Consumer attitudes and preferences are constantly changing as a result of megatrends, such as increasing ‘Connectivity’, ‘Environmental degradation’, demographic changes, shifting inequalities, and more. The trends described below are some of the more long-term driving forces that are affecting how companies think about value creation today – it is no longer just about the final product, but about the inputs that went into it along the whole value chain, how that product is produced, and how unique it is (tailored to a specific customer’s needs). Indeed, it may no longer be about a product at all, as consumers move away from wanting ‘things’ to wanting experiences that bring them personal growth and more than material satisfaction. Given that consumer spending drives such a large part of the global economy, these consumption related trends have wide-ranging impacts and will affect many of the other trends featured in this report.

The experience economy

The growth of ‘The experience economy’ reflects people’s increasing desire to ‘experience’ rather than ‘consume’; to ‘do’ rather than to ‘have’. It is about generating memorable events that are personal and unique and have an important emotional impact. The experience economy is especially evident in the travel and tourism sector, where “Travelers today are increasingly drawn to travel as a form of self-actualization and personal transformation and growth. They want more than a simple visit to a new destination or days spent relaxing on a beach. Instead, the travel they are seeking is an experience of the world that goes deep – one that changes them in ways they may not even be aware of.”[1]

There are several possible explanations for the growth of the experience economy. Some see it as a reaction to the increasingly digital nature of our lives – in a world where we are always connected and spend so much time interacting in cyberspace, the marginal value of the physical world increases. We may no longer need to go to a physical shop, office, or restaurant but we choose to do so because of the value of experiencing social interactions and different environments. In the same way, we seek out more in-person experiences and greater cultural participation, rather than simply the acquisition of more ‘stuff’.[2]

Others understand the experience economy trend as a natural progression in attitudes to consumption for the growing middle classes who may have reached ‘peak stuff’. As wealth increases, there comes a point where material status symbols become less attractive compared to services and experiences that can lead to ‘self-actualization’ by helping people achieve their aspirations.[3] Some people even speak of a ‘transformation economy’ emerging, where experiences are no longer about enjoyment, but about personal transformation. Increasingly, these experiences are facilitated by new technologies (e.g. 4D cinema, virtual reality), especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet another perspective is that the experience economy is, in part, a reaction to increasing societal concern about sustainability and ‘Environmental degradation’ (see ‘Sustainable production’). People looking to consume less are driving the growth of the sharing economy, and the rise of rent and subscription models for things (from furniture to cars and even clothes) and services (from transport to accommodation).[4] These models allow consumers to experience/use products without owning them, and to enjoy more interactive services usually linked to an idea of greater authenticity and responsibility.

Overall, what this means is an important shift in economic value-generation, from products to services, and an imperative for producers/retailers to rethink how they provide customer experiences and create a service culture. This includes using new technologies (albeit with the caveat that technological developments must support the provision of personalized service and people’s desire for emotion and intimacy, not replace them).

News stories

Consumers today care about far more than just purchasing a product. From more sustainable manufacturing to the rise of the experience economy, here’s how the nature of consumption is changing. 
A new age of travel is upon us. From sustainability to resilience to inclusiveness, let’s take a closer look at three trends for travel and how standards support the journey.
New international guidance makes everyone a winner.
All tourism activities of whatever motivation – holidays, business travel, conferences, adventure travel and ecotourism – are giving the industry a big boost. Today, tourism is one of the world’s fastest …
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 228
Tourism and related services
  • Published 57 Standards | Developing 11 Projects
  • ISO 3021:2023
    Adventure tourism — Hiking and trekking activities — Requirements and recommendations
  • ISO 3163:2022
    Adventure tourism — Vocabulary
  • ISO/DIS 11956 [Under development]
    Adventure tourism — Cyclotourism — Requirements and recommendations
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 312
Excellence in service
  • Published 4 Standards | Developing 4 Projects
  • ISO/TS 24082:2021
    Service excellence — Designing excellent service to achieve outstanding customer experiences

Sustainable production

Consumers are becoming more environmentally aware and more empowered. Studies show that around 65% of consumers are willing to pay more for products/services that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible, and they also increasingly expect companies to pay attention to the environment and be transparent about their behaviours.[5] This sentiment is especially strong amongst the younger generations and is predicted to grow.

