Water Cooler: Turning The Corner
Photo: Riccardo Annandale / Unsplash.com
The overarching theme we can expect to see in business and in technology this year is mapping out new territory, according to Fjord Trends 2021; the 14th edition of an annual market research publication produced by Accenture Interactive, a division of worldwide and billion-dollar digital agency network Accenture. The report, which focuses on how people, organizations and brands are meeting human needs, and which notes seven trends overall, states that with the chaos of COVID-19 came an awareness of what matters most. Having spent the duration of 2020 facing disruption in every facet of life, people are now relishing a renewed focus on and longing to help others solve their greatest challenges and prepare for a brighter future; something that has segued into change for companies, their services, their supply chains and their interactions with end users.
The seven themes, according to the report, are as follows:
- Collective displacement: COVID-19 upended end users’ lifestyles, causing their homes, which were once intimate spaces, to also serve as schools, offices and workshops. Brands should help end users find their place in the world again by providing them with key experiences, and focus on new ways of communicating with others at a distance, while providing immersive, realistic digital experiences; texture, transparency and control are key experiential elements.
- Do-it-yourself innovation: As people develop unique solutions or “hacks” to solve their problems—such as a parent and at-home worker using an ironing board as a standing desk, the report states—and use technology to communicate ingenuity, there is growth in creativity and the way platforms, like TikTok, are being used. The report suggests the line between customer and creator has blurred, and brands should view themselves as co-creators, considering their products or services as unfinished, and inviting users to build and expand on their own.
- Sweet teams are made of this: Employees’ homes also functioning as their offices has segued into conversations about the ethics of remote work, such as appropriate wear for video calls and remote workers’ right to privacy. The report states there are four major areas of opportunity for employers—technology, culture, talent and control—and suggests companies “decouple” from the notion of a physical office space, and instead, design and plan to work in a virtual or hybrid environment.
- Interactions wanderlust: As a result of pandemic-related concerns and precautions, people are spending more time indoors and in front of screens, particularly to connect with the world. The screen-time surge has led to a degree of sameness in templated designs. Brands should disrupt sameness by tailoring unique design, content and enjoyable experiences to best suit their audiences. Brands that provide live experiences, such as entertainment and performances, or networking and socializing, are encouraged to continue doing so, or go the hybrid route.
- Liquid infrastructure: Because the way people are buying and experiencing products and services has changed, brands must reconsider their supply chain structure to provide satisfaction from the first moment to the last. Supply chains will be evaluated according to growth, flexibility and agility, in addition to efficiency, with a push toward local and sustainable options, and consumers are seeking full customization up to the time of delivery.
- Empathy challenge: The pandemic shed light on inequalities across all industries and worldwide. Consumers are looking to engage with companies that are prioritizing what is most important to them and their mission, and developing company operations and stories (or narratives) around these priorities.
- Rituals lost and found: A ripple effect of the pandemic was the cancellation and postponement of customary rituals, from birthday parties and holiday celebrations, to weddings, funerals and births. Being unable to participate in these life events has adversely affected collective well-being. Brands can help end users navigate the “new normal” by helping them create new rituals that suit their current lifestyles.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.