school teacher, spending weekdays in the classroom. Back then, she and her husband spent $100 a week on child care and $70 a week on gas. Now they save that money. She even let her car insurance company know she no longer commutes and they knocked $5 a month off the bill.

Friends who have been recalled to offices tell Cottam about the added cost of coffee, lunch and beauty supplies. They also talk about the emotional cost they feel from losing work flexibility.

“For them, it feels like this great ‘future of work’ they’ve been gifted is suddenly ripped away,” she said.

Parent trade-offs

If pandemic-era flexible schedules go away, a huge number of parents will drop out of the workforce, workers say.

When Meghan Skornia, a 36-year-old urban planner and married mother of an 18-month-old son, was looking for a new job last year, she weeded out job openings with strict in-office policies. Were she given such mandates, she said, she would consider becoming an independent consultant.

The firm in Portland, Ore., where Skornia now works requests one day a week in the office, but doesn’t dictate which day. The arrangement lets her spend time with her son and juggle her job duties, she said. “If I were in the office five days a week, I wouldn’t really ever see my son, except for weekends.”

Emotional labor

For some, coming into the office means donning a mask to fit in.

Kenneth Thomas, 42, said he left his investment-firm job in the summer of 2021 when the company insisted that workers return to the office full time. Thomas, who describes himself as a 6-foot-2 Black man, said managing how he was perceived—not slipping into slang or inadvertently appearing threatening through body language—made the office workday exhausting. He said that other professionals of colour have told him they feel similarly isolated at work.

“When I was working from home, it freed up so much of my mental bandwidth,” he said. His current job, treasurer of a green-energy company, allows him to work remotely two or three days a week.

Lost productivity

The longer the commute, the less likely workers are to return to offices.

Ryan Koch, a Berkeley, Calif., resident, went to his San Francisco office two days a week as required late last year, but then he let his attendance slide, because commuting to an office felt pointless. “I’m doing the same video calls that I can be doing at home,” he said.

Koch, who works in sales, said his nonattendance wasn’t noted so long as his numbers were good. When Koch and other colleagues were unable to meet sales quotas in recent weeks, they were laid off. Ignoring the in-office requirement probably didn’t help, he said, adding he hopes to land a new hybrid role where he goes in one or two days.

Jess Goodwin, a 36-year-old media-marketing professional, turned down an offer to go from freelance to full time earlier this year because the role required office time and no change in pay.

Goodwin said a manager “made it really clear that this is what they’re mandating right now and it could change in the future to ‘you have to be back in five days a week.’”

Goodwin, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., calculated that subway commutes to Midtown Manhattan would consume more than 150 hours annually, in addition to time spent getting ready for work.

Goodwin’s holding out for a better offer. She said she would consider a hybrid position if it came with a generous package and good commute, adding: “And I would also probably need something in my contract being like, ‘We’re not going to increase the number of days you have to come in.’”


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