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What will shape business next year and beyond?

By Rieva Lesonsky

One of my favorite go-to sources for trends info is Mintel. The company has just released its North America 17 Consumer Trends report. This week and next, we’ll cover four of Mintel’s top trends here in TrendCast.

Trend 1: The Echo Chamber of Secrets

Mintel says personalization “has brought the polarization of attitudes and knowledge to new heights” and that many of us are living in curated “bubbles” that leave us with a “lack of diverse content and viewpoints.” In other words, consumers are living in an echo chamber where we’re only exposed to views, beliefs, opinions and services with which we already identify. Mintel predicts next year these echo chambers will create further distance between people and between consumers and businesses.

Already 52 percent of American consumers say technology has made it more difficult to connect person-to-person. But curation is not all bad. Because there’s so much information available to us these days, consumers welcome attempts to “whittle down the broader internet to the pieces they find relevant.”

Until the walls of the echo chambers start to fall, Mintel recommends brand be “more agile in creating innovative disruptors” to actually connect with consumers. And Stacy Glasgow, a Consumer Trends Consultant at Mintel, adds that businesses that “guide decision-making, but keep minds open to new possibilities” will thrive.

Trend 2: Reality 2.0

Since we’re always on and always connected, FOMO (the fear of missing out) has consumed many of us. That is playing out in a desire for the experiential. Mintel says, “Consumers are seeking ways to not only engage in new and unique experiences, but to take it a step further and immerse themselves in worlds that are different from—or enhancements of—their own.”

This will lead to acceptance of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), “making it possible for consumers to access enhanced reality and experiences that are out of their reach.” In fact, 20 percent of Americans say they’re planning to buy VR hardware.

“The next frontier of retailing across industries will be virtual, as already some 25 percent of U.S. consumers say they are interested in interactive/digital experiences available in-store, such as virtual mirrors, VR headsets and interactive displays,” says Mintel, which advises business to “find new ways to enhance experiential offerings, transparency and storytelling by showing, versus merely talking about [your] business.”