Trend Forecast: Game Changers In 2018 (And Beyond)

One of the world’s foremost trend experts shares insights on what’s ahead — from working alongside robots to what comes after the “experience economy.”
More than 250 trend forecasters and data scientists at London-based WGSN stay one step ahead of global trends, providing intelligence that 6,500 businesses tap into for a competitive edge. Access connected with one of them — Andrea Bell, WGSN’s director of insight and executive editor, Americas — for her take on four game changers. Here’s what she shared.


1. Gray Collar Workforce: Collaborating With Robots

Engineer working on robot“We know that automation is happening, and it’s happening quickly. A recent survey by McKinsey said 49 percent of workers can be turned over to automation. And PricewaterhouseCoopers recently said that 58 percent of CEOs plan to cut jobs over the next five years because of automation. I think the big elephant in the room is that everyone always assumes that automation will go to the factory floor. And that’s something people aren’t really thinking about. It’s not just the factory floor; it might be your job. Anything that’s predictable can be automated. A big-box retailer announced in September that they’re going to automate bookkeeping, which is going to make a lot of accountants redundant. So, what’s coming up not just in the U.S. but globally is the question ‘How are we going to futureproof the workforce?’

“One of the examples we’re seeing that has the biggest strength is the gray collar workforce, which is working with the ‘cobot,’ or ‘collaborative robot.’ So, essentially, even though you’re automating, you have these machines, and you have to have people fix the machines. If machines break down on a factory line, they’re not going to fix themselves — we’re not that sci-fi yet. A lot of people are predicting a kind of gray collar workforce that will be the new Industrial Revolution. Not only will you have people who need to fix the robots or machines, but you’ll have people working alongside them.

“One of the case studies we’ve tracked is from Martin Steel in Ohio. They installed robots with sensors right next to workers — to protect workers from injury and to ensure efficiency. And they’ve doubled the workforce over the last decade due to this cobot revolution. It’s not a solution for everyone. But when we’re looking to be more productive and bring speed to market these days, it’s somewhat of a solution, because at the end of the day, we still need that human element, that human touch, that human quality-control factor.”

2. No Racial Majority

Hispanic family posing for photo

“The face of America’s future consumer is changing, driven by multiculturalism. And we agree that in 25 years, there will be no racial majority in the U.S. The biggest group that’s going to have the most impact is the Hispanic population. Currently — and this is according to Pew Research — Hispanics represent the largest minority in the U.S., and the population is set to more than double within the next two generations. Also according to Pew, 6 in 10 Hispanics are millennials or younger, and when we think of that from a psychographic standpoint, that’s a whole lot of spending power. Hispanic Americans controlled $1.3 trillion in buying power in 2016, and that’s likely $1.7 trillion in 2020. If U.S. Hispanics were their own country, they would actually have the 14th-largest economy in the world.

“This brings all kinds of opportunities for companies — for engagement and strategic partnership. One of them is the quinceañera market. It’s huge for 15-year-old girls, and the average price for quinceañeras now is around $1,200. Very few mainstream retailers even target that consumer. Here’s another opportunity we feel is a miss: Hispanics accounted for 75 percent of the growth in homeownership in the U.S. last year. Are home improvement stores tapping into this new American family dynamic? This is your future consumer right here.”

3. Tech-Life Balance


Andrea Bell, Americas, WGSN director of insight and executive editor

“We’re all on our machines too much — and the very crux of this is that we are kind of in the fast-food tech era. So, if you look at the ’50s and ’60s, we had fast food come out and it was a time saver for families. It wasn’t until the ’60s and ’70s that we were actually able to see that it was nourishing us but it wasn’t actually healthy for us. So, we jokingly say we’re in the fast-food tech era, where we’re constantly consuming, we’re constantly online. How do companies break through that clutter? By having a really personalized voice and an intimate engagement with your customer. At WGSN, we strongly believe you need to balance both the demographic and the psychographic. Demographic is who your customer is, who drives your business. But psychographic is the why, the emotional element. For instance, if your customer is really time-stressed and needs a break, then you want to put out a marketing campaign or product that’s going to allow her to have those moments back. If people don’t have an emotional stake in your brand, they’re not going to do business with you, because there are a million others where they can.”

4. The Meaning Economy

“For years, the idea has been, ‘Don’t sell a product, sell an experience.’ ‘Experience’ has become a buzzword, but we’ve kind of hit critical mass with the experience economy. One of the things we’re seeing is it’s not just about the experience — it’s about the meaning. So at WGSN, we are predicting a trend evolution of the experience economy to the meaning economy. The meaning behind the experience is what’s going to drive engagement.”


Source: FedEx Access,