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Twenty trends that will influence consumer behavior in Maine and beyond to 2020

Posted March 11, 2011, at 5:49 p.m.
Last modified March 13, 2011, at 1:24 p.m.

The world is undergoing an extraordinary transformation. The macro forces leading the global marketplace toward 2020 will impact all continents, countries and states — including Maine.

Corporations, government and education will need to adjust and prepare to respond to these forces. For no matter what our individual interest, these factors will greatly influence human and consumer behavior. Knowing how and when to change will be the new competitive advantage. Ten macro trends and 10 regional trends will have substantial impact on the consumer as we approach 2020.

Macro trends impact most everyone and are significant enough to modify behavior, both economic and personal. Here are 10 macro trends which are likely to do so between now and 2020:

Globalization

Multinational positioning and adaptation to culture diversity is now essential to achieve market share and meet consumer needs. Service offerings must have universal appeal and product development must stress adaptability to succeed in a global marketplace. From a consumer perspective, boundaries and territories are becoming obsolete, replaced by the universal appeal for the latest, newest and best value in both products and services.

Technological Acceleration

Consumers will flock to those who deliver new conveniences, time savers and stress reducers. Survivors will be those who adapt, move with and invest in new technologies. Victims will suffer technological annihilation from more responsive and advanced competition, especially in the delivery of services.

Peacetime War

Crime and terrorism ignore borders. Offering a safer experience, be it travel-related or in the work environment, will help attract and retain customers.

Debt Wreck

Even without another round of higher interest rates, debt is spiraling out of control at both the government and individual levels. Given a slight spark of inflation and/or higher interest rates, we are likely to see more economic turmoil. Simply stated, it is time to retain your best customers and take market share from your competitors. Protect your base at home and think about how to attract new markets.

Reengineered Behavior

The recession has brought a more cautious consumer. The insecurity caused by job eliminations remains. Economic uncertainty and work environment insecurity are not part of the daily thought process preceding purchase decisions. To propel sales it will be necessary to overcome these stressful thoughts through creative marketing, promotions and financing techniques.

Schizophrenic Growth

Recently we have seen accelerating acquisitions and mergers as well as “breakups” of corporations. At the same time, the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well with the emergence of new businesses. Look for more agreements, coalitions, networks, joint ventures, strategic market acquisitions and “contracting out” to fuel growth. These will be driven by the desire to strengthen global reach, build brands/company competitiveness, find new distribution channels and, frankly, to show growth.

Tradition and Expectation

The ends of recessionary periods are marked by the desire to hold on to the past, followed by an insatiable need to jump on board with the new. The latter is usually fueled by a series of globally important events that cause a psychology of great expectations, such as discoveries, cures or innovations. The pendulum swings rapidly — first to the tradition of the past and then to the newness of the future. Successful enterprises will not only ride the momentum both ways, but know when to time the directional change.

Near-to-Home Syndrome

Currently we are experiencing a strong desire to remain relatively close to home and work. Both job insecurity and two-breadwinner households are supporting this trend along with unrest in many parts of the world. However, the desire to escape remains, both for couples as well as single workers. Helping fulfill this desire with products or services convenient to purchase, consume or experience will result in market success.

Personal/Self Focus

Man typically is retrospective at the end of recessions. This inward focus is now beginning to manifest itself in an increased desire for the “personal” — the purchase of personal items such as clothes, meals out and other small self-satisfiers, and to experience that which refreshes, including local travel and exercise.

Exploration

For many over 50 years of age (now 50 percent of the population) 2020 will bring a loud wake up call: “This is your last chance to see and do X.” Look for this segment of the population to increase exploring new lifestyles, taking new leisure pursuits and scaling down due to fear or uncertainty associated with the future.

Some trends that likely will influence our world in the years approaching 2020 are alarming, such as institutional distrust and anything-goes cultism. But others are truly exciting, such as the renewal of man’s desire to help others less fortunate and an acceleration of the scientific process leading to cures for many major diseases.

Ten regional trends and some closer to home are likely to include:

Participative Tourism

As the aging northeastern United States population seeks less expensive forms of tourism, an increase in participative tourism is likely to occur, based around enjoyment of walking, hiking, fairs, craft shows and art exhibits, to name a few draws. Also expect Maine to benefit from “participative” environmental tourism, such as clean-up campaigns, beach sweeps and restoration projects.

New Revenue Sources

Debt will focus states and municipalities on the search for new sources of revenue, so expect an increase in tolls, gaming “add-on” and “catch-up” special assessments and taxes.

Entrepreneurship

A new wave of entrepreneurship is likely to sweep the region as those who wish to live here seek to do so and prosper. New franchises will be developed from incubator concepts and New England will again be viewed as a pioneer in concept development and growth through franchising.

Senior Services

The oldest population in the nation will reside in Maine and New England and require an incremental amount of senior-related services.

Health Care

Continued growth in the health care sector also will help to refuel the economy.

Five other trends will be focused around more at-home services; development of sea related/generated products; career recycling (new careers for the 60-year-old-plus market); continuing education and a reemergence of the trades.

These 10 macro and 10 regional/local trends will help shape a 2020 that will blend the expectation of the new with the reality of the old.

Ronald A. Nykiel, dean of the College of Business at Husson University, has a number of books on travel and tourism marketing and served on a presidential commission on travel and tourism, the Board of the United States Travel Association, and on a governor’s revenues forecasting commission.

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