From e-commerce to videoconferencing, the past year and a half has accelerated a slew of digital trends. Companies have been trying to make videoconferencing happen since turn of the century, yet in a matter of weeks after U.S. lockdowns, Zoom became a household word. People have been shopping online for ages, yet e-commerce spending jumped 40 percent in 2020 over the previous year, and is poised to do it again in 2021.
While we see signs that consumers and employers seek a "return to normalcy," it is clear that many pandemic-era changes are here to stay. Change can be daunting and difficult. However, there's a lot of upside for marketers who tap into the new normal and connect with consumers.
Here are three trends marketers should be optimistic about as we recalibrate for reentry:
1. Home is where the heart is.
When everyone got locked down -- some to little more than four walls and a laptop -- our environs took on new levels of importance. We found a renewed appreciation for the charms of home and hood. Many who found their surroundings lacking packed up and moved -- to be closer to nature or family or to simply up the square footage. Others doubled down on optimizing their home offices, patios, and gyms.
People discovered the untold value of investing in the quality of life. How much is it worth to stay fit on your own schedule? Enjoy the yard with a bottle of wine and a few friends in comfy chairs? Get a good night's sleep? Grab great takeout from the neighborhood bistro and enjoy a weeknight picnic in the living room?
Smart marketers will tap into consumers' newfound focus on loving where they are and how they feel. This is mind-body-spirit messaging. Reinforce the value of building a home you can really live in.
2. Consumer's search for a work-life balance.
Of course, this trend nestles right into number one because, for vast swaths of people, the home became the office, too. Not only did that line between work and home get blurrier than ever, but many people also had their first experience of life without a commute. They discovered the satisfaction of midday loads of laundry, baking bread, and slow-roasted everything. It is amazing what you can do during a conference call, am I right?
While there are many reasons why people "don't want to go back to work," we know people's expectations of work have changed. Some are quitting rather than return to epic commutes and overtime. Long-held beliefs around the need for in-office serendipity have been debunked. And while the jury is still out on video over voice for meetings, we can put the "will people actually work when they work from home" debate out to pasture.
Again, marketers must emphasize quality of life and anything that both enhances the ability to work flexibly but also to truly disconnect. Consumers want to be effective and efficient while they work. They also want to make the most of the things that really matter. Balance is key.
3. Health is wealth.
OK, elephant in the room notwithstanding, the past year and a half moved health to the pinnacle of everyone's priorities. From hand washing to fitness and meditation, health and wellness are top of mind for the American consumer. Like other areas, the pandemic accelerated a long-languishing trend: telemedicine. In a matter of weeks, medical providers and consumers went from marginal interest to full adoption.
However, there were many other areas impacted by pandemic restrictions. Bicycles and treadmills sold out everywhere. Downloads of fitness, physical and mental health, and all sorts of wellness apps soared during the pandemic. People experimented with everything from virtual trainers to premium clubs, trackers, and programs that keep you motivated and offer a sense of community.
And, while gyms, yoga, dance, and other fitness studios are opening up, the emphasis on whole health is here to stay. Marketers need to be there as consumers seek support for their newfound focus on overall wellness. The messaging must be life affirming and accepting.
Some things have changed for good: both forever and for the better. Consumers are ready to invest in everything that makes life worth living. Yes, that is going to include a pent-up appetite for adventure, experiences, and eating out. But how we coped with the rapid, radical transformation of the past year and a half changed us.
Marketers performed some remarkable pivots themselves during this time. Now, we all have an opportunity to take what we learned and put those priorities in order as we continue to move forward.