Emerging Markets: What's on the Horizon?


Despite a continued slow economy in many sectors, major shifts in the marketplace are taking place.

Long-term trends will affect what your customer base looks like. That, in turn, may impact the viability of your products and services or present you with new opportunities. Tying customer shifts to wider societal trends can give you a preview of your business environment.

Three industries among the fastest growing and those adding the greatest numbers of jobs are health care, personal care and construction, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics report, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2010-2020.

After the recent downturn, which decimated the building industry, the addition of almost 350,000 construction-related jobs is welcome news. The bureau cites economic recovery as well as a growing population for the forecasted increase in demand for new homes, commercial buildings, and institutional and government structures. Roads, bridges and existing buildings also need repair.

Even though the projected rate of population growth slowed to 10.6 percent between 2010 and 2020, it still represents 25 million new residents. Previous decades grew faster – the growth rate was 12.4 percent between 1990 and 2000 and 11.9 percent between 2000 and 2010.

One major factor driving both the increase in certain jobs and overall slower growth is simply this: the population is aging. By 2020, the number of Americans 55 and older will jump 29.1 percent.

Retirements will impact some industries, but an increased percentage of these older workers will remain in the work force. This continued participation could impact workplace technology, ADA compliance, or even flextime and job sharing. In many cases, these workers will be necessary because the 45 to 54 age group is projected to shrink, while those aged 25 to 34 will grow only by 10.5 percent.

The aging of the population is in large part driving the growth in health and personal care and social services, with 6.3 million new jobs expected. Additional health problems often come with age and, in tandem, the average life expectancy is increasing. General attitudes and consumer trends are keeping pace with these changes as Baby Boomers are eager to maintain health and mobility.

Euromonitor International identified 10 macro trends affecting consumers globally, and many of these resonate with shifts in this country. In particular, the group cited a changed attitude toward aging that blurs lifestyle and consumer choice boundaries. This has major implications for goods and services, removing the need to delineate or target much fashion, food, home decor, vacations or new technologies to specific adult age groups.

At the same time, considering the special needs of older adults can create new opportunities. A simple example is the Kindle e-book reader, which has adjustable font sizes, making it easier on older eyes. Other trends regarding health included fighting obesity and increased demand for natural ingredients in foods.

Multiculturalism is another significant population trend in the United States, with the share of white workers continuing to decrease. The percentages of Asian, African-American, Hispanic and other minority workers continue to grow, rising to 39 percent of the work force in 2020.

Understanding these nuances of your employee and customer base is important to successful marketing and perhaps, in some instances, adaptation of your offerings or communications.

One key trend impacting the way most industries do business is mobile technology. Mobile technology is affecting not only how people manage information but also how they buy and sell goods and services.

By making the Internet portable, a customer can do almost anything on the fly, whether it is banking, shopping, research, travel logistics or contacting friends.

This pervasive shift is seen even in low-tech industries like real estate. Agents are now offering listing information via QR (quick response) codes or text message rather than printed handouts.

A crucial question for business owners is how integrating mobile technology will benefit your business. You can’t afford to ignore it.

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