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Consumer Life

Predictive trends to identify tomorrow’s opportunities

Around the world, consumers’ lives are transforming at unprecedented speeds. These shifts present huge challenges for brands – but also point the way to extraordinary opportunity.

GfK Consumer Life is the longest-running and most comprehensive study of changing values and lifestyles around the world. The 25+-country database and related perspectives provide a rich understanding of key markets and categories – both today and tomorrow.

We identify how people live, what they want, and how they think. Consumer Life defines and anticipates new consumer opportunities and emerging needs, revealing

  • what are the big consumer trends and market disruptors today, and how this is likely to change in the future 
  • how peoples' values and lifestyles are evolving – and why this may impact major product categories  
  • how the generations and other cohorts are different or the same – and what companies can do to meet their needs

To help you harness the changing consumer landscape for your brand’s advantage, we provide a unique combination of unrivaled data and deep expertise. Our approach focuses on:

  • Rapid answers: our syndicated data can answer your most important questions quickly
  • Highly consultative approach: we help clients unlock trends in their categories by synthesizing primary research, macro indicators, and in-market manifestations
  • Deep and broad global reach: since 1973 in the US, and since 1997 globally 

Consumer Life clients use our insights in a variety of ways, from getting smart on new markets and consumer targets, to understanding a topic before conducting custom research to looking into the future with a bespoke trends framework. Recently, we have

  • Helped a tech giant, who had a robust understanding of consumers in the US, get a baseline view of their potential customers in emerging markets.
  • Partnered with a large media client to replicate their US segmentation in other markets around the globe.
  • Partnered with a major global retailer to develop a perspective on the “Now Gen” consumer (people born after the Millennials) to identify opportunities in the future of brick and mortar retail.  

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Latest Insights

Here you can find the latest insights for Consumer Life. View all insights

    • 05/10/19
    • Consumer Life
    • Global
    • English

    Timely reports from GfK Consumer Life

    These reports contain information from our 2018 study and prior years, which cover 21 countries around the globe, beginning with consumers ages 15 and up.
    • 03/19/19
    • Media and Entertainment
    • Technology
    • Trends and Forecasting
    • Consumer Life
    • Global
    • English

    How Marketers Can Adapt to TV Programming Trends

    Even though we are still kicking off the year, we’re also winding down the latest round of “must-watch” TV programming that comes early in the year (e.g. Super Bowl, Oscars) – and it is a good time as any to assess the latest consumer attitudes & behaviors towards media consumption.

    TV Programming Trends

    Notably, recent ratings continue to show a bleaker outlook for traditional TV – for example, the Super Bowl was the lowest-rated in 11 years, with 98.2 viewers tuning in (a 5% decline from 2018).  Additionally, the Grammys pulled in 19.9 million viewers, a minimal improvement over the lowest-rated 19.8 figure from last year. And finally, the Oscars very recently did beat last year’s record low of 26.5 million viewers, with 29.6 million for 2019. So where are consumers heading from here – and what are the opportunities for marketers? Let’s focus on three key areas to assess.

    The Streaming Option

    Of course, cord cutting is a phenomenon that continues to have ripple effects. According to a recent GfK Consumer Life study, 26% of Americans have used a streaming device in the past 30 days (e.g. Roku, Amazon Firestick, etc.) – this rises to 36% among Millennials).  And new players will be offering their own streaming services soon – including Apple, Disney, and AT&T – which means that viewers will have even more choices to pass on traditional TV/cable options. However, with more to choose from, consumers might find it difficult to select the best option for them.  And if the cost is not right – we don’t know yet what pricing plans will look like (especially for newer, more a la carte-type packages) – then reverting back to traditional TV programming, or simply not subscribing to any service at all, might be the more viable scenario. In fact, even today, many TV streaming packages are starting at a monthly $40-$50 range – but that is typically with limited channel availability (i.e., tack on more dollars for upgrades), plus the cost of monthly Internet service – and consumers quickly approach a similar $100-type bundled package that traditional cable companies currently offer. Moreover, traditional TV still has the backing of being the ‘go-to’ for live events – for example, only 2.5 million viewers streamed this year’s Super Bowl (accounting for just ~2% of all viewers) – so we still have a long way to go before those numbers start matching traditional TV viewership.

