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The Trends of the Trends

Our AI powered analysis of all the major 2018 trend reports

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In collaboration with:

23 January 2018

Author: Kathryn Bishop

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Using an AI neural network to analyse hundreds of 2018 trends by leading forecasting agencies, The Future Laboratory and Quid have created the definitive guide to the year ahead

Last December, we published the Future Forecast 2018, our guide to the 40 major cultural shifts that will come to define the year ahead. Created using research first reported on our Trends Intelligence platform LS:N Global, it features a concise overview of new microtrends and consumer behaviour across 10 key consumer sectors. If you haven’t read it yet, you can download it here.

We were not the only ones to gaze towards the coming months and offer our thoughts on what is going to happen next. It has long been a tradition for trend forecasters to publish their predictions as one year rolls into the next. The trouble is, with so many conflicting trend reports, how can businesses get a balanced, centralised overview of the overlapping themes that will shape the year ahead?

“With so much information being exchanged, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to navigate through the noise if they want to prosper in 2018 and beyond.”

To address this question, we joined forces with Quid, a San Francisco-based software platform that uses proprietary natural language processing algorithms to analyse text in different datasets and identify common themes.

We selected 23 publicly available global trends reports from leading consultancies, innovators, social platforms and market intelligence agencies (including our own Future Forecast), and fed them into a custom neural network. We then identified semantic similarities and clusters of shared information to collate and create the insight you’re about to read in The Trends of the Trends 2018 report, which is authored by our senior writer, Kathryn Bishop. A full list of the reports we analysed can be found at the end.

With so much information being exchanged on a daily basis, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to navigate through the noise if they want to prosper in 2018 and beyond. So, after you have finished reading our analysis, get in touch with our sales team to learn more about how our products, services and tools can help bring a new level of clarity to your work.

Tim Noakes, head of foresight, The Future Laboratory

1: AI and Automation 

RACE Robotics Lab by Ministry of Design, Singapore
Our analysis suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will be a key area of focus for brands in 2018, raising questions around AI and how it will shape notions such as trust, ethics and power.

Our analysis suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will be a key area of focus for brands in 2018, raising questions around AI and how it will shape notions such as trust, ethics and power.

A report by Paysa predicted that US employers would spend more than £467m ($650m, €530m) on annual salaries for 10,000 jobs in AI in 2017. As the rise of automation and AI creates new job roles offering high-paying salaries, 2018 will be the year in which automation accelerates and a Human Premium will force global businesses and brands to question the effect – and cost – of AI on productivity, workplace camaraderie and human wellbeing. This is already being explored by AI company DeepMind’s Ethics & Society (DMES) unit, which examines the impact of AI on society.

The burgeoning debate around Trust in Algorithms will fuel a dialogue between brands and consumers in 2018. With blockchain technology becoming a bastion of trust in sectors as varied as antiques, diamond mining and food production, brands are exploring how it can be used to engender trust. Kodak’s blockchain-supported platform KodakOne and KodakCoin cryptocurrency enables photographers to take greater control in image rights management. 

Our analysis also shows that trust and ethics will be particularly pertinent in 2018’s AI Frontier as global superpowers such as China and the US compete to lead AI development. As we speed towards a new decade, consumers’ concerns about AI will come to the fore, including fears around its potential to become a god-like entity, its use in conflict zones and how it might be used to maintain social control. As it becomes more powerful, how will AI be used to mastermind, dictate and direct global wars, and who will be responsible for its errors? Now is the time to ensure that your AI strategy is both transformative and ethical.

DISCOVER MORE AI TRENDS ON LS:N GLOBAL 

 

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2: Beauty

ASOS Go Play campaign
Our analysis also shows that the rise of Technology-enhanced Beauty and its integration into consumers’ daily routines will emerge as key developments in 2018.

In terms of product innovation, beauty will become one of the most advanced sectors as nascent players, natural ingredients and new technologies shake up outmoded attitudes and heritage brands.

Brands are increasingly recognising the need to better understand co-creation with customers. This will inspire a wave of Power Products – curated offerings that provide efficiency and efficacy in personalised packages, exemplified by brands such as Function of Beauty, which features in The Future Laboratory’s Future of Haircare Market. Others predict that beauty brands will take a more relaxed approach to marketing, using informal language to create a branded best friend, and take a pared-back approach to packaging and in-store presentation. Innovators leading the way in this area include Deciem and Brandless, which focus on the efficacy of products rather than the brands behind them.

