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Rakuten Marketing Blog

8 Consumer Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2018

Posted on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 @ 17:01 PM by Daniel James

It's a new year, and to celebrate we're looking at some of the most important 2018 consumer trends every marketer should know and strategize for!

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8 Consumer Trends Every Marketer Needs to Know in 2018

New year, new marketing strategy.

With the 2017 holiday season officially in the books, marketers are now focusing on what to expect from 2018 - and there's a lot they should be expecting. From the emergence of Generation Z to the increased importance of live video, marketers will need to understand who their audience is and what they're looking for. In this blog post, we take a look at eight consumer trends every marketer should know in 2018.

1. The Emergence Generation Z

Generation Z, aka the Centennials, started appearing on the radar for more marketers and becoming a bigger part of the conversation. Ranging from teens to fresh out of college, these shoppers started to find their way into the limelight during 2017. However, most conversations were focused on what Gen Z shoppers liked and didn’t like, how they behaved, and how they approached the Q4 holiday season.

Now, Gen Z will be out of the shadows and in the spotlight in 2018 as marketers charge ahead in trying to understand what Gen Z shoppers like and don’t like in an attempt to start building brand loyalty and a relationship with this digital generation. Gen Zer’s, who have already proven they’re more comfortable spending than the cash conservative Millennials, will begin carving out it’s spending power in the world as they enter the workforce. Even those not leaving school will have leverage in spending as they will dictate products to be purchased in the household and during key shopping periods, in particular back to school shopping 2018. Marketers should not be taking all eyes off Millennials and Gen X just yet but they should begin to understand and cultivate a relationship with Gen Z in 2018.

2. Live Video

Live video was an exciting new opportunity in 2017 for marketers. Audiences loved the ability to feel like they’re getting a front row seat to an event or a 'behind-the-scenes' look at something. Brands and influencers found innovative ways to engage with audiences: from hosting shows and education opportunities to interacting with the community on a one to one basis. The result was an authentic experience that audiences would take advantage of any time an influencer or brand decided to go live.

Expect live video to innovate and increase output approach in 2018. Content creators will be looking for ways to make their live video stand out and make the experience engaging in ways that pre-recorded video can’t. One of the biggest advantages of live video is the ability to save it after and have it available on demand, so the content increase will happen naturally as more people turn to live broadcasts. But don’t just expect content creators to leverage all the bandwidth – brands should be looking for unique ways to leverage live video of their own, doing things like tours, Q and A’s, product demonstrations, or just general content that give the brand a human-like touch.

3. Visual Content

Visual content – recorded videos and photos specifically – became a form of communication for digital shoppers. They could read a product description, or see it with their own eyes and decide for themselves how it looked. The visual content was able to tell stories and highlight features and ways a product could be used or worn in ways that written descriptions could not. And it was no surprise that some of the most popular social media channels among younger shoppers were visual-based, such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.

With Gen Z consumers on the rise, and Millennial shoppers still controlling a majority of spending power, engaging on a visual level will be critical. Images and videos should tell a story that is relatable to and resonate with viewers who are looking for an emotional reason to connect with a product. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest trends when it comes to visual-based platforms, both for opportunity reasons (such as Snapchat verifying influencers) and for compliance/brand safety ones (such as Instagram making compliance a bit easier).

4. The Experience

Generation Z, the generation born in the digital era, has an affinity for shopping in store. Crazy, but true – they view in-store shopping as online shopping come to life. That’s a strange perspective shift from older shoppers who once saw shopping online the same as in-store, but just from the convenience of their own living room.

2018 will an opportunity to capitalize on experiential marketing practices. Brick and mortar retailers will have a chance to connect with shoppers – especially younger demographics – by having things like product demonstrations and interaction points set up. Younger shoppers don’t just want to see a product, they want to hold it and know how it works. For digital storefronts looking to create an experience, the options are there – and growing. Having interaction points, videos, user photos, and even ways to make the experience feel like a game are all experiences that can connect with younger shoppers. And expect experiences like augmented reality and virtual reality to boost that interactivity even further, especially augmented reality which is projected to make strides in 2018.

