Consumer trends and business opportunities in times of uncertainty

Inflation, crises, information overdose, stress... The current changing landscape leads consumers to rethink many aspects of their lives and reorder their priorities.

Esade Entrepreneurship Institute

The past three years have been marked by the pandemic, political and economic crises, creating a context of hyper-fatigue, uncertainty, vulnerability, and stress among consumers. While 2022 began with optimism and expectations of economic and social recovery, 2023 presents a substantially different scenario, characterized by recurrent crises that some have dubbed "permacrisis." The ongoing insecurity and stress are largely caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which have had profound effects on the economy, society, and industry. 

After overcoming the pandemic, consumers have found themselves facing growing financial tension due to rising interest rates, the increased cost of living due to hyperinflation, and rising energy prices. These challenges are compounded by the instability stemming from geopolitical and environmental crises, leading to a loss of trust in public authorities and political institutions.  

This uncertain context, combined with an overdose of information and excessive stimuli from new technologies, often results in increased anxiety, stress, mental fatigue, and burnout. All this leads consumer to reconsider many aspects of their lives and reevaluate their priorities in order to find different ways to better cope with a year filled with uncertainties. 

1. Deserving self-care: Pursuing holistic well-being (physical, mental, and social) 

The current stress has led to "hyper-fatigue," which encompasses physical, mental, and even social exhaustion. This trend emphasizes the pursuit of holistic well-being, recognizing the importance of rest and self-care empowering and to a trend known as "emotional escape" or the "age of healing”.  

Businesses can offer long-term solutions to enhance physical, mental, and social well-being, such as products that evoke pleasant sensations and relaxation, interactive technologies that help balance technology usage, and promoting connection with nature through activities like gardening. There is also an increasing demand for natural ingredients in food and beauty products to reduce anxiety, stress, and support environmental sustainability. 

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Solutions that empower (or are perceived as) long-term enhancers of physical, mental, and social well-being. 
  • Technology and interactive experiences to balance the use of technology to improve personal well-being. 
  • Nature: promoting connection with the natural environment through activities such as gardening, etc.

2. Enjoying at home: More with less is possible 

Home is increasingly seen as a refuge from the outside world, a space for immersive fun, meaningful connections, and engaging experiences. Moreover, consumers seek digital escapes and virtual experiences, as well as traditional activities like games and cooking at home. The market for home fitness equipment is projected to grow, and there is a desire to reduce expenses on dining out by cooking more at home. 

According to trendwatching, 72% of GenZ name fun as their number one value, a trend they call freedonism

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Create impactful home experiences (from sound systems to home-cooking experiences…). 
  • Solutions that empower home experiences beyond the interior space using balconies... 
  • The metaverse becomes an inspirational space to rethink the role of each company in this virtual world. 

3. Silent resignation: Life takes priority over work 

The awareness of burnout and the great resignation phenomenon, where many employees have left their jobs in the past two years, has led to a "quiet quitting" trend empowered by the philosophy of working to live and enjoy life. Work-life balance and flexibility are becoming more valued, particularly among younger generations. There are opportunities for companies to experiment with four-day workweeks, offer healthy food options, create multifunctional spaces at home, and provide isolated workspaces. 

According to Work Trend Index 2021 (Microsoft), 73% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Companies with a hybrid work model become increasingly attractive to prospective candidates and even employees. 
  • Helping create multifunctional spaces at home will be increasingly successful. 
  • Focus on getting the most out of the day. 

4. Living consciously: Towards regenerative capitalism 

Recent events such as the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and the climate change debate have highlighted the need to protect finite resources. Consumers are reconsidering their consumption habits and embracing conscious consumption. The concept of regenerative capitalism —which rewards real value creation—, is gaining traction.  

Businesses can capitalize on this trend by humanizing their brands, demonstrating honesty, transparency, and a commitment to reducing their environmental impact while improving consumers' lives and engaging with local communities. However, companies to be valued need to demonstrate their commitment through actions. 

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Taking a more active role in commitment to local communities: greater traceability, transparency, and ethical credentials. Evidence beyond mere commitment messages is required. 
  • Honesty and transparency are highly valued when it comes to demonstrating commitment. Actions speak louder than words in demonstrating values and commitments. 
  • Promoting the use of local resources and diversifying resources for better supply. 

5. Body neutrality: Respecting myself as I am 

This trend challenges the influence of physical appearance on self-perception and advocates for accepting and respecting diverse bodies. This mentality prioritizes the functionality of the products over aesthetics, particularly in the fashion industry, and encourages individuals to ‘feel good’ beyond ‘looking good’. Companies can actively listen to consumers' needs, promote inclusivity, use inclusive language, and develop inclusive products and communication. 

According to a survey by TopDoctors, 82% of Spaniards say they are ashamed of their body when they go to the beach

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Active listening to the needs, concerns, and voices of individuals. 
  • Companies must take action to promote inclusivity. 
  • Functionality above aesthetics.

6. Meaningful connections: In search of vitamin people 

We are social animals and need human connections but due to recent events, we have stayed at home and significantly reduced our contact with other people. In that situation where stress and solitude have become our close companions and despite the rise of digital platforms, we have seen the limit of our digital connections.  

Consumers are now seeking valuable and deep connections to foster their own well-being beyond superficial digital interactions. Opportunities exist for companies to cater to the needs of individuals living alone and foster meaningful connections between consumers and clients. 

The 2022-2037 household projection of the Spanish National Institute predicts that 1 in 3 households will be single person households

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • The number of people living alone is increasing, so understanding their needs and providing solutions is crucial. 
  • Encouraging meaningful moments and connections between consumers and clients. 

7. The value of privacy: Data for personalized experiences 

With the growing emphasis on privacy and data protection, we find ourselves in a paradox of privacy as consumers desire both privacy and personalized experiences. Customers and users are becoming firmer on this aspect and while they understand that data may be necessary for the usage of certain solutions, they expect an even more personalized experience in exchange for sharing their data.  

Businesses can leverage this data to create unique and tailored experiences to each customer’s needs, but they must collect and utilize data responsibly to avoid information overload. Technology can be an ally in enhancing the customer/user experience through personalization. 

Some of the business opportunities: 

  • Seeking personalized experiences in exchange for the data provided as "currency." 
  • Collecting and utilizing only essential data for greater personalization and to avoid information overload. 
  • Technology is an ally for personalization and will help improve the customer/user experience. 

Overall, Anima Consulting’s report on 2023 trends highlights the challenges and opportunities businesses face in navigating the evolving consumer landscape shaped by uncertainty, emphasizing the importance of holistic well-being, home experiences, work-life balance, conscious consumption, body acceptance, meaningful connections, and personalized experiences while respecting privacy. 

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