Although consumers are still reeling from the aftershock created by the global economic crisis, they have learned lessons, changed behaviors, adapted and created a new way of life, says market trends tracker Mintel.

Alexandra Smith is a global trends analyst with the Chicago firm.

“The effects of the global economic crisis have had long reaching implications and it is not just consumer behavior in the short term which was affected," she says. "Indeed, these consumer trends for 2011 are a legacy created by economics, but now gathering their own momentum and are set to influence the global consumer mindset for a long time to come.”

1.  Prepare for the Worst

A third of U.S. consumers say they’re using debit rather than credit, and debit transactions are forecasted to rise nearly 60 percent between 2000 and 2010. Consumers want to know what they’re getting themselves into: no loopholes, no hidden costs and no pricey upgrades. So, 2011 may see the need for brands to demonstrate how a product or service delivers long term benefits or prevents problems down the road.

2.  Retail Rebirth

In the United States, 35 percent of consumers say their choice of store is determined by special offers or discounts. In 2011, brands may need to get more creative to lure consumers into stores, offering more than just retail and be a venue, not just a shop. Service may extend into advice and demonstrations, while exclusivity and environment may also be key aspects to engage consumers with real life, not virtual, shopping experiences.

3.  Where It’s App

With smartphones becoming the dominant mobile force, Quick Response (QR) codes and app technology will pique interest, provide portals into unique experiences and improve our quality of life. U.S. smartphone sales grew 82 percent from 2008 to 2010.

As consumers are empowered like never before, 2011 will see people take a deeper interest in where they are: from the city to a specific store. Geography and status can be redefined through retail, presenting savvy brands with an opportunity for increased location based services, promotions and solutions. To capitalize on consumer awareness of technology, brands will need to take QR codes beyond niche understanding, using it to explain and offer exclusive content. Rather than displacing our interaction with the physical, this technology has the potential to reinvigorate our relationships with brands, retailers and with each other.

4.  No Degree, No Problem

Economic uncertainty has changed the workplace and the meaning of job security for the foreseeable future. As a result consumers will continue to question higher education’s ROI and alternative channels for learning will gain credibility. In 2011 we may see more lifelong learning in the workplace, corporate sponsored degrees and companies investing in employees through education and training rather than salary or benefits. Meanwhile learning while doing, rather than learning in a lecture hall, may become a focus and with DIY education gaining steam, there’s an opportunity for brands to play host.
5.  On Her Own Terms

Women are earning and learning more than men, creating new gender roles in business and consumerism. In 2011, age is no longer an easy marker for lifestage. Opportunities lie for brands to focus less on the year the female consumer was born, and more on where she’s at with her life right now.

In the US in 2008, 27 percent of men reported being the sole cleaner in their household; in 2010, that number jumped to 32 percent. So, 2011 may see a counter trend to the ‘metrosexuality’ of men in a ‘masculinization’ of women. Implications for how brands market to women will be big, especially in sectors such as automobiles and sports. With men helping around the house more than ever, there may be an opportunity for brands to cater household products, as well as retail experiences accordingly.
6.  Retired for Hire

People are working beyond retirement – either due to financial need, or because they have grown attached to a lifestyle of leisure and pleasure. With half of Americans having no retirement account, the number of over 65s working will reach nearly 20 percent by 2014.

In 2011, this group may prove an untapped market for advertisers, affecting a number of consumer sectors. Vitality, energy and longevity will become key product qualities in the food and drink sector, while health and beauty messages may need to center on anti-aging properties, nutraceuticals and older models to reach this target group.
7.  The Big Issue

Our attitude toward weight is polarizing, pitting the rise of the super-healthy against the eternal appeal of indulgence. An estimated 34 percent of US adults age 20 and over are obese. Therefore, 2011 may see a wider array of products catering to an obese market: from portion control and more info on packaging to low-cost healthy fare and products to firm and salve chaffed or sagging skin.
8.  Garden State

Modern city dwellers have a growing love of gardening and a need for nature and with fresh, organic produce still economically out of reach for many, consumers are finding their own ways to bring healthy home. In the US, 26 percent of internet users purchased vegetable seeds in past year, 19 percent bought vegetable/flower garden fertilizer and 27 percent said they like to grow vegetables at home.

In the US, 40 percent of people with a garden agree “growing fresh food to cook with” is important. In 2011, rural tourism, working farm holidays and garden leisure may benefit, while rising food and commodity prices may see a boost for seed sales as this trend develops.

9.  Who Needs Humans

As we move into an ever more digital era, automated technology has machines replacing people – for better or worse. While cashier-less checkouts have become common place, we’re starting to see machines creep into new territories, including hospitals, libraries, pharmacies and the home. Therefore, 2011 may see certain jobs permanently displaced by technology – that includes service jobs, not just manual or factory work. But backlash and balance-seeking may lead to an increased cache for hyper-personal goods and services