    Everything Is More Niche

    Forty-seven percent of Americans have binge-watched more than three episodes of content in one sitting more often than last year. Ultimately, with media fragmentation (and the many different types of content to choose from), viewers are picking and choosing what types of programming they want to consume (and not just ‘what types’ but ‘when’). According to MRI, 47% of Americans have binge-watched (i.e. 3+ episodes of content in one sitting) ‘at the same amount or more often than last year’ (55% for Millennials). This of course goes completely against the traditional next day, ‘water-cooler’-type conversations (e.g. “Did you see what happened there last night?” “No I’m still not caught up, so don’t spoil it…let’s talk about it again in a few days/weeks/months/etc.”) And marketers are not only fighting to get in front of consumers’ eyes, but their ears too. Podcasts have certainly picked up steam and are catering to all sorts of audiences with niche-type interests (Hollywood is getting in on the act too). MRI data shows that 14% of Millennials have downloaded or listened to a podcast in the past 30 days (+6 pts already just since 2016, and +5 pts from all Americans).

    What’s Left in the Mass Market?

    While perhaps not drawing the same audience metrics as they used to, large “must-see” events such as awards shows continue to exist in today’s world of TV programming (reaching tens of millions of consumers all-at-once is still quite the opportunity).  And though viewers are probably more fragmented themselves than ever – based on demographics, interests, and aspirations – there are some constant themes that seem to resonate with most everyone. GfK Consumer Life lists the following as the top advertising themes that Americans prefer: those that humorous, those that are optimistic, and those that represent giving to others. Notably, this top three list remains relatively the same regardless of age or gender (among other demographics such as political leaning). Marketers seem to have taken note, as these narratives were commonplace in recent spots from the big live events (e.g. Super Bowl ads such as Audi’s “Cashew” spot or Microsoft’s “We All Win”). Types of advertising themes Americans prefer. Source: GfK Consumer Life

    How can companies and marketers adapt?

    The TV programming trends that are taking place in the media world will continue to disrupt moving into 2019 and beyond. Although new offerings will drive fragmentation further, companies and marketers have to acknowledge which opportunities will work best for them. Keeping abreast of cultural shifts is another way to connect with consumers – case in point, the recent resurgence of nostalgia in popular culture. GfK Consumer Life research tells us that 85% of Americans are nostalgic about specific time periods in the past (including two-thirds citing the 1990s or earlier). It’s no surprise, then, that companies and marketers are playing off this theme (e.g. Disney bringing back classic animated films in the form of live-action movies, with their latest effort, “The Lion King”, set to be released in July). Another opportunity area is leveraging influencers and specifically ‘meme’-worthy content. The recent Netflix thriller “Birdbox” did just that – while it may not have been critically acclaimed, the traction from social media & memes undoubtedly led to its success.

    Want to learn more about digital trends?

    Watch the full video & download slides on “The Promise of the Smart Life.” hbspt.cta.load(2405078, '5d172e85-ab11-4206-82b2-f8cf35c26371', {});
    • 01/25/19
    • Technology
    • TEMAX
    • Consumer Life
    • Global
    • English

    CES 2019:  A Tipping Point for the Consumer-Technology Relationship?

