Internet shopping in the 2000’s fueled the demand for “mass customization.” Today, mobile technology and social networking have created a culture of “personal consumerism.” Consumers are no longer satisfied with devoting their loyalty to brands that “get them” — today’s consumers want to be personally involved in the brands and companies they do business with, from having opportunities to voice their opinions to scrutinizing a company’s business practices and the social causes it supports (or doesn’t support). In their list of top consumer trends for 2013, the marketing analysts at trendwatching.com reveal how consumerism is morphing from mass to custom to personal. Whether it’s funding new products and services through websites like Kickstarter or manufacturing their own creations via a 3D printer, today’s consumers are all about having it their way.
Companies are scrambling to keep up with the proliferation of technologies available to consumers, and with the ever-expanding array of platforms through which they can express their likes or dislikes for any (and all!) products and services. With technology becoming ever more pervasive, reaching into every corner of our lives, the question is no longer whether we will give up our autonomy and privacy but rather what are willing to trade it for and who do we trust. If 2012 was the year of “big data,” 2013 may very well turn out to be the year consumers reassert their rights and demand more in exchange for providing companies with information about every aspect of their lives.
While it is too early to predict a turnaround, early indicators point to increased consumer spending in 2013. Concern about the impending “fiscal cliff” and increased taxes dampened consumer confidence in December and January, but the most recent Consumer Confidence Index shows consumers are “cautiously optimistic” that the economy and employment will improve in the year ahead. A recent Gallup report shows consumers so far are spending somewhat more this year compared to the past several years. Upper income spending is up and the average to date is close to the peak reported in 2008. Purchases of luxury goods also have rebounded, according to the Luxury Institute, which reports better-than-expected sales in the fourth quarter of 2012 for leading luxury brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Cartier.
Improved consumer confidence is good news for interior designers. Even better news is that upper-income consumers, who scaled back spending in the second half of 2012, seem willing and eager to spend again. But designers can expect that returning clients will be more demanding and more publicly vocal about their likes and dislikes.