4 Key Consumer Trends in the Expectation Economy
4 Key Consumer Trends in the Expectation Economy

4 Key Consumer Trends in the Expectation Economy

Customers’ expectations today are bigger than ever. An Assurant report from 2018 indicated that 90% of customers believed that best-in-class experiences raised their expectations for similar companies, whereas 83% thought best-in-class experiences raised their expectations for all companies.

This means that your customers are judging the experience you’re offering not only against your competitors, but against all the companies they do business with. Whether you’re a bank, a coffee shop or an online store, you’re suddenly competing with everyone – Amazon, Google, Apple, Netflix, Uber, and the likes. In this context, disruption and innovation are no longer nice-to-have. Because people decide how valuable brands are by how seriously they take the responsibility to make their lives better.

Wondering what would make consumers’ lives better? Check out the four consumer trends that are bound to reshape the mindsets, behaviours, and expectations of consumers in 2019 according to David Mattin, Global Head of Trends and Insights at TrendWatching.

The expectation economy

The big players in tech, retail, services, and entertainment set a precedent that is really hard to attain, let alone beat. You can blame it on Amazon – it’s their free 2-day shipping that started all this expectations transfer. Or you can accept the fact that change in human behavior is inevitable. Once people are engaged in a superior customer experience or are offered a faster, easier way to purchase something, they rush in to apply their newly-raised expectation to every other brand.

Inevitably, people are getting more demanding – they won’t settle for anything less, and brands are pressured to perform. “One brand’s gold standard of service becomes the price of admission for everyone, a phenomenon called expectation transfer,says Ian McCaig, Qubit Co-Founder and CMO.

Today people consider a plethora of factors before they make purchasing decisions, and customer experience is sovereign. However, offering your customers a better experience than your competitors won’t make them loyal. What you need to do is really measure up to their true expectations. Otherwise, they will only stick around until better options come along.

David Matting has been studying the expectation transfer phenomenon for a while. In his opinion, this new economy relies on three pillars:

  1. The expectations for rising quality (from products, service, and customer support)
  2. The desire to work with companies that make a positive impact
  3. The quest for personal expression through unique preferences and status

Expectations are constantly moving, crossing age groups and verticals as rapidly as we identify them. However, some things never change. We’re still the same old humans with the same old set of basic needs: value, excitement, convenience, love, fun, safety. These core needs do not change.

Change only applies to how we use new technologies or new approaches to serve such core needs. Innovation serves basic human needs in new ways and indeed changes people by rewiring them, by giving them new behaviors and habits. Hence, it’s not people who change, it’s innovation that creates new expectations. 

Let’s look at the 4 new expectations set to dominate consumer behavior in 2019:

#1 Play, play, play

The rise of AI, automation, and robots has gotten many people worried about their jobs and their future. We all know the debates. Automation, however, is not only a reason for concern. It’s also a subject of curiosity – feeding people’s basic need for play, which has always been part of human nature.

Whether it’s Netflix suggesting a movie they like, Amazon Dash buttons or the new AI assistant taking their orders at some fast-food, the automation technologies present in an increasing number of places are somewhat making people’s experiences feel magical. These technologies are making people curious because they appeal to their sense of play.

By using automation technologies – not just to be more efficient or to provide extended personalization, but also to create magical, compelling experiences, you’ll be serving people’s need for play. In David Mattin’s words, you’ll be creating a moment of automation theater – a magical, compelling show that people will travel to have and share with their network out of excitement.

#2 The end of excess

EU has already reached an agreement on single-use plastic ban. Canada will ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021. Obviously, there’s a strong movement for a more sustainable and more ethical consumerism. This has a lot to do with another important human need – living a life in accordance with our deepest values and principles.

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People are now more aware that bare consumerism has a negative impact on the planet, the society, and their own health.  They feel concern and guilt. They still want to have amazing experiences, but if possible without the guilt and the negative impact on the planet.

#3 In-person experiences

We live in atomized times and highly individual societies. Everything comes to our house – the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the books we read.

This on-demand lifestyle has confined us to small, individual boxes, where most of the time we’re stuck to our phones, and this conflicts with our deep sense of community. We are social animals, and community is one of the basic needs.

In-person experiences are helping us repair the social fabric and optimize our social life. For instance, cities are finding new ways about how to use urban space and create opportunities for interaction. In Chicago, a pairing of affordable housing and libraries was designed to influence relations across race and class. The Northtown Branch Library in Chicago now replaces the former neighborhood library and is coupled with an affordable housing complex for seniors.

#4  Virtual experience economy

Status is one of the key drivers of all consumer behavior. Before this new experience economy, buying things – whether it was a fabulous car or the latest Gucci fur slippers, was also a way to tell the world that we have the means for it, that we can afford it.  

In the new economy, people are turning to rare, incredible experiences that show off their status. Living so connected helps us display our status incredibly fast. Instagram and Facebook are waiting by, helping us turn every experience into a very shareable status currency. Our network gets to instantly find out that we’ve had an amazing experience which they haven’t gotten to yet.

More and more people are turning to virtual worlds. They are having extreme experiences in augmented and virtual realities. This February, Marshmello put on the first virtual concert, which was attended by 10 million Fortnite players. When so many people gather in a virtual space for an experience, something really meaningful must be happening.

In a world where people are having AR & VR experiences that are as real and as meaningful to them as they feel in the real world, then those virtual experiences become a status currency. They mark you out as special.

The world will always be shifting, so just knowing about trends is not enough. It’s equally important to pay close attention to all innovations, observe the new expectations they instill in people, and act on them to create something delightful for customers.