If there is one thing that the pandemic has taught brands and businesses, it is that when push comes to shove, things can happen. And at a rapid pace too.
What would usually take years to innovate digitally, happened in just a number of months as brands quickly took on a fresh perspective of giving complete focus to developing their digital storefronts; for some, it was from a digital-last to a digital-first (eg art formats). For others, it was a complete revamp to a direct-to-consumer front (eg indie bookstores).
As we move into the second half of 2021, these are the trends that we believe will continue to shape consumption habits in the next few years.
1. Acceleration towards mobile experiences
In 2020, there was a ~200% increase in mobile usage for brand communications, shopping research, browsing, and Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store (BOPIS).
i) “Targeted, Personalised, Relevant”
As a brand communicator/marketer, this would be the buzz phrase behind your execution and delivery. The receptivity towards mobile engagement and engagement as a result of an increased usage in mobile from the pandemic lockdown is likely to continue post-pandemic even as economies start to reopen.
Previously thought of as temporary marketing/branding pivots from the pandemic may become a more permanent trend. Your reallocation of budgets of between 15% to 20% (in some cases, more) as a result of the pandemic may well become a commonplace in budget allocation. A portion of this budget will have to go to localisation or message tailoring.
An interesting part of the survey shows that whilst a lot of communities are built digitally, the physical presence and locality cannot be ignored. As high as 4 in 10 digital connections take place by geography, which follows closely behind the 5 in 10 connections that take place by interest .
What this means is that people still seek out physical connections; this is how we are made up emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. And that is not going to go away any time soon.
2. Outsized trends will gain greater traction
Based on a recent Backlash report released, there were big trends that got bigger because of consumption / pandemic habit shifts, and will continue to grow in the near future. We highlight five for you.
Bootstrapped brands like leading digital fitness app SWEAT got acquired for $400m by iFit , whilst Lululemon acquired Mirror, which reflective glasses to stream their workout classes, for $500m. There will be other acquisitions taking place as bigger players seek to “land and expand” quickly in different segments of the same market, and if there are smaller niches that are already doing well in a particular segment, capturing a sizeable audience with good recurring revenue, that would be a good target for acquisition.
ii) “Home office”
From lighting equipment to microphones soared during the pandemic . The largest online retailer of musical instruments in the US, Sweetwater, saw double the daily visitors and 5,000 new customers a day. Just USB microphones alone, the company saw an over 250% increase in sales. If there is going to be a more permanent hybrid model of WFH going forward, new alternate or microtrends may break-out from this.
Entering into the fray of Netflix which has gained significant traction especially with the pandemic, are competitors like Disney, which saw nearly 90m signups in the first year. These two major players are not the only ones vying for the attention of people. YouTube is doing a big push into the space as well.
At the end of it, entertainment is just a subset of attention, and this attention economy is set to become more fragmented as the initial disruptors of TV/cinemas/radio like Spotify, Netflix, etc. find themselves in redder ocean territory.
What this means for consumers is more options being available but as more players enter this space, duplicates in offering would mean a clearer differentiation and niche needs to be carved by each big player.
The exploration of creativity for the purpose of creating side hustle income and to test new markets have come to the fore at an even greater level. Brands like Etsy, and in the blockchain/cryptocurrency space, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), have created a level of engagement with the individual like never before. It is a market space that favours creators who are able to monetise their work. Brands can now also “throw money" using TikTok’s newest ad option that allows them to ride on existing curated content rather creating something on the side hoping that users consume that content. This creates a win-win for creators and brands.
v) “Social manipulation / organised movements”
Tiktok, Snap, and the available social platforms have given influencers unlimited leverage. Attract a following and you have a platform to speak on just about anything you want, including financial advice. Reddit has also become a place where organised movements originate. This was spotlighted when short squeezes took place with Gamestop and AMC.
There is also a huge concern for fake news and how AI and deep-fakes can be deployed to “manufacture consent”. Navigating this space where distrust is exacerbated, defining a safe zone for consumers to believe in a brand is necessary.
Three major implications lie ahead for businesses and brands from these 5 trends:
The individual consumer has never been more empowered to make choices. Or so it seems to be how the digital world is setting up the stage for the average consumer to determine. Businesses must incorporate this across their strategic planning – be it in product/service design, or brand communications, empowering individual will go a long way in drawing a following.
Regardless of whether it is imparting knowledge or helping people stay healthy, entertainment has to be part of the equation when considering outreach and communications. This will also mean that at times, the choice to deliberately eschew entertainment in marketing touchpoints can be powerful. This comes as a result of realising that because we live in a hyper-saturated world of entertainment, sometimes, it can be better to turn off that switch and drill down to fundamentals of getting the primary message across as it is.
Nothing reeks of the dated industrial age more than mass production of the same type or genre of products/services/marketing. Brands will need to think harder in getting more personal with people. And sometimes, this can mean that less is more. Go deep and touch a niche rather than aim to be “all things to all men" and reach those who might never be interested in your brand.
If you’re looking for a design / brand communications partner to journey with your business through these trends, we’re here to help. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be in touch shortly.
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