Anyone worth their business salt knows there are only really two topics in town right now – sustainability and AI.
Organisations worldwide are investing billions and undergoing huge transformation, as they look to implement sustainability strategies and integrate AI into both operational and customer-facing functions.
But the impact of these topics is not limited to business, with consumers equally influenced both by the effects of climate change and of emerging technologies like AI.
It’s little surprise then to find that Mintel’s global consumer trends for 2024 centered around the increasing importance of human relationships, coping with the reality of climate change and uncertainty about AI impact.
In a world increasingly dominated by algorithms, human skills and emotion will be needed more than ever to make the most of the technological revolution.
“Today’s rapidly advancing AI-powered technologies seem to be on track to outpace human output,” says Simon. “While consumers and businesses learn to balance the use of this emerging technology, consumers will begin to appreciate what makes humans so unique.”
Simon points to the emergence of a new ‘human-as- premium’ label, which will give greater influence to artisans, who can take on the creative spirit that exists outside of an algorithm.
“As the collective memory of a pre-tech world grows more distant, nostalgia will appeal, even to younger generations that only know the conveniences of a digitised world. From this will rise services that teach human skills like self-expression and focus on how to connect with fellow humans.”
More than money
According to Mintel, much like employees in reassessing work priorities (think flexibility over pay), consumers will reassess what matters most to them and this will impact not just what they want and need, but their perception of what constitutes real value.
“As budget pressures force tighter trade-offs, consumers are becoming more realistic in their search for value as they strike a balance between quality received and cost incurred,” say Simon.
This means that the social and emotional value of a brand will grow in importance as consumers look more towards what a brand means to them personally, rather than what it stands for societally.
“Game-changing brands, while respecting consumers’ prioritisation of quality, will foster an emotional connection with them through personalised products that tap into their sense of exploration.”
Ultimately, competitive brands will amplify and capitalise on their legacy, as well a their accomplishments and success stories to demonstrate their heritage and worth.
A return to meaningful, real-life relationships is on the cards for consumers in 2024, as they look to prioritise physical and mental health
Simon explains that while consumers have more access to communication tools than ever before, the onslaught of social media, text chains and video calls has led to stress and burnout. “Interpersonal relationships are emerging as a facet of wellbeing that consumers are eager to explore,” he says.
While brands helped develop the self-care industry by creating products that build a cocoon of comfort for users, they are now being challenged to pull people out of the self-care cocoon.
Simon says brands will help consumers find points of connection, finding meaning in connection as they redesign solo routines – from morning coffee to evening skincare regimens – as something consumers don’t have to do alone.
“Leaning into the sensory appeal that comes with human connection will prove fruitful – a hug, a handshake and other forms of human touch will reinforce the power of connection as a route to improved health and quality of life.”
New green reality
Incorporating sustainability into the day-to-day is no longer enough.
Consumers are increasingly recognising that a passive approach to the climate crisis is not enough to tackle environmental challenges.
“Brands must shift away from traditional strategies that focus on zero-sum sustainability initiatives, towards continuous innovation and tangible solutions that push the boundaries of what’s possible and necessary,” Simon says.
“By highlighting forward-thinking approaches, brands can reframe climate messaging from merely reducing their carbon footprint to actively regenerating and giving back to the world.”
Encouraging consumers to feel a sense of purpose and optimism – believing that their collective efforts can make a positive impact on the planet’s wellbeing, will foster loyalty, Simon explains.
Mintel predicts the brands and consumers will work together in new ways to deal with the many uncertainties facing the world today.
Simon points to soaring prices and political instability as likely to continue to fuel global uncertainty in 2024 and beyond, along with climate change concerns and then AI adding a new layer of uncertainty.
“Rather than resisting the impact of multiple sources of uncertainty, brands need to steer away from their sanitised portrayal of reality and adopt a more honest depiction, presenting genuine products and services, with actionable information, that helps consumers feel more grounded, reassured and able to deal with uncertainty.
“Brands can help consumers acknowledge they have a right to explore the complexities of their emotions, they can join, even lead, the conversations to normalise negative emotions.”