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Values and Voice Among Key Consumer Trends for 2019

Consumers have a voice—and they’re not afraid to use it.

Data shared by eMarketer, Euromonitor and SAP reveal that in the year ahead, conscious consumerism will continue to influence retail as voice technologies further penetrate the purchasing ecosystem.

According to eMarketer’s Trends 2019 report, 48 percent of consumers who identify as “eco-conscious” read up on the clothing and shoes they’re interested in to understand the environmental impact as part of their buying decision. That’s an encouraging figure, but still a good distance behind categories like home cleaning and personal care products (73 percent apiece), food (61 percent) and automobiles (59 percent) whose footprint draws scrutiny from more consumers.

So who’s responsible for saving the planet? Most (70 percent) believe it’s up to everyday people to be good environmental stewards, though 52 percent want to see manufacturers of harmful plastic products take action themselves.

Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of millennials (ages 22 to 35) say they’ll pony up a premium for products created with their impact in mind, just ahead of the 58 percent of Gen Zers (ages 16 to 21) who are similarly willing to part with more money for goods that won’t destroy the Earth.

During a webinar hosted by London-based market research firm Euromonitor, executives noted that conscious consumerism is spreading from the hardcore vegan circle into more flexitarian demographics as even those living in developing markets embrace these animal-welfare ideals. This is evident in the apparel sector as consumer activism has resulted in some brands removing components and materials like fur, feather and leather from their supply chains amid calls for ethical, sustainable processes. Businesses must address this “relentless demand for transparency” because “at the end of the day, consumers will pay a premium for products that align with their values.”

It was this affinity for values that prompted scores of British consumers to mail non-recyclable individual-size potato-chip packages back to snack maker Walkers last year—so much so that the Royal Mail had to step in and ask the public not to post the plastic packets without first inserting into proper packaging.

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All eyes—rather, ears—are on voice technologies and how this rapidly developing field will unfold with implications for digital commerce. EMarketer data shows that consumers in Asia are leading in this area, as one in two people “use voice search tools in some capacity.”

In fact, the eMarketer report said, “we clearly see that voice search growth is being driven by the key Asian markets, with India, China and Indonesia coming out on top.”

Jorij Abraham, managing director for the Ecommerce Foundation, supported those findings during an SAP webinar on e-commerce trends, noting that in China a large number of people talk to their phones, either to convert voice to text or to send a voice message to a contact. What’s more, in excess of two fifths (41 percent) of consumers today agree that interacting with a digital voice assistant feels as natural as talking to another person. Abraham believes many people are “underestimating” how big voice-first interactions will become, especially as Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant is integrated in more than 50 products from automobiles to appliances to home office printers.