- Photo credit: Danil Aksenov on UnSplash
The beginning of every year always sees a wave of inspirational trends look ahead pieces. The full-on bombardment of thinking often makes it hard to tell which are grounded in fact, which are just blue sky thinking and who really is on the money. There is an even greater onslaught of ‘this will happen’ thinking out there than normal, partly since so many of last year’s forecasts went out of the window at the start of March. Also, arguably, no year in history has been more eagerly anticipated than 2021, with consumers battling conflicting emotions:
- The hope that it will be better than 2020 and a collective determination to make it so
- A nagging concern that it will be just as bad as last year
This makes it only natural for marketers to look even more closely than usual at the body of published trends work: which trends to believe and, more crucially, which to pin their company’s 2021 on? Of course, it doesn’t help when the various POVs are awash with contradictions and vested interests, or when there are so many.
That’s why we’ve done the hard work for marketers, ploughing our way through 30+ of the 2021 look-aheads in the public domain. We’ve added our
own expertise, backed by leading edge research, and run the ideas past our gold-standard teams specialising in comms, marketing and digital. Based on all of that, here is our pick of 10 trends. Five in the consumer space and five in the marketing space to focus on.
Five Consumer trends to focus on
1) A changing relationship with physical spaces, town centres and a heightened focus on the local.
2) Sustainability: a green (re)awakening – the end of 'more', moving away from 'big' lifestyles, contentment with less, reducing waste.
3) A new fluidity. We’ve lost many of the rituals that used to signpost our lives resulting in a sense of collective displacement. We may have replaced them with digital equivalents but over the coming year(s) we’ll see a more proactive emergence of new models and rules.
4) In 2021, we’ll see the emergence of a newly resilient consumer, taking control of their lives, balancing forward planning with an ability to roll with the punches, and innovating their own solutions.
5) Kindness culture and a return to “we” as the new-found appreciation of others will manifest itself in a greater focus on community, helpfulness, kindness, support, and empathy.
Five Marketing trends to focus on
1) Organising for agility and flex. With the economy more unpredictable than ever, and with companies having all of last year’s 'pivoting' stories fresh in their minds, organisations will be trying to be 'disruption-ready', setting themselves up in such a way that they can rapidly alter course to take account of any new wind direction.
2) Taking customer experience to the max. The rise of DTC will continue. Brands will shift the bar ever higher on service. The emphasis in delivery will shift from 'last mile' to 'last few feet' as organisations realise that product handovers represent something too important to trust to time pressured and disinterested couriers.
3) 2021 will see brand purpose get real as consumers demand brands walk the walk as well as talking the talk with firm brand promises or pledges and acts not mere words.
4) The holy grail of distinctiveness: Covid was such a powerful disruptor that it encouraged convergence of product offerings and marketing message channel choice content, tone, and execution. 2021 will see brands making concerted efforts to 'refind' themselves and re-express their uniqueness though such high-risk strategies are bound to create both winners and losers.
5) eCommerce innovation will surge. 2021 will see innovation in what online retail looks and feels like – we’ll see shoppable social surge ahead, purchasing via livestreaming take off, and efforts to make the online shopping process look and feel more like being in store, start to bear fruit.
Focus on human understanding signals, not noise
With so much noise out there, the brands that thrive in 2021 will be the ones that can correctly pick out the ones that fit a consumer truth and offer real longevity.