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Leisure Management - Great expectations

Industry insights

Great expectations

Victoria Loomes gives us the lowdown on five consumer trends that should be on your radar in 2017 and beyond

Vicki Loomes, trendwatching.com

Knowing what your consumers want next doesn’t come from asking them. It comes from watching what other businesses, in other sectors, are already doing – and identifying the new expectations they’re setting. New expectations will spread like wildfire, all the way to your door. Here are five such trends worth getting to grips with before they impact on your brand in the coming year.


Self-improvement and willpower don’t always go hand-in-hand. That’s why consumers – increasingly accustomed to, and comfortable with, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled tools and services – will seek to outsource the willpower, planning and coaching they need to make a personal leap forward.

This trend is one we’re dubbing ‘motivated mindlessness’, and it’s the product of three converging forces: the rise of AI; the growth of always-on services that provide personalised information (Google Now, Siri, Amazon Echo); and wearable tech, which has turned a ‘just do it’ mentality into ‘brands should help me do it’.

Outsourcing willpower can encompass everything from eating to training. Take AVA, for example – an intelligent eating assistant that leverages image recognition, AI and nutritionists to help people eat more healthily. Users take a photo of their food, send it to AVA and receive nutritional and caloric information.

Similarly, Vi is an AI-enabled wearable that helps people meet weight loss and training goals. The device uses biosensing earphones and sensors around the user’s neck to collect data and create fitness plans based on location, speed and heart rate; there’s also two-way communication between Vi and the user, with the device acting as an AI personal trainer.
For health and fitness brands, the opportunity is clear: help consumers reach their self-improvement goals and then sit back and bask in the glow of their appreciation!


Vi’s biosensing earphones and sensors collect data to create personalised fitness plans

Many consumers, and especially city dwellers, are increasingly aware of the toxic impact of their environment and lifestyle – from air pollution to late nights and food on-the-go. Consequently, rising numbers are looking to brands to embed health-boosting technologies into the environment to offset damage or to produce new health-positive effects.

Key to ambient wellness is combining maximum impact with near-zero effort. In the Netherlands, electronics giant Philips transformed local Starbucks branches into EnergyUp cafés. This involved Philips Energy Up lamps – which mimic natural daylight and have a mood-lifting, revitalising effect after 20 minutes – being placed around the coffee shops.

Similarly, the interior of Airbus’ carbon fibre A350 XWB airplanes are fitted with LED lights that change colour to resemble the sun’s glow and minimise jet lag.

But tapping into this trend doesn’t necessarily require technological innovation – it can also be playful. In Colombia, Kit-Kat ran a campaign based on the brand’s familiar ‘Have a break, have a Kit-Kat’ slogan. Billboards installed around the city offered free ‘massages’ via tiny vibrating motors embedded into the hoarding.

The health and fitness sector could tap into this trend for ambient wellness by asking: What negative impacts do customers endure when they engage with our brand? What’s our ‘jet lag’?



LED cabin lighting that changes colour to resemble the sun’s glow can minimise jet lag

Consumers have always valued brands that radiate a warm human touch – but more and more, they also care about what brands do, rather than say, to make the world a better place. They’re now looking to big brands to leverage their resources almost instantly in crisis situations.

Coca-Cola has just done that. In response to a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Ecuador which killed over 500 people last April, the brand disassembled its billboards and repurposed them as makeshift shelters. Likewise, following a severe flood in Malaysia, telecoms company Maxis set up portable weatherproof devices on rooftops to create an SOS network when the power supply or mobile phone network went down.

So what’s the fastest route to becoming a first responder? Health and fitness brands must ask what existing infrastructure or services could be instantly leveraged or repurposed to make a real difference in a crisis situation. This will help them become a force for positive change in the world, allowing them to survive and prosper in the new consumer arena.



Disaster relief supplies were stockpiled at Bicentenario Park in Ecuador for distribution to earthquake survivors

Consumers may still want to improve their diet, fitness and productivity – the traditional areas of self-improvement – but the quest for self-improvement is in fact shifting from ‘what I do’ to ‘who I am’.

Recent and ongoing debates on race, gender and immigration have forced many to question their privileges, (unconscious) prejudices and potentially socially-damaging behaviour.

The ability of virtual reality (VR) to immerse people in scenarios beyond their day-to-day experiences enables them to foster empathy and understanding on a new level. VR technology is already being used for such a purpose by progressive brands like the National Football League, which has collaborated with Stanford University in the US to create a VR-enabled ‘body swapping’ experiences, in which the user ‘sees’ through the eyes of an African-American woman being harassed by a white person.

Empathy cultivation isn’t limited to VR. Jewellery brand Lokai and Charity:Water recently created Walk With Yeshi, a Facebook Messenger chatbot based around the 2.5-hour walk some women in Ethiopia make to access clean water. Users are asked by Yeshi – a fictional young Ethiopian girl – if they will walk with her as she goes on her journey for water. Along the way, messages are exchanged comparing their two worlds – brought to life with videos, maps and photos – and with Yeshi sharing stories and her dreams for the future.

Fitness brands that understand and embrace these shifting frontiers in self-improvement will better innovate around them and prosper. The question to ask is: How can your brand accompany consumers on their journey to self-enlightenment?


Digital consumerism has heightened expectations of completely individualised offerings. Take the success of Spotify’s Weekly Playlist: a personalised music selection with an uncanny understanding of its users’ music tastes.

Meanwhile, when it comes to health, DNA personalisation of treatments, dietary advice, fitness regimes and more is on the horizon, fuelled by a wealth of genetic tech start-ups such as DNAFit. Expectations created by online services like Spotify will converge with those created by the new health tech companies, and together drive demand for truly personalised wellness products and services.

Habit, a new meal delivery service launching this year, will go so far as to accommodate an individual’s specific dietary needs. These will be assessed using a home blood-testing kit, complete with biomarkers to analyse how different bodies respond to different types of food.

Digital consumerism can also be applied to experiences and schedules. For example, the Design My Day app and website schedules a user’s day for them. To ensure the daily schedules are filled with valuable experiences, the platform provides access to thousands of crowdsourced and peer-reviewed ideas for meaningful activities based on how a user is feeling.

The fitness sector can reap the benefits of this growing trend for digital consumerism, harnessing new technologies to help customers access truly bespoke health and fitness solutions. ?



DNA personalisation of treatments, dietary advice and fitness regimes is available via genetic tech start-ups like DNAFit

Of course, these are just a few consumer trends that will impact customer expectations in 2017 onwards beyond. The challenge is to absorb these game-changing innovations, and then adapt and apply them to meaningful ideas you can own and run with. It might not be easy… but it will be fun and profitable!

About the author


Victoria Loomes

Victoria Loomes is a senior trend analyst at trendwatching.com. She regularly delivers workshops on how to analyse and apply trends.

E: [email protected]

Originally published in HCM Handbook 2017 edition
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