22 Consumer trend opportunities for 2022

Ready to impactfully act on 2022's consumer trends?

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22 for ‘22 is TrendWatching’s purpose-driven manual for the year ahead — a collection of 22 business opportunities and emerging consumer trends that your brand can't afford to miss.

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22
Opportunities for you to run with in 2022

#1 Locale Morale - Image of woman holding phone

LOCALE MORALE

LOCALE MORALE

Made-to-measure communal improvements
#1 Locale Morale - Image of woman holding phone

After surveying consumers across the UK, ASICS decided the town of Retford was due a pick-me-up. In collaboration with Mind it launched ‘Uplifting Retford’, an event to highlight the mental health benefits of exercise. Citizens exercised for 20 minutes, logging how they felt before and after on the brand’s Mind Uplifter webpage – a feedback tool which uses a combination of self-reporting and facial recognition.

Recent lockdowns strengthened calls to improve the environmental and social fabric of cities. Consumers are doing their bit. A third (32%) of global consumers claim their neighborhood banded together mid-pandemic. Can your brand make urban life better, in more ways than one? 

Start with a community where your brand is already established. What are their needs? Do they align with your core values? Launch a survey before diving in…

 

#2 Glocally Grounded - Yelp small business wallpaper

GLOCALLY GROUNDED

GLOBAL GROUNDED LOCALLY

Boost offline shopping and local connections
#2 Glocally Grounded - Yelp small business wallpaper

Nothing says #SupportSmallBusiness like locally branded wallpaper. Yelp and the interiors brand Chasing Paper have produced a collection inspired by small businesses in Austin, San Francisco and New York – proceeds from which will go to entrepreneurship-focused nonprofits. The best part? The first 50 buyers had their wallpaper installed for free (by decorators found via Yelp, of course). 

Small businesses don't have it easy in the age of one-click shopping and free shipping. But as conscious consumerism gains ground, neighborhood shops stand a fighting chance. In fact, a March 2021 survey showed 53% of people polled were more interested in shopping locally than before the pandemic.

Whether your own brand spans cities or nations, can you bring together small business owners and hands-on locals? What resources can you provide to help them thrive?

#3 Equity Zone - Woman holding two children

EQUITY ZONE

EQUITY ZONE

Become a community catalyst
#3 Equity Zone - Woman holding two children

National politics may get the headlines, but resources are allocated and priorities are set in school boards and on city councils. In a bid to make local government sexy, John Legend recently launched HUMANLEVEL. The organization will help community leaders in areas disproportionately impacted by institutionalized racism to create long-lasting change.

As the pandemic scoured the globe, trust in institutions, corporates and even religious leaders waned. Globally, nearly two-thirds (62%) of people trust local community leaders more than CEOs and politicians.

Bridge this trust gap with initiatives that empower local changemakers. Consumers expect brands to wade in on front-page issues, but to create measurable impact, it’s crucial to support transformation at a grassroots level. Does your brand have the resources to amplify those voices?

Woman paying another woman at a vegetable stall

COMMUNAL CURRENCIES

COMMUNAL CURRENCIES

Keeping it in the community
Woman paying another woman at a vegetable stall

Local communities rely on national currencies for daily transactions. But what if the shilling, rand or dollar is unreliable? Community Inclusion Currencies offer an alternative: regional currencies that supplement legal tender. Decoupled from national monetary policies and global trade fluctuations, CICs are tied to local production and trade, providing a stable way to do business. UNICEF Venture Fund recently backed CIC organizer Grassroots Economics.

The growing dissatisfaction with capitalist corruption is strengthening desire for local autonomy, with crowdsourced communities functioning as a resilient tool to achieve self-determination. The transferable insight here? Incentivize consumers to nurture their surroundings and keep funds (whatever the currency may be!) within their community.

