10 consumer trends to watch in 2018

An international video-gaming tournament hosted by Seattle’s KeyArena – Key trends to watch in 2018

Behavioural futurist Will Higham identifies 10 consumer trends to watch in 2018, from e-sports and podcasts to sober partying


Traditionally, only a handful of sports, including football and F1 motor racing, have been used to influence consumers worldwide. But that is changing, thanks to an expansion in media channels and viewers’ increasingly eclectic tastes.

Non-traditional sports offer a huge opportunity for advertisers to target lucrative but elusive market segments. Competitive video-gaming, known as e-sports, has built a global audience of millions.

But this year’s breakthrough sport could be hobbyhorsing: an eccentric Finnish import in which children jump fences on their wooden steeds.


Although we consumers love choice, we seem to have so many options these days that we’re getting overwhelmed. This year we’ll look more to artificial intelligence (AI) and voice-activated systems for help.

Apple’s Siri already receives three billion requests a week, while Google recently launched its me-too device, Home. As AI becomes AGI (artificial general intelligence), future systems will be able to perform highly complex tasks.

One of these might be helping firms to make sense of all that big data they’ve collected.


Brand “purpose” is proving increasingly important in motivating employees and consumers. This year entrepreneurs will look to the “ancient wisdom” trend that’s just hit the food and beauty sectors.

Some will seek ancient philosophies – Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Digg’s Kevin Rose have already taken up Stoicism. Others may get their spiritual fix alongside hipsters at secular gatherings such as the Sunday Assembly in London.


One of the media success stories of last year, audio is set to grow exponentially in 2018.

Podcasts are proving effective marketing tools for companies as diverse as Prudential, Gatorade, Tinder and GE, whose sci-fi series The Message has been downloaded five million times.

With podcasters set to be the new vloggers, could radio kill the video star?


We’ve become fascinated with all things post-apocalyptic, from The Hunger Games to The Walking Dead. Why? Look beyond the action and gore: it’s really about rebuilding society the way it should be. And it’s starting to affect reality.

In a world that many think has lost its way, people are getting increasingly excited by new ways of living.

From self-policing websites and local independence campaigns to community gardening and co-living spaces, the utopian movement will grow in 2018.


Those seeking gen Y’s next obsession after food and pets should check out Instagram, the place where such passions typically first appear.

It’s currently full of images of plants: 15 million of them, from sprouting succulents to #boyswithplants.

The housing crisis means that gardens may be out of reach for many people, but hydroponic technology – Ikea’s new indoor cultivators and self-watering planters, for instance – will accelerate indoor gardening. This market has grown by eight per cent since 2010.


Virtual-reality and augmented-reality hardware may not be selling in large volumes, but these technologies are providing vital help behind the scenes in many sectors.

This year more firms will combine them into mixed reality (MR): overlaying data on to physical items to create virtual objects.

Ford’s designers are already using Microsoft’s HoloLens to create virtual designs that remove the need for prototypes. Could MR hit the consumer market in 2018?


Many an employer has moaned about millennials’ sense of entitlement, but their younger siblings – whom I call the recession generation – are very different.

While millennials grew up in the era of overnight dot-com billionaires and reality TV celebrities, all they have known is belt-tightening.

Polls suggest they believe that effort is the key to success and are relatively more willing to work at weekends. This year many of them hit the job market. Businesses that can cater for them will benefit.


There has been a 40 per cent increase in teetotalism among people aged 16 to 24 since 2010. The drinks and leisure sector is starting to shift in response.

Heineken has run adverts mocking hard drinkers; Diageo acquired non-alcohol spirit company Seedlip; and Beck’s has had success with its alcohol-free Blue beers.

Teetotal leisure firms such as Bender and The Shine have sprung up, as have mocktail bars such as Redemption. As more millennials enjoy non-boozy nights, other sectors should seize the opportunity.


Thanks to the uncertain economy, sales of used goods have risen six per cent year on year. The market for secondhand cars has hit record heights.

Online platforms – ranging from giants eBay and Amazon Marketplace to kids’ clothing sites such as Envie and cosmetic sites such as Glambot – are cashing in.

But high-street retailers are getting in on the act too: Urban Outfitters has a vintage range, while Game is selling used consoles. It’s part of a broader trend away from purchasing new, which will see a growth in rental, streaming and even bartering this year.

Will Higham is a business strategist, futures speaker and founder of consultancy Next Big Thing


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About author

William Higham

William Higham

William Higham is the founder and CEO of consumer trends consultancy Next Big Thing.

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