    You just could not miss it at CES 2019. As the monorail snaked its way north towards the Las Vegas Convention Center, there it was. The Apple advertisement, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone”. A lot has already been written about this advertisement – how clever and cheeky it was, how it was a not-so-subtle dig at Amazon, Google and Facebook (among others), its factual veracity. But at the heart of Apple’s advertisement at CES is the issue of privacy. It is not just about what the big tech players are doing — or not doing — about privacy; it is also essential to remember and recognize how people feel about technology, its impact and how this is changing. Because understanding this shifting landscape is going to be critical for future success for tech (and indeed non-tech) brands. Even in this AI- VR- AR- 5G – next gen — world, there is still a fundamental truth – marketers need to develop what consumers want. You can have the best technology in the world, but if the consumer does not embrace it or see the value, you are not going to have commercial success. We are now at an inflection point in terms of how consumers are thinking about technology. When we look back, we believe that 2018 will have marked the start of a fundamental re-assessment on the impact of technology in our lives. Certainly, there were many high-profile events that happened last year that put this under a spotlight — from GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) going into effect to Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress to numerous high-profile data breaches that affected millions of people. It is against this backdrop where we see the beginnings of attitudes shifting. Are we healthy? One article that has gotten quite of bit of buzz recently addresses the trend in Silicon Valley where workers at the largest tech companies are putting many limits on how technology is used within their own households. Outside of Silicon Valley, the “Wait Until Eighth” movement supports parents and communities in delaying the age at which a child gets a smart phone until 14 stating, citing reasons such as “smart phones are changing childhood” and “smart phones are addictive”. This is very much aligned with recent research from GfK Consumer Life , our global study of consumer trends. More than a third of consumers around the globe state that they “regularly take a break from technology or unplug to maintain health”. What is most notable about this figure is that it has gone up 14 points since 2014, a significant increase. The thought that too much technology might be harmful to our health is one indicator of the reassessment of tech’s role in our lives. Are we present? The notion of being “present” is not a new one — the book “Be Here Now” was written in 1971 – but it certainly takes on new urgency in today’s always-on environment. Google searches on the word “mindfulness” have increased tenfold since 2004. Another area where our research shows a reassessment with technology is around presence and mindfulness. Just as we see an increase in people all around the world taking a break from tech for their health, we also see a significant rise in the amount of people who believe the “Internet is a good thing, but I worry that too much technology can be a bad thing.” Today, 70% of Americans agree with this statement, up 12 points since the beginning of this decade. We are already seeing more options for the consumer to monitor their technology usage, such as screen time diagnostics. Are we safe? Lastly, 2018 may mark the beginning of a tipping point in terms of consumers thinking about privacy and security implications of their technology usage. Eighty-two percent of Americans have voiced some concern over their social media footprint. GfK Consumer Life research shows that 17 percent of global consumers place their personal information falling into the wrong hands as one of their top two or three personal concerns, double the number who said this in 2009. While other worries — such as inflation, crime and the threat of terrorism — are seen as more pressing, none of the others have seen such a steady and sustained increase over time. Today, we are at an inflection point in how we think about technology. Technology can be distruptive — but so can consumers‘ attitudes. Truly investing in an understanding of the tech future means focusing not just on 5G and smartphones; it requires a commitment to studying and respecting the changing needs and desires of the people who will use (and buy) that technology.

    Are you interested in further information?

    Read our latest press releases about the global market for technical consumer goods and consumer electronics. hbspt.cta.load(2405078, '48d452b6-ac98-4350-b14d-b0a645f08f78', {}); hbspt.cta.load(2405078, '282a3f83-8f35-4c1b-b158-7d3232a87489', {});
    • 09/06/18
    • Automotive
    • Consumer Life
    • Global
    • English

    Driving Gen Z

    Turn back the clock a handful of years and you’ll find automotive strategists bearish that Millennials’ lack of interest in vehicle ownership will usher in the slow, but inevitable, decline of the car industry. Yet, today, 29% of new vehicles are already being bought by Millennials. In just a few years, despite accounting for only a quarter of the population, our largest generation at 80 million will account for 40% of new car sales. And they’ll just be entering their prime earning years at that point. Naturally, Millennials will be the sales focal point for quite some time. However, manufacturers are already looking towards the next generation of American drivers. Known as Post-Millennial or Gen Z, they’re roughly 8 to 20 years old today and expected to be 75+ million strong. With the vast majority still in school or living at home, innovation for tomorrow begins with insights unearthed today. GfK Consumer Life has been tracking the emergence of this young generation for some time, and we’ve identified several themes that will yield challenges, but also opportunities, for manufacturers.