Illustration of buildings and 'you are here' symbols

STATE OF PLACE

STATE OF PLACE

Consumers look to reclaim their locale
Illustration of buildings and 'you are here' symbols

The celebration of place often focuses on authenticity, local pride and storytelling. While consumers appreciate brands that embrace a certain location, they’ll have particular affection for brands that work to make those places better – specifically, more sustainable and equitable.

The combination of constant connectivity, new immersive technologies and remote work will continue to blur horizons. But for many people, everyday life still revolves around a fixed locale, whether that’s a city, a province or a country. Pandemic lockdowns only strengthened calls to improve these localities and make them more livable, community-focused and resilient.

Want to explore the full spectrum of STATE OF PLACE, including 20+ sub-trends, and an abundance of stats, innovations and hands-on opportunities? Consider accessing our Premium platform!

#5 Second Souls - Hand pulling at waistband of jeans that are too big

SECOND SOULS

SECOND SOULS

Reuse and reimagine over repeat purchase
#5 Second Souls - Hand pulling at waistband of jeans that are too big

French fashion brand Camaïeu’s jeans come with a ‘yoyo guarantee’. To account for waistline fluctuations, each pair can be exchanged a larger or smaller size within a year. Returned jeans are sold through Camaïeu’s Comeback program, or upcycled into new garments by nonprofit Vestali

Post-purchase support has gone far beyond alleviating pain points. It’s now about encouraging consumers to build a long-term, sustainable relationship with the products they buy from you. Ask yourself, does your current business model put unnecessary stress on people and planet? If so, what can you do to provide conscious convenience? 

While consumers have grown accustomed to everything-on-demand, many are keen to absolve their social and eco guilt. And remember: the bigger the player, the bigger the responsibility!

#6 Circularity Subscribed - Woman paying for a Reeddi battery pack

CIRCULARITY SUBSCRIBED

CIRCULARITY SUBSCRIBED

Dealing with life’s hardships sustainably
#6 Circularity Subscribed - Woman paying for a Reeddi battery pack

To provide widespread access to clean and reliable energy, Reeddi rents out solar-powered batteries from corner stores in Lagos. In a city prone to power outages, consumers can take Reeddi batteries home to power their lights, phones and laptops. For easy recharging, the startup plans to install solar panels on the roofs of participating stores.

Despite modern advances, access to stable electricity isn’t a given for many consumers. As climate change continues to disrupt supply (even in highly developed countries), the number of power outages around the globe is expected to increase.

What can you learn from communities already dealing with the effects of global warming? Can you apply those learnings to create convenient solutions that ensure consumers won’t be caught out when the going gets tough?

#7 Productivity Paradise - Train tracks through green countryside

PRODUCTIVITY PARADISE

PRODUCTIVITY PARADISE

When efficiency and tranquillity converge
#7 Productivity Paradise - Train tracks through green countryside

Trainhugger is taking trains to an even greener level: for every ticket sold, one tree is planted in the UK. Offering the same routes at the same prices as other ticket sellers, the British booking platform offers consumers the convenience they’re accustomed to, with verdant, carbon-storing benefits at no extra cost.

Faced with apocalyptic headlines, consumers expect sustainability to be embedded in every product or service. It’s a matter of mental wellbeing. Almost half of young people (46%) claim eco-anxiety affects their daily life and functioning. 

Trainhugger incentivizes consumers to engage with slow travel — proven to have positive mental health benefits — by embedding a carbon-offsetting service within each ticket. Can you help consumers make the most of their time by introducing guilt-busting add-ons that enhance wellbeing?

List of streaming options, including 480p ED

EARTH DEFINITION

EARTH DEFINITION

Small interventions make a huge difference
List of streaming options, including 480p ED

Streaming videos in Ultra HD generates over eight times more emissions than Standard Definition. And on small phone screens, it’s overkill. Which is why EARTHDAY.ORG is calling for Standard Definition to be renamed Earth Definition and urging video platforms to add ED as an easy option for sustainable screen time.

