The future consumer: what will they be like in 2024?

WGSN predicts four unique segments, detailing what's important to each and how to engage with them.

WGSN consumer

By Will Novosedlik

Trend forecaster WGSN has released its latest report on the consumer of the future – or at least, the consumer of 2024.

Forecasts are tricky. It’s commonplace that the longer the outlook, the less accurate the forecast, which is why WGSN was wise to limit itself to a two-year horizon. As a result, the signals of change explored in this report offer up a blend of speculation and plausibility reliable enough to warrant a marketer’s serious attention.

The report is organized around four consumer sentiments and four consumer profiles, as well as engagement strategies for each of the four profiles, making it both approachable and practical.

The four sentiments are regarded more as states of mind. The first two – “Future Shock” and “Overstimulation” – are self-explanatory to anyone with a pulse and a smartphone.

The third – “Tragic Optimism” – is intriguing due to its juxtaposition of concepts, and it refers to the search for meaning in the midst of trauma. In a post-pandemic, conflict-ridden, economically unstable and politically polarized world, there are plenty of opportunities for that. Think of it as the opposite of “Don’t worry, be happy.”

As for the fourth sentiment – “Awe” – this state of mind is defined as the mix of fear and wonder felt when confronted by unexplainable phenomena. The authors suggest that “awe experiences” (such as taking a walk through a redwood forest or standing in the nave of a cathedral) increase empathy and reduce stress.

Now onto the profiles, which are built on the sentiments described above.

Here’s where things get practical.

Profile #1: The Regulators

Attributes: Change-averse

Aspiration: To exercise greater control and consistency over their lives

Demographic: Gen X
This demographic is now in its 40s to mid-50s, and is swamped with mid-life-level responsibilities. They suffer from too much data and too much change, which gets in the way of decision-making (a Next Tech study revealed that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years alone). Normally people can cope with a certain amount of change, but too much of it makes them hungry for regularity at home and work.

Forecast: When it comes to shopping, The Regulators will opt for a combination of click-and-collect and curbside pick-up. Business Insider predicts that click-and-collect purchases will increase by 11.25% between 2020 and 2024. Home commerce – an ecosystem connected by smart home and television technology – will be a strong substitute for people who have neither the time nor the patience to do online product searches. Imagine ordering an outfit worn by a character in the TV show you’re watching just by pushing a button.

Engagement Strategy: Embrace frictionless commerce. Make your customer experience as speedy and seamless as possible.

Profile #2: The Connectors

Attributes: Nihilistic, anti-hustlers

Aspiration: To redefine the meaning of success

Demographic: Millennials and Gen Z

This demographic is exploring fractional lifestyles, having fewer children and job-hopping at unprecedented rates. They are also embracing entrepreneurship and crafting new life/work models. They are not interested in the pre-pandemic obsession with productivity at any cost.

Forecast: There may be a rise in track-and-trace technology. By 2024, brands Armani, Mulberry and Chloe will implement a digital ID, which can trace an item from source to sale to resale. Sustainable facts labels will also aid transparency and ethical purchasing.

Engagement Strategy: Rethink product labels. This demographic prioritizes sustainability, and they want more transparency about the production journey so they can make more ethical purchase decisions.

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Profile #3: The Memory Makers

Attributes: Nostalgic, caring

Aspiration: To reimagine family and work values

Demographic: Boomers and Gen X
This demographic is increasingly single, childless and if they’re LGBTQ+, likely to be lacking in family support. They’re more reliant on their peers for emotional and physical care.

Forecast: A global pandemic followed by a cost-of-living crisis and a war is causing physical and psychological stresses that will lead to a rise in chronic illness and a spike in stroke and heart disease.

Engagement Strategy: Invest in the care economy. Prioritize products and services that allow consumers to age well. Product designers should ensure inclusive design to meet diverse expectations and needs.

Profile #4: The New Sensorialists

Attributes: Unafraid and optimistic about the future of technology

Aspiration: Decentralize everything to create a fair and equitable metaverse

Demographic: Gen X and Gen Y

Forecast: According to Mastercard’s “New Payments Index 2021,” 93% of people will consider using at least one emerging payment method, such as cryptocurrency, biometrics or contactless in the next year.

Engagement Strategy: Meta loyalty rewards. This crypto-cohort needs to be accessed through play-to-earn rewards and their digital wallets. Consider ways to partner through NFTs, in-game sponsorship, and ads and events in meta malls.

All four of WGSN’s consumer profiles are capped at the end with a set of four action points: community commerce is here to stay; make the metaverse work for you; invest in the care economy; and innovate at the right pace and scale – because too much change too fast is just too much.