The Redistribution of the Average, And Born Picky, Cherry-sumers
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The Redistribution of the Average, And Born Picky, Cherry-sumers
  • By Choi, Ji-hye
  • Accepted 2023.10.20 16:34
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2023 top 10 Korean consumer trends
Choi Ji-hye*
Choi, Ji-hye*

Researcher at the Consumer Trend Center, Seoul National University

*Researcher at Consumer Trend Analysis C enter, Seoul National University and PhD in Consumer Science, Seoul National University. Co-author of The Hyundai Seoul Insight, and Trend Korea 2014 to 2023. Choi Jihye currently teaches consumer behavior and consumer trend analysis at Seoul National University and has participated in consumer trend and new product development projects, with Korea's leading companies including Samsung, LG, Amorepacific, SK, Coway and CJ. She is also a consultant for the Incheon Symbols Committee.

The year 2023 has come, amid a mounting sense of crisis, combined with a high rate of inflation and a looming recession. Now that the overwhelming majority of analysts put forth a negative outlook, what should we do today, and how we should prepare ourselves to get through this time of upheaval? Here are 10 trend keywords from the Consumer Trend CenterCTC, Seoul National University to share insights into consumer trends. 

 

① Redistribution of the Average

An average, a level that's typical of a group, is becoming meaningless. The average can have meaning only when the group it represents is distributed normally, but this normality of distribution in each area of our society has become hugely skewed. There are three cases where the average cannot be defined as being typical of a group: △polarization, where values are concentrated at two extremes, △multipolarity, with individual values being scattered, and △unipolarity in which values lean toward one extreme. Behind the disappearing average trend is Capitalism, which, by its very nature, leads to polarization, a divide between the rich and poor, and with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, this concept of polarization has accelerated across all areas, including in the economy, society, education, and culture. As reference groups have become increasingly diversified through social media and the personalization trend grows ever stronger, the typicality of the market has disappeared. At the same time, the evolution of the platform economy, highly dependent on economies of scale, has intensified the winner-take-all phenomenon. The idea of a fair average product, ordinary life, and mainstream opinion is changing. The traditional mass market, symbolized by normal distribution is teetering; it is turning rather into a market that requires irreplaceable excellence.

 

② Arrival of a New Office Culture: Office Big Bang

The workplace is changing, right from its very foundation. Talent is leaving, and organizational culture and labor market systems are changing. Because this change is almost explosive in nature, it could even be referred to as the Office Big Bang. What's most notable from this Office Big Bang is the resignation fad. With the Great Resignation taking over the world, job change has become a means of career management and a desire of office workers in Korea. Amid this craze for resigning and turnover, organizations are striving to retain talent. Higher salaries, bonuses, and corporate benefits, tailored to the lifestyles of young employees are part of their efforts. There are also changes in business locations, for example, work-from-home policies, satellite offices, and even ‘work-cation’ opportunities that are provided to employees. This Office Big Bang is likely to set off a chain reaction among individuals, organizations, and markets in the future.

 

③ Born Picky, Cherry-sumers

With unprecedented levels of inflation and asset deflation, consumers seek products that are the most cost-effective; the term Cherry-sumer has been coined to describe these consumers as they try to get the most out of their resources. They buy what they need, and only as much as they need, with this approach also being referred to as a minimalist shopping strategy. There is also a half-and-half strategy in which consumers group with others to buy things together and split the cost to save money, and also flexible-contract strategies to reduce risk. The emergence of the cherry-sumer is largely attributed to economic deprivation, but the change will continue to evolve as one-person households are becoming increasingly common and as people prefer small-quantity purchasing with a more flexible approach toward consumption. 

 

④ Buddies with a Purpose: Index Relationships

With the advancement of communication media, the nature of relationships is changing. These days, relationship building is more about relationship management in which these relationships are indexed based on their purposes. In modern society, a relationship is no longer about whether it is good or not; there is a much wider spectrum of friendships, including enviable Instagram friends, Twitter friends fangirling together, Facebook friends sharing the latest news, and real-life friends. It is natural that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the pattern of relationship building as it has brought changes in every other aspect of human life, in this nano society that is becoming ever more individualistic. Interpersonal relationships, undoubtedly the most important aspect of human life, have entered a new phase. The question now is how we can build happier relationships in a society where different labels are attached to relationships.

