What’s trending? 3 consumer insights from October 2023

November 29, 2023

Will Temu and Shein dethrone Amazon in Western markets? How are content omnivores mashing up music in the age of TikTok? And what does the changing landscape of hybrid work and school look like?
Below we explore three topics on our radar this fall, including the impact they have on consumers and what it means for brands.

Temu, Shein, Amazon and the e-commerce wars

The holiday shopping season is here, and two rising e-commerce giants – Temu and Shein – are threatening Amazon’s dominance.

Both with ties to China – and both no strangers to controversy – these websites specialize in ultra-low-cost products delivered across borders. While Shein focuses on fast fashion sold directly to customers in small batches, Temu is an online megastore offering a broad range of items from third-party sellers across 200 categories. We’ve written about Shein before, delving into the reasons it has captured consumers’ attention, and Temu’s rise has been just as meteoric.

An offshoot of the Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo, Temu has attracted consumers from around the world because of its unparalleled deals while the cost of living continues to rise. Temu draws in customers with gamified advertising and opportunities to win free products if they promote the app to friends and family. The app, which has the slogan “shop like a billionaire”, has been downloaded globally over 50 million times. According to Bloomberg, spending on Temu was 20% higher than Shein in the US in May. Meanwhile, Amazon lost a million daily app users in the UK between January and July.

Not all of these new customers have been entirely satisfied, however. More than 1,300 complaints have been logged about Temu to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), with critics accusing it of failing to deliver packages, shipping incorrect orders, imposing mysterious charges on customers, and having an unresponsive customer service team. The BBB has also cited concerns that Temu automatically collects personal data from customers’ devices. Given that malware was found in versions of Pinduoduo’s software earlier this year, causing Google to suspend the app, data privacy concerns about Temu are unsurprisingly heightened.

Christmas shopping often entails seeking out discounts and sales – even more so in a lackluster economic climate. Given that 46% of global consumers say they regularly switch providers or companies they use in order to get the best deals (source: Foresight Factory, 2023), Temu and Shein may well have a lot of business to celebrate this holiday season.

See beyond

– The consumer desire to get the best deal is a well-established trend, which we refer to as Maximizing Value. Temu takes advantage of this not just with its cut-price goods, but also its promise to give free stuff and issue credit for orders that arrive later than their estimated delivery date. What perks could your brand offer to convince consumers that they are getting the best returns relative to their own goals?

– Data security concerns surrounding Temu have been well publicized, but customers are willing to sacrifice privacy in order to get their hands on a bargain. This is a trade-off we explore in Data as Currency. However, regulators are likely to crack down on brands that are opaque about how they use consumer data, which may ultimately impact consumer perceptions too. Pre-empt criticism by being transparent with how you use your customers’ information, and demonstrate that it is worthwhile for them.

Content omnivores mash up musical tastes

Music genres and artists no longer only appeal to “typical” listeners. Streaming platforms and social media have broadened consumers’ tastes; widened the appeal of more niche genres and artists; and can drive unexpected virality of particular songs or artists, new and old.

For example, an ongoing TikTok trend involves videos set to nu metal band Slipknot’s song “Custer” (and other songs from the band’s back catalog), showing women dancing and dressed in a more feminine style than the band’s usual fans. The videos incorporate hashtags such as #girlydance and are styled as “girly pop”. Some mash up the tune with hits like the “Macarena” to heighten the contrast of feminine pop energy with the male aggression of the songs.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Olivia Rodrigo’s pop-punk tunes have found appeal among Millennial and Gen X men, in part perhaps because of the genre crossover with music popular at the time of their coming of age – a phenomenon explored by The Daily Beast.

And “reaction” videos on platforms such as YouTube that document listeners’ first experiences hearing a particular song or artist, frequently involving surprise that they enjoy the music in question, are widespread. These feature artists as varied as Phil Collins, Sister Nancy and Taylor Swift.

See beyond

– Consumers are not only embracing new and different artists and genres but openly sharing their varied tastes online, celebrating new discoveries and upending stereotypes. This is in line with our trend Unapologetically Me, in which we explore the ways consumers are loudly claiming their individuality.

– This also signals how consumers are finding new communities to bond with and new ways to belong. Brands can take this as an opportunity to broaden perceptions of who their target audience is and could be, and perhaps Diversify and Decolonize their fan base.

– Exploration of new artists and genres is also driven by nostalgia, and even fauxstalgia (feeling nostalgic for a time one never experienced). There are plenty of examples of older songs going viral on TikTok, such as Arctic Monkeys’ track “505” from the band’s 2007 album Favourite Worst Nightmare. Novelty isn’t always what consumers are seeking; sometimes familiarity resonates perfectly.

The evolving landscape of hybrid work and school

The pandemic led to a rapid rise in remote and hybrid work and school. Three years on, we are at an inflection point as companies and institutions figure out what works best for retention, engagement and productivity.

In the southwestern Japanese city of Kumamoto, some schools are taking a novel approach to combat low attendance rates: students have the option to attend classes via a telepresence robot. These remote-controlled, wheeled devices are equipped with video and audio capabilities and are designed to roam freely, making it easier for remote students to interact with their peers. This move is a response to a substantial increase in student absences, rising from 1,283 in 2021 to 2,760 in 2022. And for students who experience social anxiety, telepresence robots could serve as a bridge to healthy socialization.

Elsewhere in the world, while some companies have embraced a hybrid workforce, others are going the opposite way by doing away with remote work policies. For instance, dating app Grindr has mandated a return to the office for all its employees, and Amazon is encouraging employees to work in the office for at least three days a week. These shifts in company policies may require many employees to relocate – an inconvenience so significant that it has led to a wave of resignations at Grindr. This reaction is not surprising, as consumers have become accustomed to the flexibility of remote work. Our data indicates that 28% of global consumers expect to work from home more in the next 12 months compared to pre-pandemic levels (source: Foresight Factory, 2023).

See beyond

– Our trend Presence-free Living explores the activities and areas of life that can now be done remotely. The introduction of telepresence robots in schools takes this to the extreme, exemplifying how traditional institutions are broadening their horizons to become more flexible and responsive to emotional needs.

– More and more companies are mandating physical presence in the office, but the backlash against such measures serves as compelling evidence that, for a majority of consumers, flexibility has become the new norm and a standard expectation. Everyone has different needs and priorities – a fact we discuss in our trend Me Me World – and brands that fail to deliver on this run the risk of alienating both employees and consumers.


Written by Content Team

The Content Team produces all the reports and articles that get published on our dynamic consumer trends intelligence platform, Collision. By tracking trends, monitoring signals of change across sectors and audiences, and working alongside our data team to digest and analyse our proprietary consumer research, they help leading global brands strengthen strategic relevance and gain a competitive edge.

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