Without question, this will inevitably be the year of the modern consumer. Notice I did not say millennial. We have transitioned into a period where smart brands are not just targeting millennial consumers as defined by their age but rather are focusing more on all consumers that have adopted the Millennial Mindset®.
The Millennial Mindset® has expanded beyond just the generation born between 1977 and 2000 and has now been adopted by consumers of all ages. Millennial behaviors such as hyper connectivity, content consumption, creation and curation, the belief in inclusivity and fairness and a thirst for affordable adventures are impacting the way not just millennials, but also consumers who may not be a millennial as defined by their age, interact with the world and with the brands that engage them most.
That being said, 2016 will prove to be a banner year for brands aiming to connect with the new generation of consumers. Here is what we are expecting to see take shape this year:
Transition from beer belly to baby bump
The fact that millennials are becoming parents by the millions is not new news. However, today, millennials are almost exclusively the only generation entering this transition for the first time. This means we will begin to see a new wave of consumerism take shape in full force as millennial parents begin to reshape their buying habits and patterns to accommodate for a growing household.
Social media will become an even more powerful engagement tool
The increase in use of ad-blocking software has made many brands nervous about where to place their bets in the coming years. Apple recently announced that it would provide ad-blocking software in its latest update for iOS 9. This is huge news for brands that relied on digital advertising via banner ads and video. Already, 33 percent of consumers stated that they are likely to try ad-blocking software in the next three months, according to a recent study conducted by Digital Content Next.
Now, as more and more consumers are blocking ads, social media and native advertising will become imperative for brands connecting with modern consumers. However, millennials do not want their social feeds filled up with sponsored posts leading to stronger influencer engagement initiatives. The question will quickly arise, “do you focus on your biggest brand fans or continue expanding reach?”
We predict that an evolution of start up brands that are highly focused on niche communities will thrive as they build engagement and loyalty among the 3 percent of true fans rather than shouting at their entire networks.
News publishing will become synonymous with social
It is without question that 2016 will be a major year for news consumption. With an election around the corner and the Obama administration focusing on checking everything off its list, consumers will be very keen on staying informed about what is going on. However, the way they consume news will change dramatically as a result of the millennial influence. For some time Twitter has been a leading social platform for news consumption and Facebook has begun to change its layout to seem like more of a publisher. However, Snapchat has the potential to be a serious contender in the news space providing modern consumers with bite-sized headlines that are curated by the publishing houses unlike other popular news apps that are curated by the users themselves.
Move over, FOMO. It’s all about FOLO now
In an era where everything is catalogued in a digital world, it is hard not to feel like you were missing out after seeing a picture of your friends having a great time without you at that restaurant you’ve been dying to try. FOMO (fear of missing out) reached its peak last year as Instagram boasted a community of more than 400 million users. However, as modern consumers are becoming even more connected to their mobile devices, online access is expanding and we are seeing a move from just a fear of missing out to a fear of living offline (FOLO). The notion that any activity must be digitally validated (likes, shares, comments, etc.) or the experience didn’t really happen is even stronger now and consumers are constantly checking and rechecking their presence in the digital space to make sure there are reaching their personal quota. The question that arises becomes, “will FOLO lead to more unplugging and rejection of digital social validation? Or, we will see an even stronger digital consumer presence take shape?”
Innovation will fuel personalization
Virtual reality technology like Oculus Rift will allow brands to tell a literal 360-degree digital story. The evolution we have seen from storytelling to Storyliving will change again as consumers will begin to have the opportunity to actually direct the story they see play out in front of their eyes. Additionally, beacon software will take geo-targeting to a new level learning from consumer behaviors and delivering extremely personalized messages based on location and behavior. Macy’s recently partnered with digital app, Shopkick, to use iBeacon software to enhance the customer shopping experience during the holiday season. While only a few brands have fully integrated the technology, dozens more will join the pack in the coming months.
The best brands on the planet will make great strides in regard to customization and personalization with the early leaders moving all the way to individualization and predicting what I will want based on the situation and my prior behavior.
Big brands will become big disrupters
In 2016 we will see the industries with big capital costs including cars, hotels, airlines, entertainment, energy and many more start to move faster to focus on unmet need states vs. incremental share gains in a world with slow growth. Uber changed the way our market functions and big brands have experienced major losses as a result. However, instead of starting a war, smart brands are jumping on board and are looking to major disruptive players as partners in a new age. General Motors announced earlier this week that it will invest $500 million dollars in Lyft Inc. and laid out plans to develop an on-demand network of self-driving cars, according to Reuters. In the future we can expect to see major partnerships like this take place. Stay tuned for the next Airbnb by Hilton.