New directions in beauty will look to Active Ingredients that go beyond natural oils and extracts. Brands will explore formulas and ingredients that are both effective and protective, giving rise to new must-have ingredients such as collagen-stabilising copper and anti-inflammatory cannabidiol. Pinterest’s report explores a surge of interest in the potential of vitamin C to improve the appearance of the skin and fight pollutants, reporting a 3,379% increase in searches for vitamin C in skincare on the platform. Already, brands such as Lixir Skin, which features in The Future Laboratory’s 2017 simplified beauty round-up, are creating potent formulas using vitamin C.

Our analysis also shows that the rise of Technology-enhanced Beauty and its integration into consumers’ daily routines will emerge as key developments in 2018. Like fitness trackers, there will be a rise in wearable micro-technologies that help people to monitor their exposure to UV rays and pollutants, such as L’Oréal’s UV Sense sensor, which was unveiled at CES 2018. Beauty brands are revolutionising retail models, using interactive augmented reality (AR)-enabled technology to create immersive experiences. Charlotte Tilbury’s in-store magic mirrors, which feature in Cosmopolitan beauty editor Cassie Powney’s column for The Future Laboratory, enable visitors to virtually try on different make-up styles.

BOOK OUR IN-HOUSE BEAUTY PRESENTATION 

 

3: Culture and Society

Disobedient Bodies by JW Anderson at The Hepworth, Wakefield
With the data clusters drawing attention to the flexible identities and lifestyles of Generation Z and Millennial consumers, Informal Luxury will emerge as more brands make accessibility a key part of their ethos in 2018

There will be shifting attitudes in culture and society in 2018, especially in relation to identity, access and sustainability. Beyond on-demand living, 2018 will be the year in which societies and their people re-engage.

In 2017, the #metoo movement began to galvanise support for women’s rights around the world and sparked a radical rethink of dated attitudes and practices in a variety of industries. In 2018, this momentum will continue with the rise of Shifting Identities and collective causes and morals over individual empowerment. Dated notions of masculinity will be reassessed by societies, individuals and brands in the year ahead – seen in Hims’ approach to its hair loss prevention products, which feature minimal branding aimed at Millennial men. We will explore this further in The Future Laboratory’s forthcoming New Masculinity series, which will be launched in April.

With the data clusters drawing attention to the flexible identities and lifestyles of Generation Z and Millennial consumers, Informal Luxury will emerge as more brands make accessibility a key part of their ethos in 2018. They will create welcoming branded experiences and cause-related campaigns to forge stronger relationships with younger consumers, as seen in Rapha’s convivial cycling clubhouses and Swiss jewellery maker Chopard’s collaborative collection with singer Rihanna, which features Fairmined gold. 

A further principal theme in our exploration of the trend reports is the rise of Conscientious Politics. While the media’s battle with transparency will continue in 2018, platforms such as WhatsApp will be increasingly trusted as credible news sources in politically complex nations such as Malaysia, Brazil and Chile.

DISCOVER NEW CONSUMER TRIBES ON LS:N GLOBAL 

 

4: Data Collection and Protection

Archive Dreaming by Refik Anadol, Istanbul
Global Device Domination will reach record levels in 2018, when more connected devices exist on earth than humans

With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being applied from May 2018, there will be more pressure on brands to mine, analyse and use data more intelligently and effectively.

As consumers become more aware of the data footprint they leave behind with every click, purchase and follow, 2018 will see the emergence of a wave of Privacy Products. There will be opportunities for brands to create secure and simplified, technology-led products and systems that help to position them as trusted entities. For example, Bulgari’s Vault app uses fingerprint-scanning software to securely store users’ payment and password details, and is compatible with the brand’s Diagono Magnesium smartwatch.

Such opportunities will drive the use of data to generate Real-time Reactions. Brands will use programmatic marketing, emotion-tracking software and AI to build smart customer data sets, and use this data to create instant, hyper-targeted campaigns or solutions that inspire and excite customers. Data is being used to capitalise on global and local events with brief, reactionary marketing and promotional campaigns. Lingerie brand Cosabella uses the Albert AI system to modify homepage visuals and promotions to suit individual visitors.

