The world changes daily. It’s hard to keep up with the emerging trends in all markets. As we head into the second quarter of the year, what are the trends to keep an eye on? Here are five market trends worth watching this year.

The “New” Customer
From product development to marketing, businesses are putting an emphasis on customer centricity—putting the customer first. While everyone has heard of Millennials, Generation Y and Baby Boomers, NEOs and Plurals are emerging groups with buying power.

The New Economic Order (NEO)
NEOs have no specific age, income or gender defined. They’re not impacted by traditional purchasing factors like price, features or status. On the contrary, they’re driven by design, authenticity, provenance, discovery and individuality. Demand for products is driven by word of mouth and by the value the product or service provides.

Plurals
You might know them as Generation Z, but today they’re also referred to as “plurals” because of their pluralistic characteristics. This group is comprised of people born after 1997 and when we talk about this group, we’re mostly referring to those ages 16 – 20. This generation is full of digital natives. They’ve grown up using electronic devices before they could even read. They’re comfortable using devices and therefore, they seek, rather than explore, when looking for products and services.

Paid Media
For a long time advertising has been considered a bad word. Why pay for placements when they can be owned by publishers or earned organically? But paid media is coming back in a big way and there are two areas of paid media we predict will be big this year.

Programmatic: In the spirit of automation, companies of all sizes are latching onto programmatic digital ad buying done through an integrated, multi-channel strategy that includes banner, mobile, social and even TV. Marketers like programmatic advertising because of its efficiency and data-driven nature for maximum return on investment.

Native: We’ve been programmed to spot an ad a mile away, but that’s getting harder these days. Now we’re able to sponsor or promote content that looks and feels like an editorial piece. Native advertising matches the same format and style of organic content, with some budget behind it. Native advertising can be highly targeted, value-driven and affordable.

Virtual Reality is a Reality
Virtual reality (VR) is the latest consumer electronics darling. Its immersive technology puts users in an alternative, three-dimensional world where experiences can be simulated or created using digital graphics. Now, VR is arriving in a form that can be bought and used in the home.

What promise does VR offer? It can bring about new and exciting ways of storytelling, mass personalization through targeted content development, and more. Once thought of as an expensive endeavor, VR is actually becoming more affordable these days, making it a viable possibility.

Our “Smart” Life
Although you might not have any or many connected objects today, by 2020, Gartner is predicting that a typical household will contain over 500 smart objects.1 While the home is the nucleus of our lives, technology is expanding beyond your four walls. Wearables, automobiles and even drones, are all real today. In just the last few years we’ve transitioned from talking about the “connected home” to the “connected individual.” It’s exciting to imagine all the possibilities of being a connected individual, but what’s lacking is a clear understanding of the challenges this creates.

Consumer privacy, data security, universal Wi-Fi access, and more, are all things that will need to be addressed in order for us to operate as connected individuals in a safe way. Innovation can be a wonderful thing, but with regulation and oversight lacking a serious presence, there could be challenges on the rise.

Brands Partner Up
Big brands are partnering with other big brands. Big brands are partnering with small start-ups. Small start-ups are partnering with other small start-ups. Collaboration is happening everywhere these days and in ways we’ve never seen before. Ford vehicles have partnered with Amazon’s artificial intelligence hub “Echo,” Honeywell smart thermostats with Apple’s HomeKit home automation, and the list goes on.

The Future is Now
Change can be difficult, but 2016 is bursting with potential. As technology and consumers evolve, so will the way we work and the way we reach our consumers.

1 http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2839717