This article was originally published in The Australian's The Deal magazine..
Many of us don’t expect futuristic trends to affect our day to day. But the reality is that the adoption and acceleration of unknown and unfamiliar technology is happening faster than ever before. ChatGPT being the prime example.
A significant driver of this acceleration is the generational changing of the guard. Gen Z will emerge as the biggest overall generation at 6.3 millon people in 2030 – relative to a projected total population of just over 29 million. They will outnumber Millennials in the workforce for the first time in history. Then, there is Gen Alpha who will come into early adulthood, comprising nearly one in five Aussies.
While no generation is homogenous, the digital fluency and empathy of Gen Z and Alpha is unprecedented and their shared values that overlap with Millennials are strong signals of future behaviour.
In the leadup to Gen Z booming in 2030, we at Nature believe there are five big cultural shifts that are well underway and poised to influence the decade ahead. More so than ever before, successful brands will be those that can both deliver on the now while planning for this future to come:
1. Playfully Niche
As the wedge between social and media widens, micro communities and subcultures are booming both online and IRL, playing a significant part in helping ‘crisis fatigued’ consumers forget their daily worries. This playfulness is manifesting itself behaviourally as well as visually: a bold and vibrant colour palette is emerging to balance the muted and minimalistic tones we’ve become used to.
As mass reach becomes increasingly harder to achieve, brands need to think about shifting attention away from the mainstream and the individual and towards the fringe and the collective, by empowering and catering to the millions of niche networks popping up, to gain trust and build lasting connections. Brands that prioritise playfulness, an entrepreneurial spirit and showing up in ways that feel human – embracing their good, bad and ugly sides – will unlock genuine fandom.
2. Automation meets imagination
Advances in ‘generative AI’ are to set to usher in a tidal wave of disruptive new products and services across industries. Then we have web3 technologies (decentralised digital platforms) giving people increasingly creative ways to participate in and even own an aspect of their passion via digital collectibles. Whether it's through creating content, selling goods or services, or monetising assets, consumers are becoming their own businesses.
To defend against the threat of consumer-owned brands, big business will need to go hard on brand building via engagement and loyalty. Think about how generative AI can be used to replace or augment curated personalisation with creation. Think about developing web3 ecosystems that will allow customers to become co-creators and share in digital product royalties.
3. The Circular economy
Sustainability is rightfully the need of the hour. We’ve all heard that brands must do, not just say. Today, authenticity is an expectation, not a guaranteed way to differentiate. Consumers will, of course, appreciate brands that are open and vulnerable, but they'll advocate for and support those that make real progress on social change while empowering consumers to do the same.
Consumers will look beyond 'going green’, leaning towards offerings that contribute towards building an equitable society for a truly sustainable future, with the circular economy gaining momentum. To attract tomorrow's consumer, brands should focus efforts to educate and enable consumers to adopt the sustainable lifestyles they aspire to by providing them with infrastructure and tools.
4. Shoppable world
We’re moving towards a world where everything will be shoppable as well as increasingly curated and automated. Think more impulse and smaller shops; more moments alongside occasion and event-based shops. Media publishers are doubling down on ‘contextual commerce’ where people don’t need to leave their favourite content to shop or express interest.
To stay relevant, brands will need to find ways to deliver to and reconcile the needs of conscious convenience. Brands will be required to find new ways to re-think, enhance and augment the shopper journey for tech-integrated audiences. Think about forging partnerships and trialling personalised touchpoints to create shoppable moments – this could be an immediate product purchase or a cross channel lead generation opportunity for a service brand.
5. Adaptive living
Many consumers who are recovering from the effects of the pandemic and current recessions will feel the aftershock for quite some time, especially with Australia’s economic volatility is expected to continue over the next decade.
An increasing economic divide and changing patterns of wealth distribution among generations will create a tension between price consciousness and conscientiousness, as well as ongoing tensions around paying premiums for more sustainable options.
Consumers are naturally finding ways to cope – life hacks and human ingenuity are being celebrated. Brands should double down on innovation to find ways to support and be transparent with a new generation of curious yet critical shoppers.
Brands should find ways to reframe ‘value’ and be flexible to cater to different segments and fluctuating consumer mindsets, leveraging ‘use smarter’ messages during economic downturns and moving to ‘use or switch to better’ narratives as consumer confidence improves.
If you’re tempted to finish reading this and promptly go back to your comfort zone, think again. Quite frankly, we’ve been living through a period of ‘same same’ where our Insta feeds, cafes, cars, homes and even brand logos all started to look identical.
The next decade is ushering in an era of creativity and imagination. We are entering the ‘experience age’, rich with brand engagement and relationship-building opportunity. The possibilities are endless.
As the saying goes, don’t be too busy chasing cows to build a fence. The time to plan for what’s next is now.
If you would like to find out more about Aliya's work, leave your details below.