While consumers appear to be comfortable with companies using their information in this way, a Transparency Tracking movement will emerge in 2018 to answer their demand for greater clarity around companies’ supply chains, processes and societal impact. Fjord describes blockchain technology as the solution to this trust crisis, with platforms such as Everledger enabling both businesses and consumers to track the development of products along the supply chain. Elsewhere, the rise of blockchain technology is helping to build economies – Dubai plans to have the world’s first blockchain-powered government in place by 2020.

LEARN HOW STRATEGIC RESEARCH CAN HELP YOUR BUSINESS 

 

5: Fashion and Design

Collection 4 by Phelan
Consumers will embrace the opportunity to influence what brands create when using their data

Consumers and brands re-engaging with identity will shape fashion and design in 2018, with both sectors continuing to serve as vehicles for political and cultural statements.

As consumers globally become more connected, the emotions, optimism and beliefs of emerging nations will bring Altering Authorities before Western consumers. Our analysis reveals the resurfacing of religious beliefs and mysticism as an antidote to modern, always-on and hyper-connected living, which is inspiring brands to explore its impact on brands and design. China is identified as the leader of a global resurgence of interest in Daoism and Christianity in 2018, while ancient spiritual beliefs will influence consumers’ wider lifestyle, design and fashion choices, and have already inspired retail concepts such as healing homeware store Hauswitch.

Technology will unlock previously guarded markets. Digital Access will bring a new meaning to globalisation in 2018 as retail giants such as Alibaba provide gateways to Asia for Western brands. With around 900m people harnessing international connections on social media and consumers predicted to spend £720bn ($1 trillion, €817bn) on cross-border e-commerce by 2020, the burgeoning cross-border bandwidth is helping brands to build a global presence. For example, big data systems such as Alibaba’s Uni Marketing system, which analyses the browsing habits of its 450m users, hyper-personalises everything from special offers to landing pages and recommendations.

While global powers will use customers’ data to prove their might in fashion and design, consumers will embrace the opportunity to influence what brands create when using their data. A closer look at our data clusters outlines the rise of Data-driven Design that provides incumbent businesses with the opportunity to explore technology-enabled collaborations or agile approaches to production. TrekkSoft anticipates an increase in businesses looking outside of their industry for inspiration on how to apply innovation to their entire eco-system, while groups such as H&M and LVMH are creating start-up incubators to harness the technological nous of nascent businesses, as seen with H&M’s Coded Couture app, developed in partnership with Google for its digital fashion house Ivyrevel, which enables shoppers to design their own dress.

BOOK OUR IN-HOUSE FASHION FUTURES PRESENTATION 

 

6: Food and Drink

Totomoxtle by Fernando Laposse, Mexico
These new interpretations will take cues from gastronomic dining, with alcohol distilled into chewable sweets and chocolate re-invented as snortable powders.

Notions such as clean eating will be considered passé in 2018. Instead, food and drink will embrace all things experimental, and diverge down playful and scientific paths.

Advanced Foods that are scientifically engineered or synthesised will be reframed as supporting the global food supply chain and pushing creativity in technology-driven food development. This is evidenced by pioneers such as Finless Foods, a company that features in The Future Laboratory’s Future Forecast 2018. The company grows fish flesh in a laboratory and its founder claims that it can feed 5,000 people without needing to kill a single animal. Meanwhile, maligned additives such as MSG will be embraced by food innovators looking to enhance flavour profiles, as demonstrated by London-based ramen restaurant Bone Daddies, which uses the additive in its Tokyo MSG Ramen as a tribute to the grungier side of Japan’s ramen culture.

The data sets also point towards the rise of Plant Palates in dining as consumers look to bring sustainability and new sensations into their everyday diet. According to a study by food manufacturer Blue Diamond, 19% of UK adults say they will try a vegan or dairy-free diet in 2018, promoting Whole Foods’ trend of root-to-stem eating, where the flavours of plant proteins, flowers, roots and leaves are maximised. Mintel highlights fruit and vegetable pulp, fermentation and colour as key trends in 2018, while wider consumer awareness and expectations around transparency and sustainability in food will transform organic fruit and vegetables into entry-level options in developed nations.

Intoxicating Developments will bring a new kind of playfulness to food and drink as indulgent or intoxicating foods take on novel forms. These new interpretations will take cues from gastronomic dining, with alcohol distilled into chewable sweets and chocolate re-invented as snortable powders. The data also reveals a rise in mood foods, exemplified by Monarch Airlines’ Mood Food box, which features echinacea and liquorice ice cream to boost passengers’ immune systems, and green tea and lavender cakes to aid relaxation.

