As organizations are now out of the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition persists. Countries are still enforcing social distancing measures to ‘flatten the curve’ and numerous businesses remain non-operational. The World Bank envisions a 5.2 percent contraction in global GDP in 2020, the deepest recession in decades. Advanced economies are projected to shrink 7 percent.
People have also adapted to this new lifestyle with a set of borrowed expectations. 50% of global consumers believe their lifestyle will significantly be altered in the long term. They are likely to support brands that have responded well to the crisis. There has been a ~45% drop in global discretionary spending as more and more consumers reflect on their spending habits during this period.
As businesses navigate through this phase, the question remains: what can be done beyond this immediate reaction to the crisis? How can companies align better with evolving consumer expectations?
What can brands and businesses do to ride over the black-swan moment we all are facing? As a part of our annual Megatrends mapping exercise at Turian Labs, we keep an eye on the changing landscape of trends shaping the world. Here is our take:
- Healthify experiences: With health becoming a top concern of everyday life, every business will become a health experience. Brands would have to integrate health into their current products and services ecosystem. The workplace wellness market is expected to grow to $66 Bn by 2022.
A recent survey conducted in China by Ipsos found that a ‘healthy configuration’ is now a consideration while buying a new car. More than 51% of consumers opted for an air conditioning system with germ filter while 49% of them preferred the interiors to be of antibacterial materials.
Blend wellness, slightly more than a token, into your core offering as the pandemic re-shapes consumer priorities.
- Enter Goal-Oriented Gaming (GOGa): Gaming as an industry has been serving as an outlet for living alter-realities and forming third-space communities for quite some time. Around 40% of the world’s population is already into gaming on a regular basis. The online gaming industry in India alone is expected to grow at a CAGR of 47% by FY22.
An interesting tweak is that now gaming is not just for fun, but it is adding up to productive social goals. Gaming is becoming a tool to raise awareness, educate, empower people on a common cause and solve problems. Unilever Russia launched virtual careers fair in the format of an 8-bit online game where users could visit 8-bit versions of company office buildings, learn job details and communicate with virtual representatives. Endeavour, became the first, to be a doctor prescribed video game to help kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Engage consumers virtually through goal-oriented gaming to reinforce brand relevance.
- Reflect the ‘Reflections’: Pandemic is providing an opportunity to all to reflect on their actions, engagement and lifestyle. Spiritual quests is one of the outcomes of the reflection. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a 50 percent surge in online searches for prayer as people turn to religion to cope with feelings of anxiety. Consumers have also reflected on their hobbies such as art, music. New enrolments for the Virtual Art Academy grew fivefold in March 2020 compared to the previous 12 months. They now expect companies to resonate with these reflections.
How can brands and organizations facilitate the impact of this churn in the mind of the stakeholders?
- Open the source: The pandemic has become a cross-geographical situation to indicate that even competitor organizations must work together and cross-collaborate to stay afloat. Numerous brands have opened their products and services to the public for free.
Adobe has developed a resource hub for education with free templates, links to free software (including Adobe Acrobat, Scan, and tools for Google Drive) and videos with instructions for how to use the programs.
AdGuard, an ad-blocking and privacy protection software is offering a free personal account to its ad and tracking blocker program for three months.
How can organizations empower stakeholders by making the contents open-source or collaborating with competition to provide endearing experience to stakeholders?
- Localise: The pandemic has thrown small enterprises in the limelight, increasing the interest in locally sourced goods amongst consumers. As countries have started looking within for manufacturing and distributing goods, terms like ‘Vocal for Local’ have gained popularity once again against the backdrop of redefined ‘globalization’. With over 100 candidates for the COVID 19 vaccine, countries like India, Russia and the US have indicated that they would secure prior access to doses, leaning towards vaccine nationalism.
Consumer expenditure for essential goods at local Kirana (provision) stores in India has increased by around 40 percent since the announcement of the nationwide lockdown.
How can localization be used as a strategy to increase the accessibility of products and services?
- Enhance trust multipliers: In the post-pandemic world, trust would become the new metric of evaluation for consumers. With fake news and misinformation spreading faster than the disease in itself, authentic products and services play an important role and act as trust multipliers.
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,” — director-general of the World Health Organization. A recent survey by Edelman found that 53% of 22,000 respondents consider brand trust the second most important factor in weighing purchases.
WhatsApp is piloting a new feature that lets users quickly search the contents of viral messages to fact-check misinformation. A magnifying glass icon will start appearing next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of five or more people.
How can organizations gain consumers’ trust by fighting misinformation and providing transparent services or providing tools to consumers to fact-check?
- Build a Capsule Portfolio: The lockdown has strengthened each one’s introspection, giving rise to mindful consumption. Discretionary spending is on an all-time low. Global luxury sales are projected to collapse up to 60% in the upcoming quarter. Companies are rationalizing their SKUs by reducing the number of items they sell. With anti-excess consumerism on the rise, consumers are trying to extract the best out of the minimum they buy. Experts mention that the well-awaited ‘revenge-shopping’ might not be a long term phenomenon or may not happen at all. Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director, announced that the Italian brand will go seasonless and reduce the number of fashion shows it holds each year from five to two. Consciously offer lesser services that are meant to last longer.
Organizations can focus on reducing, optimizing, minimizing the offerings but enhancing their core experience. The fashion world even has a name for it, ‘Capsule Clothing’.
- Create utopian moments: Some businesses are seeing a heavy dip in demand. They can use this opportunity to engage their customers through positive messaging around happiness, coziness and comfort to ensure meaningful brand communication. According to Google Trends, searches for ‘good news’ have reached all-time highs, more than double of any time since Google began publishing search data in 2004.
Britannia, recently launched a campaign #RaiseTheCurveOfHappiness in India to spread hope and cheer. The campaign captured hundreds of individuals smiling to say that ‘not every curve has to be flat.’
Create such ‘Utopian moments’ to build a sense of ‘togetherness’ and rally positivity.
- Encourage interest tribes: As people have a lot of reflection time at hand or they did go through a phase of reflection through the lockdowns, people are sifting for friends who share common interests instead of generalized demographics. Social distancing has accelerated the trend of ‘close-knit, compassionate communities’ helping each other out and supporting a similar cause.
Nike released a campaign in collaboration with all-star athletes encouraging people to stay home, with the message ‘now more than ever, we are one team’. Sahodaran, a transgender community in India with over 2,000 members has been sourcing and distributing relief material among themselves, while also donating to the homeless during the lockdown.
Help nurture the spontaneous tribes that are mushrooming to respond to a situation.
- Provide creative engagements: Being confined to homes during the pandemic has led to people turning to arts, crafts and hobbies to divert their attention. The DIY culture not only guarantees individuality but also addresses ethical concerns. Brands are leveraging this behavior to keep their consumers engaged and also increase their recall value.
Alexander McQueen, Dior and Ganni have shifted their regular marketing to Instagram tutorials or challenges, aimed at inspiring consumers to embroider, sketch, or style home shoots. IKEA designs forts for children which they can make on their own during the lockdown to encourage people to remain in their homes.
How can brands engage and empower consumers during this period through creative tutorials and challenges?
As it is clear that the pandemic is shaping not just short-term but a long term behavior of people, brands and organizations, there are creative cues emerging to positively impact our society. The time is here and now.