For most of us in the Western world, we have never had such restrictions placed on our actions. Through the immense difficulties of staying locked down, there have been positives, though, like having cleaner air, spending less money, and building stronger links with our families and local communities.
Forced into new ways of working and learning online, we have also developed new habits and have reconsidered issues that we are prepared to stand for in future. Rather than simply replicating past behaviors, we can embrace beneficial new habits in a post-COVID world.
Prior to the pandemic, a number of new consumer trends were rising. For some time, people had already been moving their purchases to companies with greater purpose, and many were calling out poor practices that did not benefit the environment or align with changing social values. Trends in online shopping and working from home were steadily growing, driven by a need for convenience and enabled by innovations in high-speed technology.
Getting back to traveling
We have greatly missed travel and vacations, and we want to get back out to see the world. The headlines about the continued spread of the virus and announcements of job losses have scared and scarred us, however. It has become clear that certain people have been disproportionately affected and there are deep structural divisions in societies, and many feel out of control and unsure and anxious as to the right ways to behave or to plan for the future.
With tourism so significantly dependent on discretionary spending, its comeback will take some time. When travel does return, the companies that understand the attitudes and values that drive underlying consumer trends will have a stronger chance at thriving in the post-COVID world.
Four trends to act upon
1. Considered consumption
What gives this trend extra focus is knowing that the appearance and spread of this deadly disease is likely to have been a direct outcome of our drive for ever-greater economic growth and individual gain at the expense of community, climate, and biodiversity (nyti.ms/2Cen8aP). Thrifting and upcycling have had huge growth, and we are seeing a backlash on status-flaunting and ostentatious luxury.
- Brands can help consumers feel more in control over their money by focusing on reliability, trust, and value.
- Increased price sensitivity means that providing reasons for consumers to trust a brand is more important than ever.
2. Kindness and community
In the response to the pandemic, certain people have had to put themselves at great risk in order to help others. Valuing and showing gratitude to these front-line workers, supporting neighbors and communities, and buying goods and services locally have been major shifts in the months just passed.
- Consumers will be looking for real evidence of how the travel industry can create greater personalization, safety, sustainability, and benefit to their experiences.
- Wearing masks and social distancing does not sit naturally with hospitality, so ingenuity will be needed to help ensure these practices do not take away from the travel experience.
3. Fairness, honesty, and transparency
The shift of business toward purpose is accelerating, and consumers expect companies to step up. Americans say they will remember both the missteps and the good turns that businesses made during the pandemic long after it is over (bit.ly/2OiVnRr).
- For businesses, proving social purpose is now more important than ever.
- Social media has made all companies wide open to live scrutiny and critique. With no place to hide, companies must show through their actions that they are human and genuine.
4. Reset not rebound
COVID-19 has brought a renewed focus on the need for greater preparedness and resilience. This is being met through engagement with digital technology, financial planning, creating and valuing wellness and mental health, and by ensuring that our surroundings are clean, safe, and secure.
- Customers have extremely high expectations for hygiene and flexibility. Safety is the top priority, and companies need to work hard to assuage concerns. Good design, low touch, and organized processes (involving digital technologies) are key to this.
- The growing focus on the holistic approach to wellness encourages opportunities for future travel experiences and collaborations.
This is a tough time for people who run a business, and for some, just getting from one day to the next is an achievement. Those who can put their organization’s core values into action, take the time to understand their customers, invest in their employees, and do right by their wider stakeholders are positioning themselves to come out far stronger—and much more resilient—for the months and years to come.
Rochelle Turner is the head of research and insight for MaCher, a sustainable design and manufacturing firm that provides information and advice about changing habits that can help reduce waste in the world.
Top photo by Pat Henderson