Time marches on. Now that 2014 is here, what are the consumer trends that we can expect to see?
Ann Mack, Director of Trendspotting at JWT, a global advertising agency, has spent the last eight years identifying what's hot and what's not. She says 2014 won't bring abrupt changes but rather an evolution of trends that began in 2013 or earlier.
In 2013, for example, 3-D printing – a process that creates actual clones of objects, not just paper copies – began to gather critical mass. However, these machines are still very expensive. Not to worry, major retailers will begin heavily marketing do-it-yourself 3-D printing at their locations.
“You'll see more retailers offering hubs for these 3-D printers because not everyone will be able to afford them,” Mack predicts. “UPS, for example, is offering these printers at some locations for start-ups and entrepreneurs to use to create models and prototypes.”
Among the other consumer trends she expects to develop in 2014 is “armchair travel.” Don't have an up to date passport? Not a problem.
“New technologies are enabling vicarious travel in novel ways,” Mack said. “A virtual reality now used in some video games can put you in a geographic location. You wouldn't have to leave your living room.”
Not only cheaper, but no jet lag.
Wall Street went crazy last year for Bitcoin, a digital currency. Mack says it's here to stay and it's not just for online transactions either.
“Restaurants and bars from London to Sydney to New York are accepting Bitcoin,” she said.
Wine from China
If you are a wine lover you know Australia and Argentina are among the wine producers competing with France and California. But are you ready for Chinese wine? Mack says there will be a lot more of it in 2014 and it's not that bad.
“The quality is definitely improving as the output rises,” she said. “China is already the world's fifth-largest wine producer.”
E-cigarettes have been a hot trend for the last couple of years and that should not change this year. But Mack thinks 2014 will be a year in which more governments take steps to regulate these electronic devices that dispense nicotine through vapor instead of smoke. For that reason she expects to see growth in “vaping” lounges that cater to e-cigarette users.
“Some businesses have been opportunistic to create a communal vibe among vapers, especially as regulations for e-cigarettes get hammered out,” she said.
Other growing trends include podcasts – in particular Podcast One, a network of celebrity oriented podcasts – fast-food tofu, edible packaging and digital grieving, with online memorials and and virtual candles for the departed.
Trends can run in the opposite direction, of course. And one trend that appears to be on the way out, according to Mack, is the hashtag, a word or unspaced phrase with the # symbol in front, used to group social media messages. Mack sees “hashtag fatigue” setting in during 2014.
“Hashtags may not be that useful, other than allowing people to try to prove their cleverness,” she said.
Synthetic food dyes may also be on the decline as the list of ingredients consumers try to avoid gets longer. As for a theme to 2014, Mack sees the “end of anonymity.” Edward Snowden's NSA data dump was just the capper on a trend Mack says she's been following for some time.
“It speaks to the fact that it's becoming nearly impossible to avoid being tracked by governments and corporations,” she said.
On a more positive note, she sees consumers embracing products, services and activities that promote mindful living, “developing a quasi-zen desire to experience everything in a more present conscious way.”