5. Cause Culture

Shopping with a conscience is something that is taken seriously by Gen Z and Millennial shoppers. It’s not enough to have the best product or best price for these demographics, they want to know if a brand stands for something (and if so, what), if they’re “green” in their products and production, and if a brand’s beliefs align with their own.

Studies have found that Millennials are willing to pay more for a product to support a cause or a company that supports a good cause, and are the most likely to spend time researching a brand to identify what causes they support. Only 12% of Millennials said they don’t think about the causes that a brand supports. Some of the most important causes Millennials think about are employee treatment practices, environmental impact, and the support of social, health, and/or humanitarian causes.

In 2018, consider how the messaging comes across in a marketing campaign, and if there are ways to incorporate causes or beliefs that shoppers care about into a brand’s message. The goal should be to focus on this naturally – not to force a belief into the conversation because it may win consumers over. If shoppers hold a cause in high value that aligns with a marketer’s organization, connecting with customers about that can help earn their loyalty and business.

6. Trust and Loyalty

Younger shoppers tend to be wearier of advertisements. In a survey on eMarketer, the opinion of ads amongst teenagers was split, with 47% feeling ads were trustworthy in some fashion, while 46% felt that they were “not very trustworthy” to “not trustworthy at all.” This includes ads they might find on social platforms like Instagram.

Instead, the article notes, teens find trustworthiness in content and ads that their friends share – in a way, vouching for the product or brand they’re sharing – or comes from an influencer. The authenticity and trustworthiness of these sources are the driving force behind teens putting their guard down and approaching the ad from a more trustworthy perspective.

Building that trust with younger consumers – not just teens, but college and recent grads as well – will be critical for marketers this year. Laying the foundation is key, but to lay the foundation they must know how to approach these demographics. Working with influencers and making content shareable are both crucial to achieving this.

7. Micro-Influencers

Influencers are again going to be a hot topic for marketers as they look to connect with consumers. The value of connecting to and building trust with a shopper (especially a shopper from Generation Z or a younger Millennial) through an influencer cannot be overstated. In order to fully take advantage of this and the other benefits of an influencer, brands must build their own relationships with the influencer. That should be a big initiative for many brands and marketers this year.

But it’s not just big influencers that are worth investing in. Smaller influencers – called micro-influencers – have a distinct reach into niche consumers and smaller demographics that may be lost in a larger influencer’s sea of followers. These micro-influencers can connect with niche followers using similar methods to larger ones with authentic content and an online personality, understanding their followers' needs and relating to them, and being personable while speaking their language. All of this enables micro-influencers to produce intimacy a smaller group of followers can connect to. This makes the experience feel even more personal to the niche consumer.

From a marketing perspective, identifying and building relationships with these niche consumers can come from micro influencers and there is an opportunity to capitalize on this in 2018. Brands should be looking not just for the largest following count, but the most engaged audience. After all, the strength of micro-influencers isn’t in their follower count, it’s in their follower’s engagement. Brands should also work to make sure that their influencers, big and small, are integrated into a single marketing strategy.

8. Millennials Want to Spend

Millennials have been known to be careful about spending their money. In 2018, however, that belief may need to be put to rest.

Yes, Millennials still prefer deals, but new data is showing that 68% of Millennials plan to make at least one purchase from pricier product categories, such as furniture, smartphones, and airline tickets. Comparatively, less than half of Millennials said the same thing last year. Additionally, 58% of Millennials said they plan to make a big ticket item purchase sometime this year.

Millennials are planning on spending this year, and that means there’s a lot of potential opportunities for marketers to reach this demographic in new ways. This doesn’t mean marketers should give up on offering deals and coupons – that’s still a huge driving factor to getting a Millennial shopper’s attention – but with Millennials planning to spend more and big-ticket items in 2018, marketers should have a keen eye on the Millennial demographic!

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