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Consumer behaviour issues and trends 2014

Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

English: Sewing machine

English: Sewing machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To mark the launch of 2014, one of my first actions has been to permanently delete my Facebook account. A brave move! But am I simply part of a wider trend for 2014? I was interested to read an article in the Economist that questioned this, with reference to a recent blog post that sparked some debate about Facebook and its 1.2 billion users. The post on an academic blog called The Conversation implied that research suggests young people are turning away from Facebook, but critics argued the sample was too small to make such projections. I think the debate is summarised well in this follow up blog post on The Conversation. So, it seems Facebook isn’t facing a mass exodus, but, as the Economist article points out, that doesn’t mean it should be complacent.

Rise in influence of disparate ‘edgy’ social media

My view is that young people might find Facebook less ‘cool’ and seek out more edgy alternatives now they know their parents and grandparents can watch their every move as ‘friends’. But even more off-putting, surely, is knowing organisations like loo roll companies now have their own Facebook groups for marketing purposes, some of which generate thousands, if not millions of ‘likes’. I think an implication for marketers might be a need to find new, more discreet ways of reaching youngsters through increasingly fragmented social networking.

Quality over quantity

Talking of ‘cool’, I listened to an interesting podcast the other day about sewing becoming ‘sexy’. The argument was that due to times of austerity and thriftiness, some traditions may be remerging in the UK, such as making things at home (illustrated by popular TV programmes like the Great British Bake Off and Great British Sewing Bee).

According to the podcast, people may even start to question our culture of throw-away fashion and ubiquitous brands, preferring more exclusive, well-made clothes that will stand the test of time. What could be a better example than a bespoke suit from Savile Row? The interview with a Savile Row tailor raised some interesting challenges for the industry, including the sale of Savile Row brands miles away from the famous street, in emerging markets such as China, and the negative effect this might have on brands’ exclusivity. You can listen to the interview here (starts 10 mins 30 seconds in).

That leads me onto another potential trend for 2014: the move towards ‘accessible luxury’. This Financial Times article hints at some interesting trends in the luxury market, including a potential slowdown of luxury growth in China, but also, potential success of ‘accessible luxury’ labels, at the expense of high-luxe yet ubiquitous European brands. I think consumers are becoming more discerning, and pricey luxury brands will increasingly need to find new ways to maintain relevance and meaning in individual customers’ lives.

Conspicuous virtue: the new status symbol

A good example of this is another trend for 2014 predicted by, which suggests something else big this year will be ‘guilt free’ status seeking through consumption. People love to flaunt status through their purchases, and the next big thing may be what the Wall Street Journal referred to as ‘conspicuous virtue’. An outcome of this may be a shift from having things, to doing things, and making sure we tell others about the experience (probably through interesting new social networking platforms!).