DOWNLOAD OUR FOOD AND DRINK FUTURES REPORT 

 

7: Health and Wellness

Ritual, US
With growing gender, age and ability agnosticism, health and wellbeing will filter into changing attitudes, shared spaces and individual capabilities

Health and wellness will tip towards inclusivity that celebrates the individual, inspiring consumers to forge their own wellness path rather than follow the directions of global brands or influencers.

There will be a rise in consumers tapping into their innermost emotions as the Importance of Instinct becomes a trusted tool in wellbeing. Building on the phrase ‘gut instinct’, the link between our digestive systems and our mental and physical wellbeing will go mainstream in 2018, with Pinterest searches for ‘gut health’ increasing by 251% in 2017. There will also be more emphasis on products, foods and supplements that protect and support consumers’ internal bacteria – and consequently their mood, emotions and decision-making – such as Thryve and Love Wellness.

Elsewhere, Holistic Health will inform self-care in 2018. Explorations into ancient exercises and disciplines such as Tai Chi – up 189% in terms of searches on Pinterest – will collide with self-imposed moments of boredom that tease out consumers’ inner creativity. There will also be more wellness interiors and systems designed to improve wellbeing, such as those seen at Muse Residences in Miami, which features hues of paint inspired by nature and adaptive water and lighting systems designed to optimise residents’ circadian rhythms.

With growing gender, age and ability agnosticism, health and wellbeing will filter into changing attitudes, shared spaces and individual capabilities. The Everybody gym in Los Angeles, which offers non-gendered locker rooms and classes for people of all ages, sizes and ability levels, is a prime example of this trend. This approach to Inclusive Care will destigmatise narratives around body ideals and personal and sexual healthcare. Start-up Roman is already simplifying the process of obtaining prescription drugs to tackle erectile dysfunction.

BOOK OUR 2018 HEALTH & WELLNESS PRESENTATION 

 

8: News and Journalism

New Museum Live, US
Journalists will soon work alongside algorithms to syndicate optimised versions of news stories to different devices depending on a user’s individual needs or the time of day

5G hyper-connectivity, instant information and the ongoing battle for the truth in journalism at the forefront of 2018’s news and journalism trends.

We can expect a boom in High-tech Reporting as advances in 5G, virtual reality (VR)-led news, ultra-HD videos and live streaming give journalists and consumers fresh mediums through which to distribute and discover news. Other new platforms will include driverless car interiors, while future iterations of earbuds such as the Bragi Dash PRO will enable wearers to select the type of news they want to hear, avoid and explore in more detail through simple head movements. 

News sources will make better use of search and accessibility to boost journalism’s Attention Economy and support consumers’ increasingly flexible lifestyles and changing attitudes to device usage, as highlighted by Opinium. Apps will evolve to ensure that content is readily available offline – an attention-capturing concept explored by The Future Laboratory – or in areas with weak signal, allowing for improved engagement with stories. News search data will be used to generate news headlines in real time to reveal how members of the public are responding to the latest global developments.

Elsewhere, consumers’ expectations around instant responses from brands and services will filter into news with hyper-personalised and localised News Alerts. Journalists will soon work alongside algorithms to syndicate optimised versions of news stories to different devices depending on a user’s individual needs or the time of day. Users who opt-in to receive push notifications are retained at nearly twice the rate of those who do not, according to Urban Airship. Apple’s Safari technology preview 38 features the Proximity Beacon API, which enables users to access breaking local news, traffic updates and tailored headlines based on their location and recent interactions with news channels.

STAY IN THE KNOW WITH OUR DAILY NEWS FEED 

 

9: Technology and Innovation

Baidu Raven H film by Builders Club, London
The cluster of trends data presented by our analysis reveals 2018 to be the year in which every facet of our lives becomes connected by digital devices

The cluster of trends data presented by our analysis reveals 2018 to be the year in which every facet of our lives becomes connected by digital devices.

Global Device Domination will reach record levels in 2018, when there will be more connected devices than humans on Earth – 8.3bn according to Gartner. With supercomputers and connectivity at our fingertips, before our eyes and accessible by voice, Trekksoft highlights how information will be increasingly cordless and accessible, and our surroundings sentient, as demonstrated by the advent of Amazon Go and inclusive technologies such as Google’s Pixel Buds, which are capable of translating languages in real time.

