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Lifestyle Trends Affecting Global Business

Lifestyle Trends Affecting Global Business
  • On January 14, 2014

Foresight and consulting firm Social Technologies analyzes the business implications of 20 major trends shaping the lives of global consumers.

The size and structure of families are changing all around the world, and a new wave of middle-class growth is unfolding in developing markets. Urbanization, car ownership, and increased access to technology are giving people new choices and a chance to pursue more modern lifestyles. At the same time, the lifestyles of consumers in the world’s most advanced markets are evolving as well, driving interest in ethical consumption and products that relieve time pressure.

These developments will create new growth opportunities-but also challenges-for global businesses and governments, according to a study conducted by the Washington, DC-based research and consulting firm Social Technologies. Organizations need to reevaluate their long-term consumer strategies in order to keep up with changing lifestyles.

Drawing upon five years of research, the Top 20 Trends report identifies the most important trends affecting consumer lifestyles in 2006 and forecasts their future trajectories. The purpose of the study is to provide corporate and government decision makers with insight into the changing consumer landscape and help them shape their long-term strategies. Tom Conger, founder of Social Technologies, commented, “In creating the Top 20, we wanted to get beyond the trend lists that are really just about the US or rich countries, and think about consumers everywhere. While a trend may be more mature in one part of the world than another, many of these trends are happening in the poorest nations as well as the richest.”

Top 20 Trends-Highlights

Note: The listed trends are in no particular order

1. Cultural Flows. Cultural flows-the spread of ideas, media, products, brands, and lifestyles to new places-are increasing as the number of cultural poles rises and the world becomes more interconnected. Cultural flows expose consumers in both developed and developing markets to new ideas, products, and ways of thinking.

2. Time Pressure. More people around the world feel pressured for time in their lives. Many consumers feel they have less time to manage mounting levels of activity, information, and choice, and the resulting accelerated pace of life. While time pressure and its effects are felt most intensely in developed countries, change is occurring most rapidly in emerging markets.

3. Cultural Multipolarity. The ability to produce and disseminate culture in its modern forms is rising in more places around the world. New centers of cultural power are ascending, driving the emergence of cultural multipolarity.

4. Asia Rising. The countries of Asia are strengthening their economic and cultural clout and boosting their prominence in the world. This is clear whether measured by GDP growth rates, increasing scientific and technological capabilities, the growing variety of goods and services now available to Asian consumers, or simply the feeling of buzzing energy on a busy street in Bangalore, Shanghai, or Bangkok.

5. Media Spread. More people have access to mass media than ever before. Media devices including radios, TVs, computers, and mobile phones are becoming more affordable, and new broadcast media like satellite and the Internet are increasing choice and accessibility.

6. Social Freedom. Social freedom-the range of personal, political, and economic options open to individuals-is growing around the world. Propelled by political change, economic growth, and information flows, social freedom is expanding the range of choices available to consumers and allowing individualism to spread.

7. Transparency. The increasing ability to gather, store, and share information is making it easier to know about people, products, companies, and governments, propelling the world towards transparency. Driving factors include information technology, the spread of media, social freedom, and rising incomes and education levels.

8. Monetization. Consumers are increasingly substituting purchased products, devices, and services for labor and time. As more people equate time with money, many are choosing monetized goods and services-from packaged flour to washing machines to dog-walking services-that offer convenience and time savings.

9. Rising Mobility. People are upgrading their mobility, enabling them to move further and faster than before. Rising mobility in emerging markets will be transformational, impacting lifestyles and opening up new areas of demand for mobility-related goods and services.

10. Migration. Over the next few decades, international and internal migration will continue at high levels, altering both the lives of the people moving and the societies and regions receiving them. This migration will affect language, social values, food, entertainment, and many other aspects of daily life.

11. Networked World. Networked information devices are spreading, enabling new connections between people, organizations, and objects and allowing more information to travel faster. Already, 15% of the 6.4 billion people on the planet have some form of direct Internet access, and the number with access to fixed and mobile phone networks is higher still, at over 2 billion. The networked world trend is having profound impacts, which are likely to accelerate.

12. Consumerism. Thanks to globalization and rising incomes, consumerism is becoming an option for more people than ever before. As this happens, lifestyles that rely on consumer goods-and center on the acquisition of these goods-continue to spread around the world.

13. Changing Families. The basic size and structure of families are changing all over the world. Fertility rates are falling, resulting in fewer births and smaller families. Smaller families are driving the aging of the world population, and changing the structure of many societies in emerging and developing markets.

14. Women’s Power. Women around the globe continue to gain social, political, and economic power. They are exercising greater control over their lives and pursuing new options, propelled by better education and changing values and social attitudes.

15. Electrification. Access to electricity is growing around the world, and a number of developing nations are pushing forward aggressively with electrification programs. Electricity changes lives-how people cook and do daily chores, how they work, their access to entertainment and information, and the general pace of life.

16. Aging. The global population is not only aging, but will age faster in coming decades than in the past. By 2050, the median age is projected to rise by 10 years, to 37, and there will be nearly 2 billion people aged 60 and over.

17. Ethical Consumption. Ethical consumption integrates personal values into purchasing choices. Rather than focusing solely on standard consumer variables such as price, quality, and convenience, buyers consider ethical, religious, political, and other beliefs in their decisions.

18. Population Growth. Population growth continues to be one of the world’s most significant trends. Every decade adds hundreds of millions of people to the global population, with the vast majority in medium- and lower-income countries.

19. Middle-Class Growth. Over the last century the emergence of large middle-income groups within more developed societies has gone hand-in-hand with the creation of modern consumerism. Now a new wave of middle-class growth is unfolding in emerging markets.

20. Urbanization. The number of people living in urban areas has risen sharply in recent decades, from roughly 1 billion in 1960 to 3 billion now. People’s lives change when they move from rural areas to cities. They can do different work, increase their income, and encounter new social rules, ideas, and lifestyles. The fastest urban growth will occur in emerging and developing markets, driving the creation of vast numbers of new consumers.

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