Every large business in the world keeps a close eye on customer trends and demographics--they have to if they hope to be selling the right products and services to the right customers at the right time.
Here, according to Ford, are the 10 trends to pay close attention to in 2015:
1. Make way for Gen Z
While you shouldn't yet forget about those baby boomers and Gen-Xers, it's time to get the latest generation--Gen Z--onto your business radar screen. Worldwide, there are more than two billion members of Gen Z (defined as anyone born after 1993), and according to Ford, the mantra of this generation is "Good things come to those who act." Their dream is to make an impact on the world, and they aren't going to let anything stop them from doing just that. Compared with members of Gen Y, 55 percent of Gen-Zers are more likely to want to start a business and hire others.
2. Rally for renegades and rebels
Members of Gen Z reject the status quo and conventional wisdom, and they enjoy going against the grain. They are giving both their attention and their money to people and companies that are unconventional and that are willing to take risks and break the rules. They love crowdfunding platforms like Pozible and Kickstarter, which allow them to support creative products and innovative projects. How would you answer this question? "I'm drawn to companies and brands that are rebellious." In the U.S., 46 percent of adults under the age of 35 agreed with this statement--fewer than in China (57 percent), but more than in Japan (42 percent).
3. Flaunting failure
Instead of being something to be ashamed of, failure is considered among the members of Gen Z to be a badge of honor--it shows that you're willing to push the envelope and take risks. Just as many online software platforms are in constant beta, so too are the members of Gen Z. They are constantly changing, evolving, trying new things, failing, learning lessons--and succeeding. As the Ford report puts it, people in Gen Z realize that "if you persevere, setbacks can indeed morph into success."
4. Carry-less movement
Gen Z doesn't like to haul purses or wallets or messenger bags to carry their essentials along with them. Instead, they are embracing and adopting mobile payment technologies such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and bitcoin. And they are using their smartphones--and the apps within them--to do all sorts of things, including opening hotel room doors, turning lights on and off in their homes, and arranging for grocery deliveries. More than one million people activated the Apple Pay payment app within 72 hours after it went live.
5. No strings attached
According to Ford's report, the members of Gen Z would rather rent or borrow than buy. "The result is an emerging 'à la carte' mentality that trumpets access over ownership." It's all part of the desire to collaborate and share with others, and to live with fewer material possessions. Not only do 76 percent of Americans think that sharing saves money, but 37 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 25 say they would choose to rent a product rather than purchase it.
6. Expanding "next of kin"
The 1950s ideal of the nuclear family--a husband, a wife, and two kids--has evaporated as the number of divorced parents, same-sex marriages, and individuals committed to perpetual singlehood continues to grow. According to the report, "As traditional families and communities become less common, the concept of family adapts, expands, and evolves in the most personal ways." Fully 76 percent of U.S. adults agree with this statement: "My definition of family includes good friends who aren't blood relatives."
7. Give and take of privacy
Younger people are much more sensitive and concerned about the ways that companies collect and use their personal information than are older people, and they will readily abandon businesses that they feel are abusing their trust. According to the report, 26 percent of teen social media users say that they post fake information on their profiles to protect their privacy.
8. Elusive health
Despite the fact that there are millions of articles available on the topic of health and well being, people are sicker, fatter, and less healthy than ever. While Gen Z is concerned about what they consume, 47 percent of Gen Z children will be obese by the time they become adults.
9. Escape artist
While former generations used to escape from the humdrum of their existence by watching a film or reading a book, the members of Gen Z are taking a decidedly different approach. They are formalizing escapism around taking sabbaticals from the world, scheduling "mindfulness" classes, and participating in particularly daring (and sometimes outrageous) activities. According to the report, 62 percent of all adults under the age of 35 say that they seek experiences they feel can't be replicated.
10. The many faces of mobility
Gen Z is more mobile, and less tied to place, than any previous generation. They are more transient, and look forward to the day when they may very well be able to travel into space--or beyond. According to Ford, "In an age of constant innovation, mobility has outpaced our definition of the word." While 80 percent of Millennials expect to work abroad during the course of their careers, chances are high that the percentage is even greater for the members of Gen Z.