With this increasing intuitivism, voice commands on mobile and home devices will emerge as the new predictive text, heightening Activity Outsourcing for the human brain. This will drive questions around the impact of voice recognition on human memory and the brain’s ability to recall information as it becomes increasingly reliant on instant searches and natural language processing systems. However, Bethany Koby, co-founder of STEM-focused toy company Technology Will Save Us, believes that voice commands have the potential to create a positive future. ‘Quite frankly, I’m excited for the screen to disappear,’ she says, adding that voice commands will elevate the human quality of technology.

Our analysis also outlines the democratisation of technology through Design for All. 2018 will bring forth age-agnostic, inclusive innovations that can be used by all, and which hone particular skills and support individuality. For example, Microsoft is creating products that support neurological and physical diversity, while clothing brands such as Tommy Hilfiger are designing garments with seams and fastenings that make dressing and undressing easier for wheelchair users and people with prosthetic limbs. ‘These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering adults with different abilities to express themselves through fashion,’ says Tommy Hilfiger.

DISCOVER HOW TECH WILL AFFECT ALL OF OUR FAR FUTURES 

 

10: Travel

Westworld Set Jetting by Black Tomato
Time-consuming searches online are being supplanted by peer-to-peer recommendations and booking partners

Experience will remain at the heart of travel in 2018, impacting how bookings are made and destinations are chosen, and shaping the expectations of emerging tourist cohorts.

Already, online bookings are evolving. Time-consuming searches online are being supplanted by peer-to-peer recommendations and booking partners, according to Trekksoft, with websites that provide the inside scoop and offer a Personal Touch growing in influence. The Future Laboratory’s Future Forecast explores the rise of innovative travel operators offering bespoke experiences, such as Steppes Travel, which has introduced a tour to Saudi Arabia in the company of author and local expert Peter Harrigan. 

A sense of nostalgia connected to community and culture, which had an impact on a variety of sectors in 2017, will evolve into what Pinterest is calling Throwback Travel in 2018. Adventure-seekers and holidaymakers will increasingly look to travel to long-lost destinations and ancient world heritage sites, including the Atacama Desert, Angkor Wat and Casablanca. The impact of urbanisation on landscapes and remote destinations will lead to the rise of extinction tourism, where travellers are promised a once-in-a-lifetime look at a soon-to-be-gone place, natural phenomenon or event.

Catering for the varying means of experience-chasers, New Travel Typologies will emerge in 2018. Fuelled by smarter technology, global connectivity and flexible lifestyles, US Millennial families plan to travel 36% more and spend 19% more on holidays in 2018 than they did in 2017, according to MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers study. Catering for travellers on medium-haul flights, Air France’s Joon airline offers flights aimed at digital-first Millennial consumers, complete with organic snacks. Interest in activities such as scuba diving will decrease, and there will be a rise in the number of travellers engaging in one-day holidays, non-traditional activities such as rock climbing, and total digital detoxes instead of luxury adventures.

DISCOVER MORE TRAVEL TRENDS ON LS:N GLOBAL 

 

Analysed Reports  

For The Trend of the Trends 2018, we analysed the following 23 publicly available trend reports:

  1. Bi Intelligence - The Future of Retail 2018          
  2. Business of Fashion - The State of Fashion 2018
  3. Euromonitor International - Megatrend Analysis
  4. Fast Company - 9 Big Design Trends That Will Shape 2018
  5. Fjord – 2018 Fjord Trends
  6. JWT - The Future 100
  7. Mindshare - Trends 2018 Future Today Institute - 2018
  8. Mintel - Beauty Personal Care
  9. Mintel Global - Food & Drink Trends 2018
  10. Mintel - Global Packaging Trends 2018
  11. Pinterest 100 - The top trends to try in 2018
  12. Schibsted - Future Report  
  13. Sparks & Honey – 2018 Trends Brief
  14. Stylus - Industry experts reveal the 10 things to watch out for in travel in 2018
  15. Tech Trends Fro Journalism and Media
  16. Trekk Soft - Travel Trends Report
  17. Trend Watching - 5 Trends for 2018
  18. The Akin - Future Report 2017
  19. The Future Laboratory – Future Forecast 2018
  20. Webby Awards - This Automated Life
  21. WGSN - Future Consumer 2018
  22. Whole Foods Market - Top Food Trends for 2018
  23. Wired Consulting - Understanding Generation Alpha 

 

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