Almost a third (32%) of consumers globally state a lack of options as the main factor for not shopping sustainably. People might want to improve their consumption habits — environmentally, socially, or otherwise — but you can’t be what you can’t see. 

That’s where you come in. Figure out what the ‘Earth Definition’ of your consumer offering looks like and bring it to market before someone else beats you to it. Start by confronting the least ethical parts of your CX head-on. You’ll thank us later.

Hands holding a globe, plus the SOLACE AS A SERVICE icon

SOLACE AS A SERVICE

SOLACE AS A SERVICE

The emergence of conscious convenience
Hands holding a globe, plus the SOLACE AS A SERVICE icon

The pandemic put digital transformation into overdrive. And while safety fears drove e-commerce and on-demand delivery, the convenience they offer could convert short-term change into a pandemic legacy. While consumers are keen to absolve their (social and eco) guilt, many won’t want to give up on time-saving solutions.

In short: the impending purpose economy is on a collision course with demands for universal convenience, because instant anything often comes at an environmental and social cost. Consumers are growing conflicted, and feeling that tension between purchase and purpose. Your call to action? Soothe their struggle and offer convenience without the culpability.

Take a deep dive into SOLACE AS A SERVICE and find out how other brands are already applying it to their own businesses by joining our Premium platform.

Two people talking on a 'happy-to-chat' bench

LONELI-LESS

LONELI-LESS

Set the stage for human connection
Two people talking on a 'happy-to-chat' bench

'Sit here if you don't mind someone stopping to say hello!' That's the invitation — in Polish, Hebrew and English — to connect with strangers on Krakow's new park benches, known locally as Gaduławka. Happy-to-chat benches were brought to Poland by Krzysiek Sabuda, a marketing specialist at Fulco System, which builds outdoor furniture and is sponsoring the initiative.


A third of the world’s adults reported feeling lonely in 2021, rising to 50% in some regions. With loneliness tied to depression and cognitive decline, it’s time for brands to start tackling this far more stealthy pandemic. The most powerful antidote to loneliness is an IRL human connection – not so easy to find in today’s busy, tech-saturated world. Can you nudge people out of their lockdown bubbles and help them connect in meaningful ways?

Woman in Shanghai looking at phone

SOCIAL EXPRESS

SOCIAL EXPRESS

Neighborhood networking for the digital age
Woman in Shanghai looking at phone

While TikTok allows people to feel close regardless of geographical location, the app's Chinese sibling Douyin flipped the script to help users connect with those nearby. By shaking their phone, users can find others in the same city and add them to their friends list. A feature Douyin copied from rival WeChat, we should add... ;-) 

Consumers are hungry for new experiences and connections. And that doesn’t (necessarily) mean international adventures. The more locally-minded consumers of tomorrow will want to connect with those in their immediate surroundings, albeit from the safety of a digital interface. 

Disclaimer: this opportunity isn’t just for tech giants. Can you leverage your social media, app or email list to spark new, close-to-home connections?

PS: This is not our 2022 Trend Report

Soaked up all the insights from this briefing?
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2022 Trend Report. That’s 6 fully fleshed-out mega-trends, 6 brand-new sub-trends, and 68 pages of actionable business intelligence in PDF and Powerpoint format– exclusively for TrendWatching Premium members.

 

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ALTRUISTIC ALLIANCES

ALTRUISTIC ALLIANCES

Help your audience help others
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For people with vision loss, visiting a new urban environment can be challenging. Travel Hands pairs them with a nearby sighted volunteer to walk to a destination together. Currently operating as a call center, Travel Hands will be launching a location-based app soon.

Some of 2020/21’s most envelope-pushing innovations were those that support and protect society’s most vulnerable citizens. In 2022, expect this positive shift to progress in leaps and bounds, with value-driven consumers seeking out empathetic brands that facilitate frictionless connections with neighbors in need.

