This is the fifth and final entry in a short blog series highlighting lessons about consumer behavior and attitude to take away from the previous decade. Here, you can find the first, second, third, and fourth posts. I close by emphasizing an age-old, fundamental human truth that takes on renewed significance given the latest shifts in business, technology, and social norms.

Lesson 5: Perception of control is the most powerful consumer motivator.

What changed: Our notion of public and private. Movements such as #MeToo and the prevalence of whistleblowers started forcing the public to face tough conversations about how people behave in private. The contours of data privacy blurred as consumer awareness and tolerance of data sharing practices fluctuated. In the commercial arena, widespread consumer exchange among an accelerating sharing economy expanded the boundaries of the public sphere and redefined concepts of private property and ownership.

Here to stay: Consumer desire to participate in value exchange. Many of the most intense emotional moments of the past decade occurred during a breach of trust or an unnerving revelation because these instances undermined consumers’ sense of control. And yet consumers have long seen themselves as active participants in commercial exchange rather than passive recipients of it. Consumers find ways to bounce back from a crisis of control by bartering with any resources they have, whether that means trading cash for goods and services, personal data for personalized experiences, or the habit of owning products for the freedom of variety and choice. Brands that explicitly invite consumers to participate in a relationship in exchange for not just functional or economic but also experiential or symbolic value that reinforces consumer control will drive relevancy.


With a blend of historical perspective, fresh experience, and rigorous data by your side, here’s wishing you a bold entry into the consumer’s world of 2020.