In a few years, we’ll look back on what I’m about to say and think, “Wow, Suzanne’s really an excellent connector of the dots.” Or we’ll say, “She was totally full of it.” Here’s what I think the story in the numbers is from 2014, and what it means for 2015 and beyond.
- Self-reported green purchases and behaviors dropped significantly in 2014.
- Meanwhile, self-reported purchases of home energy management solutions were up (to 6% of the market from 3% two years ago), likelihood to acquire goods and services in non-traditional ways (sharing, bartering, swapping or renting something you’d typically buy) stayed steady at 25% of the market, and smartphone penetration was expected to reach 75% in the U.S.
- The solar energy industry had a phenomenal year – 36% growth over 2013 (which was a year for the record books).
- Many services were launched or expanded to help us all do less for ourselves while still getting stuff done, and getting it done fast. (Amazon Prime Now, Google Express, Washio, Outback Steakhouse’s click-through seating app, and Taco Bell’s mobile ordering and payment app come to mind.)
Here’s what I think it means:
- The consumer shopping experience is changing rapidly, and with it, expectations are changing. What was once a nice add-on or cherry on top is now a basic expectation. What was once acceptable in terms of how a company marketed to me or communicated with me is no longer OK.
- And that has huge implications for the energy and environment arena. We’re seeing efficient and sustainable behaviors take a nose dive in part because Americans don’t want to have to seek out greener products; they expect all products at shelf to be inherently green. They don’t want to make their homes more efficient; they expect them to just be that way (or to have companies magically do it for them with no out-of-pocket investment). And they don’t want to sit in the dark for several hours while their utility gets the power back on during an outage; they expect it to simply always be on (or, at the very least, to have accurate communications sent their way regularly about when it’ll be back on).
- They want services that truly serve them and can be easily controlled with a few strokes of their smartphones. They want to be the “kings of their castles,” setting parameters for how their homes should behave and then forgetting about it while technology maximizes their efficiency and security.
2015 will be the tipping point … the year sustainability stopped being a market advantage for the companies who were Doing The Right Things and started being a threat of obsolescence for those who weren’t. It will be the year that the connected home and home energy automation gain real traction. And it will be the year that we start to see whether older Millennials put their money where their values are, now that many of them are in a better financial position.
The only question is this: Who will the key players be? Which companies will be the household names of 2020 that emerged/erupted in 2015? For more musings on the future, check out this post at GreenBiz.com.
Happy New Year!