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Generation M is Leading Three Trends Shaping the Future Consumer

Global trend forecaster WGSN said in a report that the consumer landscape of tomorrow will be driven by three significant forces: a global population becoming heavily non-white, Muslim and millennial; faster mobile connectivity powering next-gen experiences; and social good breaking through as a must for winning companies.

Consumers are losing faith in government’s ability to remedy many of the most pressing issues of our time and instead look to big corporations to act responsibly for both the long and short terms. “From the rise of local crypto-currencies to corporate wealth care (companies’ long-term action within the community), 2020 will see commercial growth closely aligned with the economics of caring,” Andrea Bell, WGSN, director of consumer insights, wrote in the Future Consumer 2020 report. Though corporate sustainability efforts have ramped up in recent years, businesses will need to put customer-friendly ethics and values at the core of their missions to resonate with young consumers coming into their spending power.

What the report describes as “crowd-based capitalism,” or the sharing economy, also plays into the social good trend. “Estimated to grow to $335 billion globally by 2025, this peer-to-peer marketplace is set to further impact the traditional corporate-centred economic model,” the report said. Already, businesses like eBay and Poshmark are generating billions in revenue. But other sharing economy models like Uber “will have long-term effects on government regulation, civic planning, the future of work and regional growth.” Though gig-economy jobs have their upsides—flexible hours, income streams versus outright unemployment, and money staying within the local economy—there are obvious drawbacks, such as the unreliable pay and the potential for unethical corporate behavior: Uber’s recent troubles spring to mind.

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To serve the future workforce, corporations must understand their workers’ new priorities, from flexible schedules to remote workspaces, Bell wrote in the report.

When next-gen 5G mobile networks come online in the U.S. and Asia this year, with Europe and Latin America following in 2019 and 2020, the faster data speeds will propel technologies such as augmented reality to widespread adoption and bring Internet of Things ecosystems and connected cars fully into the mainstream, according to the WGSN report. Retailers should focus on optimizing payments so consumers can take full advantage of the faster connections and cement the smartphone as the preferred medium for digital shopping. “Companies that invest in mobile wallets may gain market share from Gen Z, whose uptake will accelerate us into the cashless world we’ve been hearing about for years,” Bell wrote.

But the biggest adjustment brands and retailers face could come from serving an influential and sizeable global consumer base that’s en route to being more brown and Muslim than ever. In the U.S. alone Caucasians are expected to become the minority by 2040, and more than 50 percent of Americans younger than 18 years of age will identify as minorities by 2020, the report said. With Hispanics and Muslims driving much of the diversification in the U.S., brands will have growing opportunities to serve their needs around quinceaña celebrations (the Latin American and Caribbean counterpart to Sweet Sixteen festivities) and Eid and Ramadan remembrances, for example.

Globally, estimates project that the so-called Generation M—Muslim Millennials—will number 2.8 billion, or 25 percent of the population, by 2050, and wield formidable economic clout. Muslim consumers of all ages will spend an estimated $327 billion on apparel by 2019, $300 billion on travel by 2026 and $213 billion on beauty goods and services by 2021, according to estimates.