These are the massive underlying forces that will evolve the worlds of consumers, retailers and manufacturers. We can’t predict exactly how they might do that – but understanding them helps us make better strategic plans.
Retail & e-commerce
e-commerce is reshaping the high street. It’s also reshaping our home lives,
traffic on our roads and the job market. In the developing world, e-commerce may leapfrog conventional stores altogether.
Brands were once a guarantee of quality in the era of mass production. Now we have instant access to consumer reviews, product quality is counting for more and advertising for less. Barriers to entry are falling in many categories, heralding a surge in ‘Microbrands’ from one-man distilleries to niche automotive players.
Social pressure for zero packaging
Across the world, plastic bags are being banned or being charged for. Consumer campaigns are pressuring retailers into reducing packaging. The developing world, with less efficient waste disposal infrastructure, may lead the way in this.
What will tomorrow’s packaging be made from? Starch-based thermoplastics made from vegetable waste? Paper fibres made from seaweed that grows up to twelve centimetres a day? Today, these are exotic materials. But so was carbon fibre once – and now large chunks of airliners are made from that.
Evolution of customer base
Manufacturing is changing. Dark factories, run by robots, are on the rise.
High technology companies are looking at ‘reshoring’ – bringing production back from Asia, opening highly automated plants near their consumers.
The middle class is growing quickly in the developing world, and is likely to
grow even more quickly. Retailers and manufacturers are racing to create the products and services that these new consumers will demand.
Currently a debate is raging about the best ways to combine reduction, re-use,
recycling and recovery of packaging. Should waste be recycled, recovered or burned? Who should pay to make our economy circular? These will be hot political issues in years to come.
Drones. The Internet of Things. Smart products that become services, and
services that allow us to share durable items. Artificial Intelligence that knows
what we want before we know it ourselves. Tech giants like Google and Amazon pouring cash into smart homes and autonomous vehicles.