The simple act of asking for and offering help can create meaningful bonds, whether temporary or more permanent. Help can take many forms — from technical skill-sharing to a simple pick-me-up chat. How can you make it easier for citizens to lend a helping hand?

Bright and colorful Electric Daisy Carnival site on Roblox

PHYGI-FUN

PHYGI-FUN

Let’s get this (virtual) party started
Bright and colorful Electric Daisy Carnival site on Roblox

October 2021 saw Electric Daisy Carnival bring its EDM festival to game platform Roblox. Hosted in a persistent space dubbed World Party, the immersive experience coincided with its physical counterpart in Las Vegas. In addition to over 50 live sets — artists hopped onto Roblox for meet and greets — virtual attendees could dance battle with friends, win both tangible and virtual merch, and build homes in Camp EDC together.

Platforms like Roblox and Fortnite have become social lifelines for consumers across demographics. More than games, they’re spaces to inhabit with friends – early manifestations of tomorrow’s metaverse. 

How can you make inroads? Fashioning new virtual spaces from scratch doesn’t come cheap. Why not team up with a more established brand and gently introduce yourself to players with digital merch or sponsored party paraphernalia?

Woman hosting an online cooking class

LINK 'N LEARN

Line drawings of humans JOYNING

JOYNING

JOYNING

Finding meaningful connections in a lonely world
Line drawings of humans JOYNING

Endlessly evolving technologies and platforms for digital encounters continue to reshape the way we connect with each other. Still, more and more people around the world feel lonely and isolated. Even before COVID lockdowns, loneliness and social anxiety were on the rise, in part due to an increase in social media use and a decline in offline interactions. 

The pandemic exacerbated our digital lifestyles and reset notions about traditional markers of success — a home, a family, a stable job. As consumers navigate an uncertain future, forging meaningful online and IRL connections will become increasingly valuable. So what can your brand offer? Create opportunities for people to foster connections that are genuine, supportive and meaningful.

Man speaking to a Corona vending machine

THRILLS & SKILLS

THRILLS & SKILLS

Fun for learning’s sake
Man speaking to a Corona vending machine

To launch its new Hard Seltzer Limonada line, Corona partnered with language-learning app Duolingo for a voice-activated vending machine that asked people to order in Spanish: “Dame una Corona Hard Seltzer Limonada, por favor.” Those with correct pronunciation were rewarded with a can of Limonada, while those in need of practice were offered a free one-month subscription to Duolingo Plus.

People are bursting into the post-pandemic era with a new appetite for fun. But play doesn’t need to be mindless. Consumers will relish brands that provide novelty and encourage personal growth. 

Corona × Duolingo works for two reasons: it provides an element of surprise and reminds consumers of their potential to learn. Can you catch people’s attention with a cross-industry collaboration that provides unexpected thrills and esteem-boosting new skills?

Wooden interior of a sauna bus

PLAYFUL PIVOTS

PLAYFUL PIVOTS

Switch things up for good
Wooden interior of a sauna bus

With public transport falling out of favor in pandemic-era Japan, Shinki Bus Co., Ltd is rethinking its vehicles as mobile real estate. Its first innovation? A bus converted into a wood-fired sauna: the Sabus, with traditional wooden sauna benches and bus features like hanging straps and stop buttons, now pressed to add steam. Sabus is scheduled to start service in February 2022.

Forget hand sanitizer, tomorrow’s consumers need brands to help them blow off steam, literally. Pivot to provide relief and relaxation — for the masses, not just the top 10%! — and your brand may well earn widespread respect. 

Before transforming your office into a sauna, identify which parts of your business would benefit from a playful pivot. Could you recycle underutilized resources to provide unmitigated relaxation — an offering tomorrow’s consumers actually crave?

Super colorful LEGO launderette storefront

YOUTH GOGGLES

YOUTH GOGGLES

A new outlook on life
Super colorful LEGO launderette storefront

Demonstrating that even the most mundane spots can foster a sense of fun, LEGO recently built the Launderette of Dreams in East London. Free to enter, the vibrant, interactive play space was designed by artist Yinka Ilori, using over 200,000 LEGO bricks. Vending machines dispensed toys instead of soap, and visitors were invited to (re)build a giant mural wall.

