Uncertain times are finally starting to take their toll — according to a new report from Ford, more than 60 percent of adults globally say they feel overwhelmed by the unrest, upheaval and other changes taking place around them. The mobility company’s 2018 Looking Further with Ford Trends Report examines the issues responsible for this unsettling climate — and the coping mechanisms that are emerging as a result.
“We’re clearly living in interesting times,” said Sheryl Connelly, Manager of Global Consumer Trends and Futuring at Ford. “Shifting global priorities, rampant political upheaval and a spotlight on social inequity have upended the status quo and left many disoriented. But out of the chaos and conflict, a new energy and creativity is motivating people like never before. From compassion and guilt to heightened activism, most adults believe their actions have the power to influence positive change.”
Each year, the company focuses on global trends to understand how consumers are changing and how companies must respond. Ford’s sixth annual report reveals that the majority of consumers (76 percent) find it disturbing when companies know too much about them and are frustrated by how much of their information has become public. Concerns were also voiced about feeling overwhelmed by the amount of suffering in the world and guilty for not doing more to fix it. The widening gap between the rich and poor, in particular, was identified as a major concern. Together, these have impacted the emotional well-being of consumers — 54 percent of adults globally say they feel more stressed out than they did a year ago, and among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is even higher, at 65 percent.
From these insights, Ford identified and explored 10 key trends, which are expected to influence consumers and brands in 2018 and beyond:
- The Edge of Reason: Global upheaval is evident in everything from politics to pop culture, and people are responding to these changes in polarized fashion. As divisiveness grows, the sense of being overwhelmed intensifies. Consumers are hungry for inventive ways to cope and adapt.
- The Activist Awakening: This culture of polarization means consumers are being jolted out of complacency. Conventional wisdom and expectations are being toppled as individuals debate the change we need.
- Minding the Gap: Worldwide, the spotlight is on inequality. Activists and entrepreneurs are experimenting with new ways to improve access to quality education, increase productive employment, close wage gaps, and provide everyone with affordable access to basic living standards and infrastructure.
- The Compassionate Conscience: With an omnipresent news cycle, we are more aware than ever of the challenges consumers face around the world. People are becoming more reflective of their roles in society and more focused on how they can be more engaged.
- Mending the Mind: Consumers and institutions are realizing that you cannot have a healthy body unless you have a healthy mind. As such, mental health and well-being are moving to the forefront for individuals, governments and companies to address.
- Retail Therapy: Many consumers are on an endless hunt for something new and different – seeking material goods or experiences that bring happiness. As services aiming to provide efficiency experiences proliferate, consumers now find they can buy the one thing that was never for sale — time.
- Helplessly Exposed: Big Data claims to be able to interpret our behaviors, which in theory should help consumers. But with Big Data can come Big Bias, and once personal information is relinquished, all consumers can do is hope companies use it responsibly.
- Technology**’s Tipping Point:** Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and autonomous technology are now being incorporated into our daily lives. Worldwide, humans are wondering what the onslaught of intelligent technology will mean for society.
- Singled Out: Are marriage and parenthood still the desired norms for happy living? Couples today — with more choices and longer life spans to consider — are rethinking commitment and fulfillment.
- Big Plans for Big Cities: By 2050, nearly 75 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas. To capitalize on the full potential of cities — ensuring they are happy and healthy places in which to thrive — we must smartly plan for transportation, employment, housing, wellness initiatives and an infrastructure that can accommodate booming populations.
In regards to its own business model and operations, these trends demonstrate to Ford a need to create smart, sustainable transportation solutions that are accessible to all people. The company has expressed its commitment to the belief that freedom of movement drives human progress and will continue to design sustainable technologies to help make people’s lives better.
Eighty-seven percent of consumers agree cities need better transportation options and Ford is uniquely positioned to provide meaningful solutions for consumers everywhere. As connected, sustainable and autonomous technologies rapidly transform transportation, Ford says it will work to drive progress that consumers can trust.
“In today’s fast-moving world, consumers have less patients for the frivolous and they demand greater emphasis on what’s meaningful and impactful,” said Connelly. “This ethos is reflected in the work we do at Ford and our relentless focus on providing trustworthy solutions that make consumers’ lives better.”