A decade of change has seen the consumer landscape shift from mass market to personalisation and customisation, from a life of bricks-and-mortar shopping to $27.5 billion dollars in online goods spend .

Organisations that have thrived in the past decade are those who have understood their consumers and pre-empted the trends. We are living in a time of constant change, and technology is developing faster than ever before, which is shaping consumption habits in ways previous generations have not experienced.

The changing expectations of today’s consumers

Today, consumers are increasingly prioritising simplicity, personalisation and customisation. The challenge for organisations is to not just communicate their key brand messages well, but to listen to and understand the unique needs of each generation. They then need to respond in a timely manner to set themselves apart from competitors. In order for organisations to thrive in the current market, it is more important than ever to gain insight into today’s consumers. What are their defining characteristics? What are their expectations and where will they be in the next decade?

Ears to the ground and understand consumer wants

To answer these questions, we can investigate the past to understand what happens when product fit and customer expectation does not match.

The famous Kodak story

The Kodak story is a well known one, which many organisations use as a warning about responding to change.

In 1996 the Eastman Kodak Company recorded one of their best years with a valuation of $30 billion USD, and revenues of $16 billion USD. Yet 16 years later it filed for bankruptcy.

In 1888, founder George Eastman put the first model of Kodak camera to market. His proposition? “You press the button, we do the rest.” He created the first technological wave of handheld cameras. For the next century Kodak brought the handheld camera experience from a novelty used by few, to become the ‘Kodak Moment’ used by all.

Bankruptcy hits a successful Kodak

Kodak were convinced that analogue cameras and film would continue to appeal to the masses. Yet they didn’t note that the current generation at the time with the largest spending power (Gen X – 31% of income in 2005) were craving emerging technology, embracing the difference in their parent’s (Baby Boomers) ‘Kodak moment’ lifestyles.

The traits of Gen X, showed a ‘whatever’ attitude towards values presented by the previous generation, and having grown up during the dot-com boom they understood the value of technology as a means of efficiency.

Alongside other challenges, the Kodak company did not respond to the generational context and could not provide a product sought after by the current market.

A time of constant change

While hindsight is 20/20, all businesses today have the ability to put their ears to the ground and understand what their consumers want. With a multitude of qualitative data from generational analyses (such as ours) and open data (available to the public) a business is able to create a model of their ideal client, their desires and their demographics in a matter of minutes.

1 Lesonsky, R (2014) Gen X: How to Market to the Forgotten Generation, American Express, accessed 30 July, 2020


AA Understanding the Future Consumer