- Consumers want to invest in products that deliver a spectrum of functions
- They are also moving away from excess to gradually embrace the natural
IN the not so distant past, it was widely agreed upon that the bigger something was, the better it must have been.
This spanned anything from TVs to clothing; from houses to cars.
Today, trends clearly point to the opposite. Now, people want things to be small, streamlined and efficient. Smaller is now mightier.
This development isn’t isolated to just one industry; in fact it can be seen in almost every facet of our lives.
But what are the underlying causes of this paradigm shift?
Miniaturisation of technology
The evolution of technology has been fascinating to watch. In 50 years, we’ve seen computers the size of a house shrink to the size of our palm.
These advances in technology have taught us that often the most streamlined compact products are the most innovative.
Merely 20 years ago, we were lugging boom boxes over our shoulders, so that we could listen to two hours of music outside of our homes. Now, we can carry 20,000 hours of music in our pocket, almost weightlessly.
Even though our technology pieces have become smaller, we are demanding more from them than ever before, and single function devices are becoming obsolete.
Consumers want to invest in products that deliver a spectrum of functions. Today, when we carry a phone we are also carrying a digital camera, MP3 player, audio recorder, planner, gaming device and a web browser.
Now when people make purchases, they consider not only everything the product can do, but also what it can’t and won’t.
Companies like Fitbit (pic above) and Apple have delivered on this and have elevated the humble watch into command central – their products not only tell the time, but also help track your activity, sleeping habits, heart rate and diet.
Innovations like this stem from our need to be nimble. Consumers don’t want to have to carry multiple possessions; there is a freedom in having less.
The edited life
The golden rule of real estate has always been location, location, location. However, increasing population, urbanisation patterns and employment opportunities are making city centres even more crowded.
To combat this, urban dwellers are thriving by finding innovative ways to live large in smaller spaces.
Micro apartments – small living spaces that morph from one room into six – are one of the solutions. Dubbed ‘the apartments of the future,’ these smart-space dwellings are on the rise in major cities like New York City, Bangkok and Tokyo.
On standby to help fill these tiny spaces is IKEA, which has built a thriving business by marketing to consumers who are looking to live with less.
The new luxury
The Global Recession acted as an opportunity for consumers to take a step back and reassess their spending habits.
Because of this, conspicuous consumption and ostentatious displays of wealth have faded into the background and a new luxury market has emerged.
The new luxury is much more discreet. A majority of new premium products are sleek, simplified and minimalist.
Globally, customers are eschewing designer goods covered in flashy logos, and instead are choosing products that are more refined and have an understated elegance.
Take only what you need
Over-stimulated by society’s attitude of ‘always wanting more,’ consumers are now moving away from excess to gradually embrace the natural.
There is no better example of this than on our dinner plates. In the 1930s and 1940s, homemakers prided themselves on their efficiency in the kitchen. However, along the way, this frugal mindset was lost thanks to the lure of processed foods and bulk buying discounts.
Now, we are increasingly becoming more thoughtful about our food purchases and the ‘zero waste’ food trend is bigger than ever. Learning how to give leftovers a second life, consumers are being more mindful of what they discard.
Even the retailers themselves are jumping on the bandwagon. Thanks to organisations like endfoodwaste.org, supermarkets around the world have started to promote and sell imperfect fruits and vegetables, rather than tossing them away.
Practicality and intelligent purchasing are in their golden age. Providing consumers with the things they actually need is key because more than ever, they are aware of what those things are.
It’s not easy to create a simple product that everyone will want to use, while still allowing them to remain connected to the people and things they love.
That’s become the new benchmark for leaders in every industry. The idea is simple; however its execution is anything but.
Our new need for simplicity has become the focal point for countless business plans and drawing boards, and most come up short.
But it’s the few that get it right that create that leap forward, allowing us to achieve, learn and live more with less.
Sheryl Connelly is the global trends and futuring manager at Ford Motor Co. In 2013, Fast Company magazine named her the 24th Most Creative Person in Business. Before working for Ford, she practiced law.
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