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What does 2011 have in store for consumers?

Three mannequins

Hands up if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution yet? We all have our own goals and aspirations, but research into consumer trends for the year ahead suggests we have more in common than you might imagine.

Market research group Mintel has done some serious number-crunching to predict key trends in the way we’ll be spending, saving, consuming and living next year. They say the aftershock of the economic crisis will force us to live for the long term.

We’ve done our own research into this area at Which? and it’s interesting to see how Mintel’s predictions overlap with our own. Here’s our glimpse into 2011’s crystal ball.

Tech takes over

Let’s start with the obvious – technology. Unsurprisingly, two of Mintels’ nine predictions are tech-inspired. Firstly, digital will continue to take over, with machines creeping into new territories, such as hospitals, libraries and the home.

They also single out smartphones as rising stars, suggesting they’ll make up 11% of all total devices used in the UK by 2015. This, they say, will lead to an increase in location-based services and empower us to take more interest in where we are.

Our trend, ‘Access 24/7’ echoes this sentiment, highlighting the need for instant gratification through access to products and services wherever we are, no matter what time of day.

Spend or save?

According to Mintel we’ll be preparing for the worst, with 43% prioritising the need to save for rainy days and emergencies next year. What’s more, nearly half of us will only buy clothes on sale, offer or promotion, which could lead to an increase in special offers throughout the year.

On the other hand, our trends show that many of our essentials have been redefined and we have raised our expectations of what is critical to our everyday lives, so there’s still uncertainty about what we’ll be cutting back on.

The learning curve

As we’ve seen from Conversations on this site about student fees, education has been a hot topic this year. Mintel says there will be pressure to find alternative channels for learning, such as lifelong learning in the workplace, corporate sponsored degrees and companies investing in employees through education and training rather than salary or benefits.

Learning in a lecture hall will be overtaken by ‘learning while doing’ and DIY education will also gain steam.

Age factor

Both sets of predictions recognise that people are living and working for longer. In the UK, 77% of over 55s plan to work beyond retirement age ‘in order to enjoy and prolong a better standard of living’.

This could offer advertisers a new market to tap into, changing the shape of advertising. For example, health and beauty messages will increasingly focus on anti-ageing properties and vitality and longevity will become key product qualities in the food and drink sector.

Do you agree with these predictions? Are there any that you think will dramatically alter our lives next year, or should they all be taken with a pinch of salt?

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