Coronavirus has irrevocably changed us, and by extension, what the world will look like after the crisis subsides – WGSN research digs into what is behind these major strategic shifts.

The focus of a new insight and strategy report by the trend forecaster (and WARC sister brand) WGSN, Coronavirus: Global Change Accelerators, is not on tracking a new reality emerging, as much as on looking at how the reaction to COVID-19 from both businesses and individuals is informed by much deeper trends at play.

Accelerator: Anxiety and fear

People were anxious about both present and future prior to the coronavirus, but, on both the levels of health and economics, the crisis has accelerated these emotional states. In response, brands should aim for a tone of calmness amid the stress.

As a result, people will move into a kind of survival mode, the report says, which “will drive consumer preferences towards products with attributes that reflect a sense of safety and security”. This is a multi-layered trend, with a desire for transparency combining with a desire for products that won’t break the bank at a time of financial uncertainty.

Meanwhile, for brands, it is becoming increasingly important to show up in times of crisis. This is both simple – support employees – and complex – there is a risk of being seen to be opportunistic; tone is crucial, but so is proper action.

An unresolved fault line that the coronavirus has thrown up is a new equation surrounding privacy and autonomy. A conversation that had long remained abstract for most has now plummeted down to earth as governments around the world use mobile data to respond to the virus in ways that are increasingly intrusive. Next steps for brands here are tough: “Reconsider the value equation that will make the customer see the value in sharing information for the collective good,” the report states.

Accelerator: Digitisation

As more and more governments mandate social distancing, expectations of digital services have increased around the world in a way that won’t revert after the worst of the crisis.

In some instances, this will manifest as technology reaching ever further into our lives – a ‘tech-celleration’. “Increased isolation at home and economic uncertainty will mean that there is a less sustained demand for new products. This presents an opportunity for brands to entertain and create a sense of normality through clothing avatars and digital products.”

For the physical products that do remain, expectations of delivery and fulfilment have changed drastically. Where friendly interactions with delivery people were the norm, distancing measures are now becoming common; the consumer’s ability to choose their experience is likely to remain.

Work and life are now mediated by virtual services: not only are videoconferences now for parties as well as meetings, that greater adaptation will nudge a broader trend toward hyper-local co-working spaces. Large-scale international events are likely to be replaced by new, probably digital, solutions. Access to primary healthcare will likely shift to digital channels.

Accelerator: Emotional isolation

Self-isolation is likely to lead to greater emotional isolation than before the crisis. “Kindness will become a currency in its own right again, as brands positively reward and reinforce acts of kindness, and consumers look to offset purchase-guilt through charitable donations and acts.”

Though spending is expected to plummet during the crisis, expect greater consideration of what it means to spend time and money well as we come to the end of this period; brands can help their buyers tap into something bigger. Questions around the balance of the good of the individual versus the good of the collective will become increasingly important.

As the ‘time well spent’ shift gathers steam, so will the focus on family. A deeper shift toward a more equally shared parenting will accelerate as many families will see both parents work from home and have to balance these two sides of their lives. Together with increased virtualisation, greater prevalence of working from home or closer to home, localism is growing not only at an intellectual level, but as an important purchase driver.

It’s complicated: Sustainability in the age of crisis

Not quite on ice, but definitely less of a personal priority for consumers. Meanwhile, restricted movement has helped to cut emissions in a way that many consumers would consider as the right direction. WGSN forecasts a more considered mindset towards sustainability as we come out of the crisis, with the collective action asked of governments and expected of businesses likely to continue.

Sourced from WGSN (via WARC)