What are the biggest consumer trends set to shape 2020? Technology will drive many of the changes, predicts market researcher Euromonitor International.

People will face challenges in safeguarding their privacy online as they rely more on artificial-intelligence devices at home, seek better transportation options and expect highly personalized digital communication, Euromonitor says in its annual trend report. The year ahead will also bring clean-air activism, heightened demand for reusable products and greater inclusivity for all consumers, the firm predicts.

Euromonitor, a London-based global market research firm, has released its forecasts since 2010. Four years ago, it correctly predicted the rise of the “buying time” trend, which flagged how consumers wanted apps and online tools to save them time. In 2018, Euromonitor also noted the rise of “clean lifers,” consumers who choose to live more healthfully and ethically.

But their forecasts haven’t always come true, yet: In 2018, a prediction that consumers would participate in the product-creation process ended up being “less impactful that year,” Euromonitor says, noting that it could still happen in the years ahead. The trend of companies using DNA-based personalization also didn’t take off in 2018, as Euromonitor predicted, but by 2019 there was an uptick in activity, the company said.

Here are its predictions for the biggest global consumer trends:

Privacy Concerns Mount

More consumers expect brands to customize products and services for them, but hesitate when such personalization requires surrendering personal information. Consumers remain suspicious of data-collection efforts, with more than 40% of consumers believing that targeted ads based on online searches are an invasion of privacy, according to a 2019 Euromonitor survey. Younger consumers are more willing to share their data in exchange for personalized offers but want transparency in how it will be used.

Euromonitor predicts that legislation will shift more privacy control to consumers and will enable them to more proactively opt out of companies tracking their digital habits if it doesn’t directly benefit them. “Consumers will surely become progressively less trusting of companies extracting and using their data without transparency, adequate security and opt-out options,” Euromonitor says.

More Robots

Consumers are beginning to accept that robots or other types of artificial intelligence can perform jobs traditionally done by humans. They are buying more AI-enabled home appliances and virtual assistants, like Amazon Alexa, and adopting new habits to use them, including voice commands. “Though complete trust of and universal access to this technology will take more time, we are embracing the concept of AI-driven robots for our own welfare, convenience and comfort,” Euromonitor says.

Homebodies

During times of economic, political or personal uncertainty, consumers often want to retreat to their homes. Now, thanks to high-speed internet access, more at-home services and faster delivery times, many fully can. The percentage of global households with access to broadband internet has doubled since 2010, allowing many consumers to work from home, according to Euromonitor research.

“Without having to leave the house to go to the office, consumers are reluctant to leave for any reason,” the firm says. “As a result, remote workers are fueling growth in areas such as internet retailing, home-fitness providers and ready-to-eat food and grocery delivery at the expense of brick-and-mortar stores, gyms and restaurants.”

Instant Gratification

Shorter attention spans means that people expect information to be as accessible as possible in the quickest possible time frame. Euromonitor calls this the “catch me in seconds” trend, flagging brands that offer “drops,” or the practice of selling exclusive merchandise for a short period of time, and the increasing availability of faster video-playback speeds, which allow consumers to watch more online content in less time. Friends, family and independent consumers are becoming the most trusted sources as consumers try to quickly decipher the most relevant information amid the vast trove they can now access.

Better Travel

As the world’s population becomes increasingly urban, residents are growing frustrated with congested roads and overcrowded public transportation. More people now turn to navigation apps to plan their journeys and offer real-time updates on the best way to travel via train, taxi, electric bike, scooter, helicopter or a customized combination of them all depending on time, budget, weather and occasion.

“Consumers want their transportation across cities to be modular and personalized to their individual needs in 2020 as they embrace a crowded world that is no longer seen as car-first,” Euromonitor says.

Inclusivity

As more consumers want products that satisfy their needs as well as reflect their values, brands are shifting their products and services to be more accessible to everyone and adopting marketing that represents individuals beyond the mainstream. More products and services are highlighting “inclusivity for all,” including people with physical and mental disabilities. “From fashion to toys, games, foodservice and interior design, brands are responding to a societal push for change,” Euromonitor says.

Local Pride

More consumers want local brands and products, seeing them as more authentic and better representing their individuality, Euromonitor says. In addition to pride in hometown goods and an appetite for niche brands, environmental concerns are also motivating consumers to prioritize local businesses. “For North America, the shopping mall and chained retail experience feels homogenized and steadily less appealing,” says Euromonitor. “People want to connect to their neighborhood again and support local, independent traders.”

Clean-Air Activism

Awareness of air pollution is affecting more consumers’ purchase decisions and pushing more brands to position themselves as environmentally conscious. As many cities exceed safe air pollution limits, eco-anxiety is pushing shoppers to buy more sustainable products that allow for a guilt-free experience.

Euromonitor expects climate activists to intensify their stance against carbon emissions, further pushing consumers and businesses to do their part in the year ahead. The firm predicts brands will fight for market share based on their efforts to contribute to environmental protection. “Vegan, fair trade and natural are becoming must-have brand credentials,” Euromonitor says.

Reuse Is the New Recycle

New circular business models aim to promote sharing, reusing, refilling and renting to avoid waste. The move is powered by increased environmental awareness, especially among younger generations who prioritize experiences over ownership.

Still, companies trying to tap into this trend need to balance between sustainability and convenience as consumers still prioritize efficacy, value and aesthetics, Euromonitor says, advising that brands should incentivize consumers to switch to reusable or refillable options that are both convenient and affordable. “As more companies integrate reusable packaging into their product lines, this option will be less of a competitive advantage and more of a must-have,” Euromonitor says.

Mood Enhancement

Consumers are increasingly making purchase decisions to improve personal needs like anxiety or low energy, seeking products that offer mood-enhancement and brain function boosts. Legal cannabis is a leader of catering to the broad spectrum of mental well-being, Euromonitor says, estimating that the global legal market will reach $166 billion by 2025. The firm predicts more functional botanicals in food and beverage products including turmeric, mushrooms and matcha, and hormone stimulants in cosmetics.

“For decades people all over the world used substances such as tobacco and alcohol, despite consequences, to self-regulate their mental health,” Euromonitor says. “However savvy consumers are seeking a more diversified, subtle and targeted approach to the age-old problem of mental wellbeing.”

Write to Ellen Byron at ellen.byron@wsj.com

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