At the same time, governments are putting pressure on industry through environmental regulations, as they reflect the growing environmental concerns of their electorates and put in place policies to help them achieve their commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As a result, ‘going green’ has become an important business strategy and increasingly, companies are redesigning their business models to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable. This includes adopting life cycle models such as cradle-to-cradle (circular economy), sharing economy or peer-to-peer economic models (see ‘New business models’), reducing emissions and creating shorter supply chains.[3,6] And it is not just about reputation and marketing – companies also adopt sustainable business models to foster innovation, improve operational efficiency, and lower costs.

While this trend of increasing demand for eco-friendly and sustainable products has been evident (and growing) for many years now, a more recent countertrend of climate scepticism and fatigue/jadedness with environmentalism is now becoming evident. Older generations, in particular, do not trust what scientists say on environmental issues (53% of 60–74-year-olds compared to 39% of 16–24-year-olds). Climate-denying attitudes appear linked to the rise of populism in many societies.[6]

News stories

SDG 12
Responsible Consumption and Production
Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Standards and conformity assessment provide assurance on aspects of the circular economy including product lifetime and recyclability, safety and efficiency.
As the business world continues to navigate uncharted waters, companies and organizations of every size face unprecedented pressure. To thrive, they must consistently deliver exceptional quality and customer …
How do successful businesses thrive in our ever-more competitive world? There is one ingredient which, from corner store to corporate powerhouse, is essential for healthy long-term success. Quality. 
From sustainability to vulnerability, we’re fighting for the protection of our families, friends and neighbours. Together, our voices will be heard.
The circular economy, a sustainable model of production and consumption, is a pillar of climate action. But we’re not taking it nearly seriously enough.
Consumers today care about far more than just purchasing a product. From more sustainable manufacturing to the rise of the experience economy, here’s how the nature of consumption is changing. 
Catherine Chevauché is leading the charge on the circular economy. Here, she explains the scale of the challenge and how we can rise to it. 
Standards for a sustainable agri-food system on World Food Day.
Ceramic tiles are the subject of the first International Standard for sustainable products.
Getting back to basics on Desertification and Drought Day, the UNCCD challenges us to rethink how we use the land.
Companies are in the business of selling products and consumers of those products want the best possible value for money, but this puts a strain on already depleted natural resources and supply chain transparency. …
Technical Committee
ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 28
Office equipment
  • Published 39 Standards | Developing 5 Projects
  • ISO/IEC WD TS 22983 [Under development]
    Office Equipment — Definitions and Guidelines to support Environmental Circularity
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 34
Food products
  • Published 935 Standards | Developing 132 Projects
  • ISO 34101-1:2019
    Sustainable and traceable cocoa
    Part 1: Requirements for cocoa sustainability management systems
  • ISO 34101-2:2019
    Sustainable and traceable cocoa
    Part 2: Requirements for performance (related to economic, social and environmental aspects)
  • ISO 34101-3:2019
    Sustainable and traceable cocoa
    Part 3: Requirements for traceability
  • ISO 34101-4:2019
    Sustainable and traceable cocoa
    Part 4: Requirements for certification schemes
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 61
Plastics
  • Published 744 Standards | Developing 94 Projects
  • ISO/CD 15270-1.2 [Under development]
    Plastics — Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste
    Part 1: General principles
  • ISO/AWI 15270-2 [Under development]
    Plastics — Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste
    Part 2: Mechanical recycling
  • ISO/WD 15270-3 [Under development]
    Plastics — Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste
    Part 3: Physical recycling
  • ISO/WD 15270-4.2 [Under development]
    Plastics — Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste
    Part 4: Chemical recycling
  • ISO/CD 15270-5 [Under development]
    Plastics — Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste
    Part 5: Organic/biological recycling
  • ISO/AWI 19374 [Under development]
    Recycled carbon fibres — Designation system for recycled carbon fibres
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 122/SC 4
Packaging and the environment
  • Published 10 Standards | Developing 2 Projects
  • ISO/AWI TR 4924.2 [Under development]
    Eco-design principle, requirement and guideline for posting and delivery packaging
  • ISO/WD TR 18607 [Under development]
    Packaging—Packaging and the environment — Guidebook for environment conscious designing of packaging based on ISO 18600 series of standards
