Marketing

The consumer profiles and sentiments that will shape the next two years

According to WGSN’s Future Consumer 2026 report, consumers are officially exhausted.
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WGSN

3 min read

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Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.

Consumers are exhausted. Not according to us, but the latest Future Consumer 2026 report from WGSN.

The findings follow a period of “great resignation” in 2022, followed by “quiet quitting” in 2023.

  • According to a 2022 WGSN survey, “65% of respondents said they felt burned out due to more demanding personal and professional lives, exacerbated by a polycrisis of rising living costs, financial uncertainty, geopolitical tensions, and eco-anxiety.”

And now, it seems the “great exhaustion” is upon us, which WGSN describes as a “collective feeling of fatigue, stress, and burnout.”

The latest report additionally pointed out that Gen Z and younger millennials are likely to be “disproportionately” impacted by the great exhaustion with 48% of respondents under 30 reporting feeling drained at work, according to a summary of the report. This in turn is leading consumers to want a simpler life and seek happiness in everyday “small wins” or “glimmers of joy,” according to the report.

Luckily, the trend forecasting and analytics firm has also done a deep dive into the consumer profiles and sentiments that will shape the next two years—so retailers, take note.

The impartialists

WGSN describes this cohort as “level-headed” and one that “values facts over fiction” alongside transparency—in other words, they’re unlikely to fall for clever marketing tactics alone. Retailers could benefit from being honest about everything from product labeling and biometrics, according to the report.

The autonomists

These shoppers follow their own whims and defy set expectations. “Autonomists are opting out of consumerism and challenging traditional paths to purchase. Brands will need to build more inventive and equitable strategies to reach them,” the report states.

The gleamers

Per WGSN, “awe” will be a key consumer sentiment in 2024, followed by “imagination” in 2025 and “glimmers” in 2026, which the company describes as “micro-moments of joy, contentment, or surprise.” This can be anything from listening to a favorite song to coming across a friendly dog outside. Ultimately, they all signify “small, personal, and achievable pleasures” that serve as a source of comfort for some customers.

To get in sync with these consumers, retailers should find a way to connect with them and provide tangible solutions for burnout. “Help these consumers reconnect with themselves and others through IRL third spaces and convalescence care, and take an age-agnostic approach to products and services,” the report states.

The synergists

This group is defined by curious consumerism driven by making tech and AI more useful, equitable, and accessible. They’re also interested in cultural exchanges and the “bio-industrial revolution.” 

“Think human first,” WGSN advises retailers. “From multisensory interfaces that make the digital world feel real to using technology for cultural regeneration, look to digital solutions that complement our mental, physical, and social capacities.”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.