10 things your customers will really care about this year

So what’s going to be impacting the customer of 2019, and how will they be thinking, acting and responding? Many of last year’s predictions will continue: podcasts to voice assistants, sober socialising to the drive for ‘purpose’. But what new trends will we see?

1. Co-bots
Demand is growing for ways to limit technological dominance. For instance, partial automation and augmented intelligence that enable workers rather than creating alternative workforces, as McKinsey claims just 5% of occupations can be fully automated, but 60% could have 30% of their constituent activities automated. Or smart clothing and ‘human’ technology that respond intuitively to speech, gestures and even thoughts, turning today’s voice assistants into tomorrow’s digital co-workers.

2. Calm down
The Co-bots trend is part of a backlash against the forward rush of change. Developers are starting to build ‘calm technology’: intuitive tech that operates on our periphery. Fitness is shifting from high impact to slow intensity. Travel is decelerating, with renewed interest in cycling, trains and cruise ships. Slow Leisure, behind the resurgence of vinyl and board games, will continue, with cassettes and calligraphy: whose annual sales rose 90% and 40%. Fashion will see muted colours, elegance, and Modest Wear, like Batsheva’s Quaker-style ‘prairie’ gowns: a reaction against barely-there clothing.

3. Go West
Batsheva’s pioneer-inspired gowns are part of a broader trend for the American West: think cowboy boots, lace and fringing. The movement’s inspired by a reassessment of US heritage, and the search for a pretty-but-strong female aesthetic post-#MeToo. Another key aspect is a growing fascination with Native American culture, from beaded and crocheted interiors, to one of the key spiritual trends for 2019: shamanism.

4. Sea change
Thanks in part to ecological fears, there’ll be increased focus on the sea. Many of the year’s hot colours will have an ocean feel: sage to aquamarine. Designers are using more acqua eyeshadows, and Google’s released an aqua color for its Home Mini speaker. Chefs will look beyond fish, to seaweed butter, kelp noodles and puffed water lily seeds. There’s even talk of a British seaside style-revival. It’s all part of a Back To Nature movement

5. Surreal life
Our increasingly divided world means trends diverge too: typically following a ‘fight or flight’ path. Wabi sabi, for instance, is the ‘fight’ approach to dealing with a difficult reality. The flight approach? Embracing surrealism. Last year saw major exhibitions of Surrealist Art from Tate London to Hepworth Wakefield. Expect to see more surreal graphic design: unframed, flying and floating images; fluids and liquids vivid colours; dream imagery. This echo a surreal,’mutant’ approach to beauty and beauty products.

6. Turning Japanese
Japan’s 1990s economic decline decelerated its cultural influence, but it’s experiencing a revival in both. A recent Morgan Stanley report predicts positive growth. And the country’s minimalist, mindful approach to style and leisure is proving increasingly popular globally in an era of volatility. As Korean Beauty (K-Beauty) plateaus, J-Beauty’s more traditional, preventative approach is set to take its crown. Ikebana styling – minimal, seasonal & local – is influencing interiors. And anticipation for Tokyo 2020 is growing.

7. Wabi sabi savvy
Another Japanese cultural export hitting our shores this year is the ‘wabi-sabi’ lifestyle: accepting and celebrating imperfection. Crafters are upcycling damaged pots and clothing. Supermarkets succeeding with wonky fruit and veg, and set to launch wonky meat. Homemade is hip again: DIY beauty creams and homebrew gin to tie dye t-shirts. This has implications across business: repair services to beta testing. It’ll drive two further trends: discussing ‘unacceptable’ topics (eg death, mental health) and adulting: kidults accepting they need to learn ‘adult’ skills like finance.

8. Healthy home
According to YouGov, Brits today spend 90% of their time indoors, many at home. Unsurprisingly it’s becoming the focus of growing health fears: part of a broader Safety First movement (which this year will also target processed food and personal technology). 49% of Britons worry about the impact of cleaning products on household health, driving a demand for microbiome-friendly versions that won’t destroy immune systems: another manifestation of the growing interest in gut health. The indoor gardening trend, meanwhile, will boost biophilia: using plants to create better air in homes, offices and at retail. We’ll also see more health at home: fitness mirrors to self-diagnosis kits for fertility or STIs.

9. Naughty but nice
Today’s anxious consumers increasingly want comfort, but with a healthy edge. Hence, a shift to healthier street food, like What The Pitta’s fat-free soya kebabs. Or vegan, faux meat snacks, from pork-free rinds to “baconless” bits and mushroom jerky. After fake meat comes fake fish. Or maybe wheat-free, cassava tortilla chips, or cashew cream. Or Modern Baker’s “slow carb baked” bread with added nutrients and lower GI index.

10. Tend and befriend
Scientists recently discovered ‘fight or flight’ might actually be a male-only response: with females’ stress response being ‘tend and befriend’. It’s a great name for our final trend, as divided Britons focus on family and friends, and look to bridge divides. It chimes with two others: combating loneliness; and embracing singledom and solitude, as in Tinder’s recent “single not sorry” campaign or the revival of solo travel. As with all this year’s trends, there are implications for business. Positive communal marketing campaigns are set to succeed, and co-working and co-opetition to accelerate.