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 189
Ceramic tile
  • Published 35 Standards | Developing 12 Projects
  • ISO 17889-1:2021
    Ceramic tiling systems — Sustainability for ceramic tiles and installation materials
    Part 1: Specification for ceramic tiles
  • ISO 17889-2:2023
    Ceramic tiling systems — Sustainability for ceramic tiles and installation materials
    Part 2: Specification for tile installation materials
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 207/SC 3
Environmental labelling
  • Published 8 Standards | Developing 3 Projects
  • ISO 14020:2022
    Environmental statements and programmes for products — Principles and general requirements
  • ISO/WD 14021 [Under development]
    Environmental statements and programmes for products — Self-declared claims
  • ISO/CD 14024 [Under development]
    Environmental statements and programmes for products — Ecolabels
  • ISO/CD 14025 [Under development]
    Environmental statement and programmes for products — Environmental product declarations
  • ISO 14026:2017
    Environmental labels and declarations — Principles, requirements and guidelines for communication of footprint information
  • ISO/TS 14027:2017
    Environmental labels and declarations — Development of product category rules
  • ISO/TS 14029:2022
    Environmental statements and programmes for products — Mutual recognition of environmental product declarations (EPDs) and footprint communication programmes
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 207/SC 5
Life cycle assessment
  • Published 16 Standards | Developing 5 Projects
  • ISO/FDIS 14071 [Under development]
    Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Critical review processes and reviewer competencies
  • ISO/FDIS 14072 [Under development]
    Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidance for organizational life cycle assessment
  • ISO/TS 14074:2022
    Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Principles, requirements and guidelines for normalization, weighting and interpretation
  • ISO/FDIS 14075 [Under development]
    Environmental management — Principles and framework for social life cycle assessment
  • ISO/CD TS 14076 [Under development]
    Eco-Technoeconomic Analyses: Principles, requirements and guidelines
  • ISO/FDIS 59014 [Under development]
    Environmental management and circular economy — Sustainability and traceability of the recovery of secondary materials — Principles, requirements and guidance
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 207/SC 7
Greenhouse gas and climate change management and related activities
  • Published 17 Standards | Developing 6 Projects
  • ISO 14083:2023
    Greenhouse gases — Quantification and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions arising from transport chain operations
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 268
Sustainable cities and communities
  • Published 50 Standards | Developing 21 Projects
  • ISO/PRF 37125 [Under development]
    Sustainable cities and communities – Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators for cities
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 287
Sustainable processes for wood and wood-based products
  • Published 1 Standards | Developing 8 Projects
  • ISO/AWI TR 4083 [Under development]
    Wood and wood-based products - Overview related to the concepts of renewability, reusability, recoverability, recyclability, compostability, biodegradability and circularity – Terminology and existing methodology
  • ISO/DIS 13391-1 [Under development]
    Wood and wood-based products — Greenhouse gas dynamics
    Part 1: Framework for value chain calculations
  • ISO/DIS 13391-2 [Under development]
    Wood and wood-based products — Greenhouse gas dynamics
    Part 2: Forest carbon balance
  • ISO/DIS 13391-3 [Under development]
    Wood and wood-based products — Greenhouse gas dynamics
    Part 3: Displacement of greenhouse gas emissions
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 308
Chain of custody
  • Published 1 Standards | Developing 2 Projects
  • ISO/CD 13659 [Under development]
    Chain of Custody — Book and Claim — requirements and guidelines
  • ISO/CD 13662 [Under development]
    Chain of Custody — Mass Balance — Requirements and guidelines
  • ISO 22095:2020
    Chain of custody — General terminology and models
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 323
Circular economy
  • Published 4 Standards | Developing 2 Projects
  • ISO 59004:2024
    Circular economy — Vocabulary, principles and guidance for implementation
  • ISO 59010:2024
    Circular economy — Guidance on the transition of business models and value networks
  • ISO 59020:2024
    Circular economy — Measuring and assessing circularity performance
  • ISO/CD TR 59031 [Under development]
    Circular economy – Performance-based approach – Analysis of cases studies
  • ISO/TR 59032:2024
    Circular economy — Review of existing value networks
  • ISO/DIS 59040 [Under development]
    Circular economy — Product circularity data sheet
Technical Committee
ISO/TMBG
Technical Management Board - groups
  • Published 67 Standards | Developing 12 Projects
  • ISO/TMBG/ESG_CC Coordination Committee on Environmental, Social and Governance
  • IWA 37-3:2022
    Safety, security and sustainability of cannabis facilities and operations
    Part 3: Good production practices (GPP)
  • ISO 20400:2017
    Sustainable procurement — Guidance

