New kinds of consumer groups have increasingly demanding and diverse preferences regarding the countryside. Future success will be achieved by businesses and municipalities who first identify the new opportunities and are capable of meeting the demand of the new consumer groups.
Trend analyst Kati Hienonen studied the countryside in the future society of meanings as part of Sitra's Landmarks programme. She considers the countryside's attractive factors from the perspective of forerunner communities, and identifies nine different future consumer groups in her research:
WLAN wayfarers appreciate freedom and independence. These specialists in IT and creative fields become entrepreneurs in the countryside, provided that it is easy. Elegant downshifters base their decisions on efficiency and enjoyment. They frequently purchase local and organic food and look for good opportunities for exercise and other recreational activities. Experimental organic urbans are interested in urban cultivation, bike commuting, and improving urban life quality. An ecological group village could appeal to them.
Eco-tourists are willing to stay in a holiday resort for a long period. They want to observe local customs. For eco-tourists, the local tradition, originality, cuisine and aromas are a key element of a rural way of life. Slow downshifters go to the countryside for clean food and healthy habits. Many are taking a sabbatical or work shorter hours. Rural pensioners are well-off and have access to housing-related well-being and care services.
Rural multicultural enthusiasts enjoy the interaction between different cultures. In the community, they look for a sense of security and a meaning to their life. These actors are aware of recent developments and are interested in service concepts combining long-term and temporary collective housing. They prefer shared working facilities. Rural activity enthusiasts go to the countryside to engage in different recreational activities, and they expect their holiday resort to provide good opportunities for exercise, for example. Carbon-neutral enthusiasts are opinion leaders who have particular ecological requirements for their housing and everyday life. They might well consider becoming organic farmers.
"Counter-urbanisation – moving from city centres to rural environments – is already common at the global level. The number of LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) consumers, who appreciate ecology and want to have a better world, is continuously on the rise, and this demand gives totally new opportunities for the countryside and business based on the meanings of the countryside," says Jyri Arponen, leading specialist in Sitra's Landmarks programme.
According to Sitra's barometer, corporate representatives and specialists find the business opportunities based on rural environments and natural resources the main thing. There is a particular interest in activity and relaxation services, nature-related well-being services, the production of renewable energy, and local food. The potential for new rural entrepreneurship can be, found especially among young people who promote green values and consider themselves as both urban and rural people.
"Consumers want new people-oriented services and well-being products. Those businesses and municipalities which boldly address the demand by new consumer groups will find success in the future."
"The countryside in the future society of meanings" trend analysis (in Finnish) »
Kati Hienonen interviewed experts and forerunners for the study. The experts were researchers and municipal executives familiar with rural matters. The forerunners consisted of rural and urban innovators and foreigners.
Onni idea workbook: Resources for new rural economy (in Finnish)»
Sitra's Landmarks barometer: New entrepreneurs and new rural-based business (in Finnish) »
For further information, please contact
Trend analysis: Kati Hienonen, Trend Analyst, firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +358 50 5709 133
Sitra's Landmarks Programme (2010–2014) identifies future needs and seeks new ways in which the countryside can respond to challenges related to climate change, and the new faster-paced, mobile way of life. During spring 2011, the programme will answer the following questions, for example: "How does the relationship to the countryside affect the experience of a good life?" "What kind of consumer demand will there be for the countryside in the future?"