Minimalism has become one of the strongest trends of the last few years. Growing awareness over consumerism’s impact on the environment, global financial turmoil, job instability, and innovations in consumer technology have helped drive our preference for less ‘stuff’. But less stuff doesn’t mean that consumers aren’t spending, in fact consumers are putting more of their money towards experiences and services as a reflection of their own shifting priorities.

U.S. data shows how our spending on goods and services has essentially flipped, so that we now spend the bulk of our disposable income on services rather than tangible goods. ‘Owning’ things is not as important (or feasible depending on where you live). In the 1950s you were more likely to own a house and a car, whereas renting and leasing cars (or relying on rideshare and public transportation) is now more common than it was previously.

Our preference for less stuff is revolutionizing the way we choose to live. A study by Harris Group found that 72 percent of millennials prefer to spend more money on experiences than on material things. The fanaticism around books such as ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’ and trends such as capsule wardrobes and ‘tiny homes’ are evidence of just how strong the minimalist movement has become.

By placing more value on experiences, it’s natural that we should place greater value on time spent outside of the home, engaged in hobbies, travel, dining out and cultural activities. Social media has also contributed to our desire to rack up experiences, a Harris Poll found that factors such as a craving for likes on social posts, and a "fear of missing out" contribute to the drive for experiences.

How can brands respond to minimalism?

Think outside the box

Instead of focusing on what new products you can offer, think about the experiences you can offer your audience around your products or aside from them. Is there some special service you could offer that would have them returning to your store or premises?

Add value through partnerships

Instead of giving consumers more of what you sell, consider what other areas of their lives you can make better and leverage strategic partnerships. That could be partnering with Uber to deliver unique dining experiences in hidden destinations or making a clothing store a drop off point for old clothing to be donated/recycled.

Continue to distinguish yourself through service that helps your customers

Don’t be misled into thinking that the ‘self service’ economy means that customer service is no longer important. Even while Airbnb has taken a large stake in the accommodations sector, it has always prioritized high quality customer services and fast response times for the end-customer. Self service is really more about letting the customer be in control. That means offering services at the right time for the individual customer, personalizing the service, and providing an avenue for real-time feedback.

Technology has allowed us the means to better understand the services each customer desires, and to re-examine how we offer them value. It’s also allowed us to form direct channels of communication that allow us to learn what’s most important to them. The resounding response from customers no matter the sector, has been less ‘stuff’ and better services and experiences.