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Consumer Lifestyle
Published: 16 Dec 2013

Consumer Lifestyle Year in Review 2013

Consumer Lifestyle assistant editor Madeleine Cuff takes a look back at some of the highlights of Stylus reporting in 2013 across science, technology and consumer lifestyle.

The New Luxury Consumer

Luxury remained a strong focus for the Consumer Lifestyle team in 2013. Our December report from the annual International New York Times luxury conference explored how the luxury market is changing in south-east Asia. 

Executives highlighted the importance of ‘Aspirational Ambitious Affluent’ (Generation AAA) consumers. Aged 18-34, this group dominates markets across south-east Asia, including China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. High-quality finishes, small luxury items and opportunities to customise products will appeal to this customer segment.

The new luxury consumer is younger and more digitally savvy, and has less brand loyalty than other groups, according to Armand de Milleville, vice-president of US financial services firm American Express. Speaking at the Financial Times Business of Luxury Summit, which took place in Vienna in June, Milleville advised brands to engage creatively with younger consumers – and ensure that this includes a strategy for selling via m-commerce through tablets and iPads.

Luxury in China: New Directions analysed the Chinese market in greater detail, highlighting a new class of luxury consumers in the region, with an eye for subtle, understated quality, a reverence for heritage and an expectation of VVIP service. “Luxury in China is now about being ‘in the know’ versus being ‘in the show’,” noted Bruno Lannes, a partner for consulting firm Bain in Greater China. “Brands will face much more pressure to make their offer relevant to the Chinese shopper, rather than relying on luxury status alone.”

We look forward to revisiting the Chinese consumer in more depth in the first of our regional reports, scheduled for January.

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Asian consumer
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Asian consumer

Modern Communications

Round-the-clock connectivity and the growing ubiquity of smartphones in Western markets have had a profound effect on digital communications, particularly among tech-literate teens. Emoji – graphic symbols used in electronic messages and websites – are gaining global traction. “Teens and millennials are driving emoji usage: they are more social, more snap happy and less meticulous in the way they communicate,” noted advertising agency JWT’s Will Palley. The Emoji Economy explored how brands can harness these visual tools to add a layer of emotion to digital content and track consumer mood.

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Line merchandise

In Modern Dating, we charted the rise of dating apps, which are changing the way people meet and communicate. Developers are beginning to take advantage of existing smartphone tools, such as GPS, sensors and constant connectivity, to deliver tailored mobile experiences that make dating more like shopping. 

Swipe-based social discovery apps such as Tinder – which has enjoyed a meteoric rise since it launched in September 2012 – have proved an instant hit with mobile users, while advances in haptic technology are opening up opportunities for new product categories – particularly for couples and families. The report highlighted potential opportunities for brands to apply these learnings in product development and consumer engagement strategies across a variety of sectors.

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Twine

Future Mobility

Leading designers are developing innovative future transport concepts that address the problems of depleting resources and large, urban-dwelling populations. We showcased some of the best concepts spotted at design challenges and graduate shows around the world.

  • The Move Award 2013, which won support from major auto brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Ford, invited design students from around the world to devise new mobility concepts for 2050. Cars constructed with water, flying pods for high-rise rescues and space-saving tow trucks were just some of the key design concepts to emerge from the competition.
  • A host of exciting new design concepts were on show from this year’s graduates of the MA Vehicle Design course at London’s Royal College of Art. Graduates responded to the pressure to create economical, environmentally friendly auto designs by applying 3D-printing technologies and recycled materials.
  • Global automotive design studios applied the principles of biomimicry to develop mobility solutions for 2025 at this year’s Los Angeles Auto Show Design Challenge. This year’s winner was from China’s SAIC Motor – providing a fascinating example of how Chinese car companies are looking to a future where they are not just serving a domestic car market, but a global one.
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Crystal Water concept by Verena Holzmann
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LA Seed concept from BMW
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Mazda Auto Adapt
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SAIC Motors' ant-inspired Roewe Mobiliant concept
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The Suba-Roo concept from Subaru

Cutting-Edge Tech Talks

This year, the Consumer Lifestyle team attended a series of major technology events, in addition to conferences, forums and workshops exploring the cultural impact of emerging technologies.

  • In September, we visited Berlin’s IFA – the largest consumer electronics show in Europe. All-in-one touchscreen devices, premium TVs and new innovations in white goods were on display from brands chasing the lucrative family market.  
  • Europe’s tech entrepreneurs and pioneers explored ways for businesses to remain agile and discussed the challenges of information overload at the annual Liftconference in Geneva in February.
  • Meanwhile, the Re.Work Technology Summit offered expert insights into the potential impact of emerging technologies, including self-assembly, robotic origami and wearables.
  • The Wearable Futures conference, held in London in December, explored ways in which wearable technology can successfully integrate with fashion brands – validating much of the thinking in Human First from our Agile Futures Macro Trend.

The Hybrid Age

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This year saw the launch of Agile Futures, the seventh Stylus Macro Trend, which explains how to capture consumers as the edges between people and technology dissolve, across three reports:

  • Human First sizes up the opportunities and challenges posed by everywhere computing, through wearables, mind control and artificial intelligence. In the hybrid age, game-changing products must respond to human behaviours.
  • Elastic Tech identifies strategies to guide product development from 2014 and beyond, harnessing flexible displays, fluid interfaces and shape-shifting surfaces. Moving beyond voice and gesture recognition, the next wave of tech products will recognise and adapt to human emotions in more nuanced ways.
  • Chameleon considers how responsive technologies might be used to create flexible spaces that distract and delight consumers. Used in product launches and marketing campaigns, responsive lighting can create chameleon environments that reveal or frame products in unusual ways.

Agile Futures was inspired by key events in the science and technology sector – particularly International CES, which took place in Las Vegas in January. Highlights included a flurry of flexible displays, health-tracking bands and smart sensors like Flower Power – a sensor that alerts the user to the needs of their plants, designed by US-based wireless tech firm Parrot.

From curved-screen smartphones, to ever more sophisticated wearable technologies, 2013 was the year the Hybrid Age was brought to life. The Consumer Lifestyle team is anticipating the next edition of International CES in January for an insight into what 2014 will hold.

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LG Smart Activity Tracker
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Samsung flexible smartphone prototype
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FUTURE INSIGHTS
Less is More Polite, flexible and intuitive were the watchwords for new technology products in 2013. Following key breakthroughs in flexible batteries, a host of intuitive devices is expected to hit the market in coming years.
The Value of the Visual From self-destructing Snapchat messages to IM-ed emoji and selfie-filled dating apps, images have become central to how millennials converse. Savvy brands will start fully exploring the marketing potential of these fun, frivolous and informal visual mediums in 2014.
Young Money Matters In south-east Asia, it is the young who hold the purse strings. Don’t underestimate Gen AAA’s attention to detail and high-quality finishes. Small luxuries and customisation opportunities are the way to their hearts. Expect smart brands to marry digital retailing and social marketing with a renewed focus on craftsmanship and quality to tempt young Asian consumers.
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