    Ambitious, yet pragmatic

    As previously outlined, the post-Millennial generation is as focused on accomplishment, if not more, than on self-discovery. Financial independence is their primary goal today. In fact, 80% want to stay away from debt completely, according to research from GfK Consumer Life. And as they watched Millennials before them struggle with mounting college debt, 54% have already taken jobs to earn money for college, while 85% plan to work during their college years. Arguably the strongest advantage today’s teens have compared to Millennials is a robust economy. In retrospect, the timing of the Great Recession (along with historically high gas prices in 2008) as Millennials transitioned to adulthood had the most profound impact on their attitudes towards vehicle ownership. With unemployment reaching an 18-year low earlier this year, upcoming graduates may find a more lucrative job market, and access to transportation more affordable. In fact, after a short dip during the recession, Americans are now driving more miles with more vehicles than ever before. While it’s impossible to predict the next recession, manufacturers and retailers should expect the next generation to transition more seamlessly (and perhaps earlier) into adulthood. They may be shopping your brand sooner, rather than later – if, of course, the product is right.

    Seamless mobility

    You won’t just be selling cars to this generation, you’ll provide them access to fully integrated mobile platforms that eliminate the gap between in- and out-of-car experiences. Today, it’s connected car features – from smartphone integration to streaming services to mobile wifi. Yet, smart devices are second nature to them (1 in 3 are already using mobile voice command), and GfK Consumer Life has found that they’re already 50% more likely than the average American to be controlling smart home or smart car devices and features from their phone. Manufacturers will need to work hard and fast to integrate vehicles into their internet of Things. Whether it’s warming up the oven or conducting mobile video conferences on the drive home from work, or ordering food or vacation planning while in transit (as GM recently introduced with its mobile Marketplace), this generation will demand the absolute elimination of transit “dead time.”


    Of course, ‘buying’ may not be their prerogative. The fiscal savvy of this age group will place greater emphasis on building a flexible transportation portfolio, which may include any number of public, shared, or owned vehicles and services. According to GfK Consumer Life’s most recent 2018 data, teens are just as likely to use public transportation as Millennials (20%), yet less than half as likely (15% vs. 27%) to have used car sharing services. However, on the latter, they are already well ahead of Gen X (11%) and the Boomers (4%) before them. Not surprising, manufacturers are moving aggressively on this front. Subscription models from luxury brands are being tested regionally. Yet, with significant pricing premiums attached to such programs, viability beyond the most affluent is still in question. Gen Z may provide the scale to take these programs mainstream. In fact, they’re already catching up to Millennials on interest in vehicle subscription services (39% vs. 41%), and ahead on shared ownership (32% vs. 28%), despite being novice drivers.

    Security first

    Growing up in the aftermath of 9/11, countless school shootings (active shooter drills are now commonplace in our K-12 schools), and too-many-to-count data privacy breaches, manufacturers can expect this generation to take a more cautionary, yet demanding approach to personal safety and security. According to GfK MRI’s American Teen Study, they are more likely to rate safety in an accident higher relative to fun to drive, compared to Millennials as teens in 2011. Today, 42% view proactive safety systems as important, while 46% are also seeking features that protect from environmental hazards. In fact, according to GfK’s Automotive Innovation and Technology Study, Gen Z are almost three times as likely as average respondents to be seeking wellness solutions that go beyond active and passive safety systems. Beyond physical safety, auto manufacturers might find it more challenging to access and leverage Gen Z’s digital footprint compared to Millennials before them. These teens are sharing less personal information online, with only 31% keeping social pages updated (vs. 45% in 2009). Only 44% are willing to share personal data, even in exchange for benefits and rewards (compared to 62% of Millennials). According to GfK MRI, they are also more than twice as likely as Millennials to embrace the privacy of Snapchat (75% vs 37%), reinforcing their need for secure channels. As the first post-digital generation, they have also identified the limitations of social media and are re-investing in personal interactions. In fact, 3 of 4 are choosing smaller groups of friends over large groups of acquaintances, while a study from IBM suggests that Gen Z is placing as much importance on offline socializing as online. This social recalibration will be an invitation for brands to develop trusted one-to-one relationships with their next generation of clients. Leveraging the convenience of mobile technology, manufacturers such as Lincoln are adding concierge services for a decidedly personal touch to the entire life of the ownership experience. While these are generally reserved for premium brands and consumers today, such offline approaches may well suit the next young buyers seeking a brand connection – one that’s equally digital and analog.

    The road ahead

    While Millennials are center stage for now, the next consumer wave is right around the corner. As it stands, the future looks bright for Gen Z, and especially for those manufacturers who have begun to shine a light on them.
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