Despite assurances by many governments that an economic recovery is under way, most consumers continue to feel apprehensive about the future—more so than they did before the downturn. The slight uptick in confidence over the past two years has leveled off and in some cases retreated, as a string of global crises—the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan and unfolding unrest in the Middle East—drown out news of modest economic progress. Consumers have come to accept instability as normal, and this attitude is affecting their feelings about spending across most markets. Yet natural disasters and political turbulence aren’t the only factors bringing about change in consumers’ spending habits. The emergence of a middle class in developing markets and advances in digital technology are introducing new shopping behaviors that have significant implications for both retailers and their suppliers.
Over the past three to five years, The Boston Consulting Group has been tracking four of the most important developments in the consumer industry: the increasing relevance of new markets, changing shopper demographics, the rise of new shopping channels—especially the Internet—and, finally, trading up and down and the shift from conspicuous to “conscientious” consumption. This report brings hard data on these new realities and their impact across markets and categories.
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