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Opinion and Insight

Is Australia Leading the World or Lagging Behind Global Trends?

J. Walter Thompson APAC, 2 years, 7 months ago

Co-­operative consumption, de-teching and predictive personalisation are top trends to watch, says Andrew McCowan, head of insights at J. Walter Thompson Sydney

Is Australia Leading the World or Lagging Behind Global Trends?

Seismic shifts are occurring among consumers as a result of the digital age. The seemingly limitless access to information is creating hyper­‐informed, confident consumers who not only know what they want but expect brands to work outward from them.       

In Australia these global shifts, enabled by digital and mobile technology, are providing new opportunities and risks that have come from the new level of connectedness between Australians and the rest of the world. Younger people are feeling a greater affinity with their peers in other countries.     

These changes in Australia are being driven by 10 global trends which are driving change around the world [as identified in JWT's 2015 'Future Trends' report]. Naturally, these global trends are also driving change here in our cities including Sydney - although the consequences are somewhat unique locally as we are: 

- Ahead of global trends such as 'Food in the new eco issue' and 'Mobile device as everything hub'.
- On par with global trends such as: 'Co-­operative consumption', 'Going private in public', 'Buying the experience' and 'De‐teching'.
- Lagging global developments on: 'Predictive personalisation', 'Queen trumps king', 'Re‐tooling for an ageing world' and 'Everything is retail'  

Where Australia leads trends 
Australia leads many global trends as we feel particularly connected with the world, and empowered by mobile. 
- We are more connected than ever to the rest of the world as a leading adopted of mobile tech.  
- Australians' growing enthusiasm for connecting via digital media was shown in Australia Day by the enthusiastic uptake of #AustraliaDay by Australians around the world. To the point that #AustraliaDay trended worldwide. It was the #1 trend in Australia and the UK.    
We are also ahead of global trends related to our interest in the quality and provenance of food supply. By way of explanation, Australians take an active interest in the quality and source of foods. Faith in the quality, safety and sustainability of domestic food supply is very high.    
- Example: #SPCSunday social movement to encourage support for local food production and the widespread concern over contaminated imported frozen berries, and demands for new food labelling laws to demonstrate how.   

Where the Australian market is "on trend", adopting trends in line with other developed markets   
Younger Australians (led by Gen Y) are striking a new lifestyle balance between traditional youthful excesses of Australian fun and hedonism (continuing Schoolies tradition) and a new healthier more balanced sensibility (hellosundaymovement) - finding a way to live life embracing both mindsets is an evolving aspiration.    
Australians in general and Gen Y in particular are early adopters of technology and new services, especially anything that offers extra convenience. They are driving a revolution in mobile payments, the rise of the sharing economy and the equalisation of gender.    
Most challenging to brands is the emerging new value system among younger adults. Increasingly, the idea of ownership - of houses, of cars, those traditional markers of success, is in flux. Australian cities are being reshaped by the explosion in inner city apartment living aimed at this generation that chooses to rent for longer.        
The sharing economy is also developing in Australia, with GoGet share cars, the rise of airBnB, Stayz and Uber challenging traditional service models and connecting into the millennial sensibility.       

Where Australia is lagging behind global trends     
Connection to the world breeds expectation of retail experiences as fast and good as seen elsewhere. Because of the "Everything is retail" trend, combined with the connection with the rest of the world our expectations have changed as so has our tolerance for lower levels of service from local brand experiences, and if locals don't deliver - consumers won't wait, as evidenced by the exceptionally high levels of pirated downloading of movies and TV series that come to Australia officially, 'late'. 
Predictive personalisation is a trend being driven by the development of the 'Internet of things' - the challenge with this development in Australia is the capital cost of implementing new technology infrastructure vs the relatively small population to use it - so the role out of the technologies that enable predictive personalisation is relatively slow - from the NBN broadband system to the interactive retail technologies.
Queen trumps king… sometimes: Australia has seen mixed progress in this trend recently -­ women historically have been relatively empowered in Australia and key role models have shown the way for women in leadership in all levels of society. But the recent surge in the empowerment of women in other markets isn't in evidence here, where the growth in women in key leadership roles has slowed. 

"Older Australians" are also changing - we have a rapidly growing population of 50-­plus consumers who are set to live longer and healthier lives than any generation before them. Here too we see change. This group is defying previous notions of age; they are ageing with an ageless sensibility. They are influential stakeholders in society, and what's more, they're wealthy.       
Boomers hold 40 per cent of the nation's wealth. This group has different expectation of ageing and how they will spend their older years and are now considering the wide range of options they feel they have - retirement vs part time work vs volunteering vs travelling all need to be balanced with the health and medical requirements of ageing adults.        

The 10 global trends identified by J.Walter Thompson are driving change globally, although the focus on how those changes are occurring and the impact they have on people's lives are influenced by local market dynamics and scale. So, although Australians are feeling closer to the world than ever before, and we are one of the leading markets in many of the trends, local pressures means the market continues to develop at a different pace with ongoing nuances of social, economic, and cultural emphasis.

For JWT's Future 100 Trends and Changes to Watch in 2015 report click here.

Genre: Strategy/Insight