『2023 Consumer Trend Insight』 ⓒMiraebooks
『2023 Consumer Trend Insight』 ⓒMiraebooks

 

⑤ Irresistible! The New Demand Strategy

The New Demand strategy is aimed at building demand for something that's irresistible and irreplaceable in the market where products and services continue to be improved. Demand, from the viewpoint of the consumer, is largely divided into two types. First, replacement demand, in which consumers replace a product they are using, and second, new demand, where consumers buy a new product they did not have before. Replacement demand can be generated with △product upgrades, △new concepts and △new payment options, while new demand can be created through the development of △new-to-the-world products, △new categories of products and △new products based on micro-segmentation. Creative thinking is essential in order to develop new products that can wow and excite consumers. It is required to step outside the comfort zone, try something new and different, and develop the skill to think creatively.

 

⑥ Thorough Enjoyment: Digging Momentum 

More and more people are putting their hearts into what interests them. They may seem like they are ‘geeky’ but they do not care about how others see them. They are deeply invested in their interest even though it may be somewhat uncommon. Interestingly though, they are in fact not trying to escape from reality; instead, they are living their lives to the fullest. This trend of digging deeply into specific interests is referred to as Digging Momentum. Digging Momentum is when people try to find their true selves, which helps them deal with existential anxiety amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic recession. Pay attention to these diggers as they create momentum toward a happier life. 

 

⑦ Jumbly Alpha Generation 

The first generation of true digital natives has come; the generation of children whose first word isn't mom but Alexa. Following Gen Z, who were born between 1995 and 2009, Gen Alpha is the generation that includes children under 13 years of age, who were born in or after 2010. Raised in a completely different way from their millennial parents, this generation has grown up and has been affected directly by the global COVID-19 pandemic. TikTok, a platform on which anyone can readily become an influencer, is their main social media outlet, and coding is now part of elementary curriculum, along with Korean, English and math. They were also born to the children of capitalism, millennials, and it is no surprise that they are very interested in learning economics. In the future, they will have the most power in the market.

 

The average value, which is typically used as a representative measure 

of a group, is becoming meaningless. What was previously considered normal products, ordinary lives, mainstream opinions, and societal norms are all changing.

The mass market, also symbolized by a normal distribution, is evolving into a market that requires irreplaceable excellence, significant differentiation, and diversity.

⑧ Unveiling Proactive Technology

Until now, we had to set up and operate technologies by ourselves in order to use them. Technologies have, however, evolved to the point where they are able to proactively find and provide what we need. The technology that performs a function for us before we tell it what to do, and ultimately provides a solution even before we realize that we need it has been dubbed Proactive Technology. AI is now able to collect consumer data and learn from it, meaning that technologies will come to the fore that are capable of identifying context-specific needs and satisfying them.

 

⑨ Magic of Real Spaces

The power of physical space is real. Even though now so much takes place in a virtual space, from small personal blogs to huge metaverses, real physical space still has an important role to play. The Magic of Real Spaces is this power of physical space to bring people together and make them stay, and it can be categorized into three areas. The first is the pull of the space itself that attracts people to it. The second is the power to connect the real and the virtual for better efficiency. The third is an ability to expand the horizon through a fusion with the metaverse, called expandability. The physical space ought to play the role, not merely as a retail location, but as a medium through which brands express their identity and make themselves go viral. Create an ultimate spatial experience, like a theme park and it will unlock new opportunities in the coming era of the endemic.

 

⑩ Peter Pan and the Neverland Syndrome

Recently in Korea, living younger than your real age has become a virtue. Increasingly more people are refusing to grow old, like Peter Pan, and as such, this trend has been named Neverland Syndrome, after the fictional island where forever young Peter Pan and his friends live. The Neverland Syndrome is divided into three different types: △wanting to live one’s childhood again and doing things from your childhood, such as buying princess toys and Pokémon goods, △trying to stay young-looking and not growing old, by going so far as turning down a promotion, and △craving to have fun and play like children. Living young isn't a motto of just a few people; it is a new way of thinking and even a modus vivendi for society as a whole. Just wait and see the youthful energy that these ‘kidults’ are sure to bring to the market. 


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