I'm not sure about you, but it seems to me that we're facing a constant series of 'new norms' to adjust to. An endless number of 'seismic shifts' to understand and adapt to. Just when we think we've mastered one the next major change lurks around the next corner.
I guess it started with the 2008 great recession when the fear of God was struck into us that we might lose our bank (mmm...) and with it any of our meagre savings (what savings?). Then, of course, the actual recession hit and we lost our savings in any case, assuming we had any in the first place.
Following this we experienced a relentless wave of new internet and mobile technology things and apps that confused the living daylights out of us and left us, well, less in control than ever - other than, of course, controlled by our phone. Which I guess is why they called it the 'smartphone' in the first place. Think about it, it's not like we've been renamed the 'smartperson'.
More recently we've been consumed by ISIS, then Brexit (let's not go there), then Trump (let's not go there either), then climate change (let's let Greta go there) and now Coronavirus, or is it Covid-19? I'm never quite sure. And that pretty much takes us to today. Right?
Except shifting to the new norm of lockdown and Trump/Johnson/Bolsonaro/Putin’s 'too real a reality' show on every single friggin' day seems well, more painful than all the other norms put together. So how in the world do we adapt to this mother of all events?
Not wishing to get too serious about things, but it’s clear that the Coronavirus crisis, the lockdowns and the new sets of behaviours required to survive this have brought about a number of short term changes but, perhaps more importantly, Covid-19 will usher in a number of new, longer term trends. We believe that there are 5 major trends that will establish themselves as more permanent global shifts.
We should not forget that the massive societal adaption currently in process is profound for it is lasting, it is global and it has extreme structural economic consequences. It seems likely that we will have to adapt to another 12 - 18 months of social distancing across our societies and businesses while also accepting that a once in a century great depression has started and will take many years to work itself through.
How we adapt to these changes as consumers, as businesses and as politicians will prove to be a vital barometer of our likely success in the coming years.
Here are 5 new long term consumer trends emerging from the Coronavirus crisis:
1. Healthier living- our attitude to food, exercise, wellbeing and the environment will be fundamentally altered by Coronavirus. A growing body of evidence, alongside a once in a lifetime lockdown experience, should give rise to a grand awakening of our combined consciousness around a more frugal, a more natural and a healthier existence. This, in turn, will accelerate the shift towards more sustainable and eco-friendly products and services and a greater need for in-home enhancements and experiences.
Expect to see wider adoption of vegan diets, plant based cuisine, organic foods and drinks, eco-fashion, eco-tourism, eco-DIY, books on climate friendly behaviors and activities, greater focus on energy and health efficient homes and offices, less international travel and an accelerated shift to renewable energy and electric vehicles and tools. We should also expect to see a greater demand for nature based experiences, gardening in general, wildlife gardening, rewilding, vegetable gardens and foraging.
2. Homeworking/Teleworking- perhaps one of the biggest single economic behavior changes coming from the Coronavirus lockdowns has been the global adoption of homeworking/teleworking. This is a trend that has been building for a decade or more but has now cemented itself as the new way for companies to organise themselves post Coronavirus. Every company has had to figure out how to do it and now that they have made the complex shift they will not want to give it up. Indeed, economic necessity will drive its further adoption particularly given the ensuing economic shock.
Continued social distancing requirements post lockdown will force companies to redesign offices with fewer desks per square foot meaning fewer employees in the office and more working from home. Employees will also push for continued home working as they will have discovered how much time and stress was wasted on commuting. Home working is logical given the wider shift by businesses to move their organisation online and is a natural consequence of the trend towards knowledge based business and the outsourcing of manufacturing and distribution. After all, if you can serve your customers online why can't you organise your workforce to work online as well?
3. eServices- as Coronavirus has accelerated the shift to ecommerce it will also create far greater demand for online home services. After all, if you can use a video and even a remote engineer on Zoom to explain to you how to install the new kitchen sink, or washing machine or simple plumbing fix and it is cheaper, then why not? Particularly as we will remain concerned about allowing tradespeople into our homes for some time after lockdown. We should also see a shift towards online schooling, plumbing services, simple electrical, gardening, DIY, car repair and more. Indeed this falls into a growing demand for wider automation across industries.
4. Online Sports & Culture - thanks to social distancing guidelines we will have spent a good portion of 2020 avoiding going to sports events, concerts, live performances and theatres. Instead we will have learnt to consume sports fixtures digitally perhaps also fused with gaming, watching live concerts on YouTube and enjoying theatre on Netflix. Indeed with the rollout of 5G more immersive, higher-definition digital experiences supported by a new generation of inbuilt and stand alone speakers will make consuming sports and culture from our living room or dining table more enjoyable than ever. Content creators, sports professionals and artists, like any product manufacturer, will have used the Coronavirus crisis as a trigger to shift more of their professional endeavours, content and communications online.
5. Digital Healthcare- for governments to continue to offer universal healthcare at scale but in a more financially sustainable way they will have to shift to digital healthcare. Coronavirus will show us the power of education and communications online using WhatsApp, Zoom or LinkedIn to deliver any kind of business, research or educational meeting. This has made it more than possible for the digital provision of basic healthcare so that doctors brick and mortar surgeries and hospitals can be reserved for a potentially higher number of more seriously ill patients and the future pandemics which are bound to hit us with greater frequency like severe weather events have become a part of our new reality. Indeed, there are a number of all digital healthcare platforms gaining traction across the western world.
We should not forget that Covid-19 is just the latest in a regular series of public health crises we are dealing with as a consequence of global warming. Until we start tackling the climate crisis, sustainably removing carbon and other pollutants from our atmosphere while halting the destruction of key habitats for wildlife and natural plant life, we will have to get used to a steady stream of public health crises whether from pandemics, droughts, flooding, wildfires or industrial and urban pollution.
How industries and specific solutions are shaped to address the above 5 trends could have profound implications on our movement, privacy and civil liberties. Striking the right balance, as always, will prove critical to successful adoption. Choosing the right politicians, policies and organisational leaders through the next societal shift will affect the transition.
But there can be little doubt that the consumers, businesses and politicians that are the quickest and best at adapting to these changes will find the greatest success in the new world. New industries will be born and we should think hard about how we develop our skills so that we can work in the climate industries, eco-product manufacturing and eco-service delivery, healthier living industries, renewable energy and climate science, homeworking product manufacturing, design and consultancy services, digital home services, online professional services, online sports and entertainment and digital healthcare.
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