Consumers are in flux: they’re questioning the ‘old normal’ and trying to figure out what’s next. Pure frivolity is a serious part of that process – helping people not only to loosen up, but to see the world afresh. 

Most kids (85%) claim to have fun ideas for how they would change the world for the better, while 58% enjoy coming up with ideas to make the world less boring. Invite them into the boardroom to help create initiatives which give people permission to play.

Screenshot of H&M's Co-Exist space in Animal Crossing

MICRO-MOVEMENTS

MICRO-MOVEMENTS

Give everyone a slice of the action
Screenshot of H&M's Co-Exist space in Animal Crossing

Before bringing its vegan Co-Exist Story collection to stores, H&M virtually recreated 11 pieces and launched them in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, where it built Looop Island earlier this year. An updated version of the island is exclusively inhabited by animals that weren't harmed to make Co-Exist Story, such as geese, ducks and cows, echoing the project's vegan principles.

As brands vie for the attention of increasingly value-driven consumers, communication is key. Brands that simply spotlight ethical issues are very 2021. In 2022, consumers will expect you to help them play a role in making the world a better place.

Don’t simply tell consumers what the solution is, show them and let them be a part of it. And making better choices doesn't have to be all work and no play. Like H&M, try packaging those serious messages in a layer of fun. 

From Jabu's Homecoming: Jabu, his mother and his bride

IMMERSIVE INFO

IMMERSIVE INFO

Communication that hits different
From Jabu's Homecoming: Jabu, his mother and his bride

Jabu’s Homecoming is a short drama series about the Zimbabwe-based Mobani family grappling with the sudden death of their breadwinner – an economic migrant in South Africa. Viewers text 'hi' to a designated WhatsApp number, are added to the Mobani family’s group chat, and the drama plays out in a stream of messages.

Newsletters. Social campaigns. Banner ads. Yawn. It’s increasingly tough to court consumers’ attention. In tomorrow’s even more saturated market, the trick will be to disrupt your channels of communication in unexpected ways. Like (burial) insurance provider Zimnat staging a mini drama on WhatsApp.

Jabu’s Homecoming might be ‘just’ an ad, but it turns a WhatsApp group chat into a virtual theater. Which of your channels is consistently underperforming? Ditch your MO and take a creative leap into the unknown. It might just pay off…

Line drawings of FREEDONISM: cocktail and hot air balloons

FREEDONISM

FREEDONISM

Fun as the ultimate fear antidote
Line drawings of FREEDONISM: cocktail and hot air balloons

Pre-pandemic consumers faced daily challenges — from climate change and rising income inequality to the peril of terrorism. But COVID-19 was one threat too many, and global anxiety swelled to epic proportions. It’s not all doom and gloom, though — there’s also a growing sentiment to build back better, the desire to uplift society, and a yearning for optimism and pleasure.

If there’s one powerful remedy to combat the feeling of languishing, it’s FUN! Fun can take many forms — a playful new approach to work and education, a challenge that encourages consumers to flex their creative muscles, or a group activity that pushes people out of their comfort zones (in the best way). Help consumers unlock their hedonistic tendencies and trade a state of worry for a state of freedom.

Aerial view of a Welsh harbor in CareersCraft

PORTALS OF POSSIBILITY

PORTALS OF POSSIBILITY

Transport people to new dimensions
Aerial view of a Welsh harbor in CareersCraft

Rethinking traditional high school career counselling, Careers Wales has launched CareersCraft — a virtual world, hosted on Minecraft, designed to help students identify their strengths. Users roam around various landmarks in Wales, completing challenges and activities along the way. At the end, they’re presented with career paths that best match their soft skills.