Customized products

Personalization of the customer experience has been a growing trend for some years now. One clear example of this is in the digital world, where, for example, services offered by Google, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, etc. curate searches, news feeds, products, advertisements and more based on a user’s personal history of searches, purchases, and online interactions.[7] Digital platforms and the increased connectivity of customers also offer customization of physical goods – through digital platforms, customers have products and services available at their fingertips and the digital medium allows them to specify instantly and conveniently what they want, providing feedback to companies on what to produce.

Technological advances in ‘Additive manufacturing’ (3D printing), machine learning and the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) will likely accelerate this trend, reducing the cost to businesses of customizing their products and services. This affects business models (most companies already view customization as a strategic priority and may move away from mass manufacturing models)[8] and could also affect global value chains (which need to become shorter and more flexible, leading to changes in the nature of goods being shipped and the move of production closer to markets).[3]

While some industry surveys show that demand for customization and personalization is high, for example, 67% of respondents in a survey run by Adobe said customized content was important and 42% said unpersonalized content annoys them[5], there are also significant concerns about ‘Data privacy’ and security (commercial use of personal data). The respondents had other concerns, notably an individual lack of agency (people feeling their experiences are determined for them without their knowledge) and the creation of group and individual ‘echo chambers’, i.e. recommendation systems only showing people content that confirms their existing beliefs/preferences, possibly leading to increasingly radicalized content, spreading of misinformation, and conspiracy theories.[8] The continued trajectory of this trend will depend partly on the ability of companies to maintain consumer agency and trust.

News stories

Consumers today care about far more than just purchasing a product. From more sustainable manufacturing to the rise of the experience economy, here’s how the nature of consumption is changing. 
Ceramic tiles are the subject of the first International Standard for sustainable products.
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 133
Clothing sizing systems - size designation, size measurement methods and digital fittings
  • Published 16 Standards | Developing 4 Projects
  • ISO/TS 3736-1:2022
    Digital fitting — Service process
    Part 1: Ready-to-wear clothing online and offline
  • ISO/TS 3736-2:2022
    Digital fitting — Service process
    Part 2: Customized clothing online and offline
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 184/SC 5
Interoperability, integration, and architectures for enterprise systems and automation applications
  • Published 67 Standards | Developing 21 Projects
Technical Committee
ISO/TC 261
Additive manufacturing
  • Published 43 Standards | Developing 23 Projects
  • ISO/PAS 24644-1:2023
    Mass customization value chain management
    Part 1: Framework
  • ISO/ASTM 52900:2021
    Additive manufacturing — General principles — Fundamentals and vocabulary
  • ISO/ASTM DIS 52910 [Under development]
    Additive manufacturing — Design — Requirements, guidelines and recommendations

References

  1. Skift trends report. The rise of transformative travel (Skift, 2018)
  2. Digital megatrends. A perspective on the coming decade of digital disruption (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, 2019)
  3. Future outlook. 100 Global trends for 2050 (UAE Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, 2017)
  4. Future possibilities report 2020 (UAE Government, 2020)
  5. Beyond the noise. The megatrends of tomorrow's world (Deloitte, 2017)
  6. Global trends 2020. Understanding complexity (Ipsos, 2020)
  7. Global connectivity outlook to 2030 (World Bank, 2019)
  8. Technology vision 2020. We, the post-digital people (Accenture, 2020)