The Otto Group Trend Study 2014 (Trend agency Prof. Peter Wippermann) says it in a nutshell: "Immaterial values are gaining in significance in saturated markets. Critical and conscious consumers place more value on social responsibility. Relationships and the immediate product environment become more important than the product itself in today's network economy. People assess the value of a product according to ist contribution to their personal quality of life."
Roland Rex, President of Pro Carton, draws the inevitable consequences: "Sustainability is more than simply a trend, sustainability is the prerequisite for future success. Predictions show that the number of tasks of packaging are on the increase, and thus its importance. Packaging has become the interface between the virtual and the real world, it represents the products on the Internet, on billboards as well as on the shelf. The trend to "Guilt-free" as a status symbol will make cartonboard the number one in packaging."
Companies will not only have to deliver high quality products, they will also have to focus on providing ecological and socially correct answers. Consumer ethics will turn into holistic business ethics. This means that companies will have to operate holistically and add aspects such as well-being and quality of life to the categories growth, efficiency and product focus to their activities.
Whereas nearly every fourth respondent in 2009 claimed to buy products which were manufactured on an ethically correct basis (26 %), the number has more than doubled in 2013 (56 %). Ethical consumption has become established on the market. Next to product quality, product environment and production conditions have grown in importance. Social aspects are on the increase. Ethical consumption can add substantially to own well-being.
For the majority of interviewed respondents (60 %) ethical consumption represents an increase in personal quality of life. But it is not exclusively about instant well-being in terms of healthier or more tasty products. Besides ego orientation, caring about others plays an important role. 83 % of all respondents in the trend study admitted to ethical consumption as this would increase the quality of life of people (and animals). 21 % of all persons interviewed regarded industry as the prime driver for ethical consumption. This attitude is most dominant in the younger age group between 16 and 32 years (31 %).
This has direct effects on marketing, the retail trade and design. The Matthias Horx Future Institute sees a clear trend from Fair Trade to Fair Business. "Fair Trade is migrating from the "good people" corner into the mainstream, social standards and high quality are the demands of tomorrow's critical consumers. Worldwide trade throughout all business sectors is being revolutionised, well beyond coffee and bananas."
The worldwide trend researchers of "trendwatching.com" take it one step further: "In 2014, guilt-free is the new status symbol. Growing numbers of consumers can no longer escape an awareness of the damage done by their consumption: to the planet, society, or themselves. But a mixture of indulgence, addiction and conditioning mean that most can't substantially change their consumption habits. The result? A never-ending guilt spiral which creates exciting opportunities for brands that combine tackling this guilt spiral with consumers' endless status seeking (still the driving force behind all consumer behavior)." Indeed, Guilt-Free Status will be the ultimate indulgence in 2014. Time to create products and services that deliver a guilt-free status fix by being one of these: "High status, chic or fashionable products that are visibly sustainable, ethical or healthy will deliver a Guilt-Free Status hit. Get inspired by Nudie's rugs made from recycled jeans."
An interesting aspect in this context is the"Circular Economy" predicted by JWT Intelligence. As described by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a backer of this idea, the Circular Economy is a term for moving economies from the linear "take, make, dispose" model to a more circular system that, among other things, eliminates waste. Companies would become service providers, selling use of their products. The concept is slowly gaining traction. Curbing food waste is becoming a bigger issue.
The effects for the trade are clear: origin, regionality and responsibility become sales arguments. But even more so, the retail trade is currently being revolutionised by new technologies which have a major impact on packaging:
- "Augmented Shopping", the extension of real sales space into the big wide world of the Internet
- Second-Sale-Culturer: reselling products as an opportunity for the trade
- From Point of Sale to Point of View: selling space becomes the stage for perfect product presentations
- Smart Convenience: multimodular supply chains reform logistics
Stationary trade remains attractive as products can be compared and taken home immediately, However, the online-trade is attempting to minimise the latter advantage. Quite rightly, JWT Intelligence views us as living in an "Age of Impatience": "With the mainstreaming of the on-demand economy and our always-on culture, consumer expectations for speed and ease are rising exponentially. As businesses respond in kind, making the availability of their products and services more instant, impatience and impulsiveness will only continue to increase."
An example: eBay, Google, Amazon and grocery services including Walmart To Go have introduced same-day delivery options in some markets and are steadily expanding their availability - and some are shrinking the delivery window down to as little as an hour. The eBay Now service provides delivery from local merchants in about an hour for a $ 5 fee. Home Depot is investing some $ 300 million to upgrade to same-day delivery in 2014. With more consumers shopping online but also seeking instant gratification, delivery speed will become a key competitive advantage.
As speedier delivery comes to online shopping, the pressure is on to dispatch goods within hours. This means a new demand for couriers on call, some of whom will do both the shopping and the delivering. eBay Now's "valets" track down and drop off items in markets where the service is available. Postmates' couriers shuttle lunch, groceries or office supplies. In Chicago, the startup WeDeliver trains "delivery specialists" to work with local merchants.
Increasing speed and easier recognition of information promotes the trend to more visual design. JWT Intelligence believes, we're shifting to a visual vocabulary that relies on photos, emojis, video snippets and other imagery, largely supplanting the need for text. "Visual" is a new lingo that need to be mastered. Brands will increasingly communicate with images more than words. This will apply both in the digital world and offline, where visual cues will complement or replace text everywhere from packaging to menus and instruction manuals. The labels on Motif Wine bottles, for example, feature no copy, just different graphics for each varietal.
But as we move further into the digital age, we're starting to both fear and resent technology, fretting about what's been lost in our embrace of unprecedented change. We'll put a higher value on all things that feel essentially human and seriously question (while not entirely resisting) technology's siren call.
Brands will add human touches as consumers look for more personal and personalized elements in a tech-enabled world populated with global corporate concerns. The new online retailer Zady, for instance, sends handwritten thank you notes with each order. In Italy, Gatorade's personal training app, Smash Your Limits, lets users connect with a trainer who can tailor a program and answer questions. And the new app PS Dept. links fashionistas with sales assistants at high-end stores who can help track down specific items or provide recommendations.
Proudly Imperfection and even outright ugliness - the quirky, the messy and the flawed - are taking on new appeal in a world that's become neatly polished and curated. Imperfection provides an unfiltered, all too human version of reality that reflects all the diversity that's seen in everyday life.
In Europe, there's a movement afoot to reduce food waste by selling rather than discarding imperfect produce. Austrian grocery chain Billa, part of Germany's Rewe Group, launched a private-label line of "nonconformist" produce dubbed Wunderlinge, a made-up word that combines the terms for "anomaly" and "miracle". German retailer Edeka has tested selling ugly produce at a discount, branded as "Nobody is perfect". U.K. magazine Delicious is encouraging readers to buy imperfect produce and speaking out against regulations governing the appearance of produce sold in stores.