How will the British consumer marketplace change between now and 2020? That was the general theme of a Future Foundation conference I attended earlier today.

The trends thinktank predicts that UK consumer spending, having declined in the recession, will return to growth and increase consistently over the decade to come. However, consumers will also "shop smarter" than before, using the mobile internet to hunt down bargains while on the move. Here are three key insights from the morning's presentations.

  • Dominic Harrison, editor of TrendExpress, characterised 2010-20 as the "data decade", with use of online apps like the NHS Drinks Tracker and the Google Powermeter - which allow consumers to measure their alcohol and household energy consumption respectively - predicted to increase. Of course, use of these services puts personal information in the public realm; therefore, consumer concern over the "surveillance society" could prove to be a block on growth.
  • The taste for luxury among UK consumers, on the increase over recent years, has been barely checked by the recession and will stay strong in future, Judith Kleine-Holthaus, account director at the Future Foundation, suggested. In 2008, 64% of Britons said they could sometimes afford to spend extra on luxuries; in 2009, despite the onset of the worst economic downturn in decades, this total had declined only slightly to reach 63%.
  • Matthew Taylor, editor of QuantExpress, highlighted the "Martin Lewis effect" as emblematic of the way in which price-conscious consumers are now using the internet to improve their personal finances. Lewis, the founder of the "consumer revenge" Moneysavingexpert website and the UK's most searched-for personality, comes up again and again in Future Foundation focus groups, in which he is often ascribed something of a "saintly glow", Taylor added.

More to come in my full report of the event, up on soon.