The metaverse is teeming with opportunities – yes, for play, but also for personal development. As it starts to take shape, brands should ask themselves: what will our legacy look like?

CareersCraft aims to get students excited about their future by lifting them out of the classroom and into an interactive environment. Can you use the metaverse to broaden consumers’ horizons – to introduce them to ideas and concepts they wouldn’t ordinarily encounter?

Humanoid figure wearing a lime green dress against a blurry, aquatic background

YOU-TOPIA

YOU-TOPIA

Help build a fairer Web 3.0
Humanoid figure wearing a lime green dress against a blurry, aquatic background

New threads for the metaverse? The Fabricant Studio makes it easy for anyone to create, trade  and wear digital fashion – no 3D design skills required. Users customize a master garment, mint it as a unique NFT and wear it in the 'verse. Clothing can also be sold for $FBRC, the platform's coin, with royalties split equally among all creators.

If we’ve learnt anything from the internet’s early years, it’s that power needs to be distributed (or ideally, decentralized). As consumers enter Web 3.0, they’ll look favorably upon brands that use their influence to build a more egalitarian digital world. 

Can you empower consumers by giving them the tools and skills to build tomorrow’s metaverse? You don’t need to create an educational course of your own. Why not sponsor an existing one, like Zepeto has done at the Istituto Marangoni Miami?

Child playing a game on a tablet

PSYCH-E

PSYCH-E

Virtual therapy with real-world benefits
Child playing a game on a tablet

EndeavorRx is a video game treatment for kids with ADHD, created by a team of neuroscientists and game developers. Like many games, players sweep through epic virtual worlds – completing challenges as they go – but EndeavorRx has been specifically designed to improve attention function. It’s available by prescription in the US. 

In recent years, the perception-altering effects of immersive technologies like VR have been used to treat everything from mild anxiety to late-stage dementia. As we meander towards the metaverse, expect these early concepts to become established healthcare solutions. 

As a brand, can you provide virtual tools that make it easier for people to exist in the IRL world? To create footholds in tomorrow’s metaverse, start laying the foundations now with mobile-friendly VR or AR initiatives.

Interior view of Pollinator Park

DIDACTIC DYSTOPIAS

DIDACTIC DYSTOPIAS

Tough love goes virtual
Interior view of Pollinator Park

How can you convey the disastrous impact of insect decline? Set in 2050, Pollinator Park is a VR experience that explores a future without bees and other pollen spreaders. After shopping for groceries in a pollinator-deprived world, users can repopulate the planet. The project was conceived by the EU Pollinators Initiative in collaboration with ‘archibiotect’ Vincent Callebaut.

There’s much talk of building utopias in the metaverse, but what about purpose-built dystopias? Going forward, brands will use the metaverse to rectify antisocial behaviors for good, by enabling people to (literally) see the world from a new perspective.

Sometimes you need to be cruel to be kind. Pick a subject — whether it’s the plight of refugees or the impact of playground bullies — and storyboard a narrative that puts the shoe on the other foot. 

Human figure stepping through a screen

META-PHYSICAL

META-PHYSICAL

An evolved internet
Human figure stepping through a screen

COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation, with years of progress crammed into months. What was previously awkward, niche, or even unimaginable, suddenly became mind-numbingly normal: Zoom meetings, online conferences and classrooms, digital-only friends, buying groceries online, and yes… working from home, or wherever the laptop is. Although it might feel like we’re already at peak digital, expect completely unforeseen possibilities to emerge.

As physical and digital worlds continue to converge, we’re witnessing the next evolution of the internet. While yesterday’s web was dominated by websites and the social media’s infinite scroll, the next iteration will be defined by virtual worlds, metaverses, and augmented phygital realities. Get ready!

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Words: Liesbeth den Toom, Robbie Hodges, Erick Smet, Caitlin Hughan, Vicki Loomes, Thomas Klaffke, Franziska Füsting, Victoria Chapman
 
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