Emerging consumer trends and their future in a post-pandemic world | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 01, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:35 AM, May 01, 2020

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Emerging consumer trends and their future in a post-pandemic world

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted multiple aspects of our life by impacting the global economy, reducing polarization while encouraging solidarity and functionality. Besides these, how we go about our daily lives has changed drastically as people are trying to continue their work while staying indoors as much as they can. Consequently, the pandemic has initiated some trends besides the well-known big shifts. In this article, we take a look at a few such trends that were already out there initiated by some pioneer brands.  

Shopstreaming  

Few of the biggest digital waves in Asia include e-commerce and live streaming content. Consumers embraced the interactive, experiential and live components of these media. This market started to grow even further with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, this has the potential to be a common practice in the other global markets too.

Taobao, an online shopping website based in China, introduced using live streams to help boost the income of Chinese farmers. The service is called Taobao live and serves as the live streaming section of Alibaba's C2C marketplace. It started in 2018 where the platform hosted 150,000 agriculture-related shows and attracted over 400 million viewers. This service, combined with the functional design and focus on choice and convenience provided by services of AWS can pave the way for a radically evolved next generation of digital commerce.  

VR Economy  

With theatres, concerts, sports leagues, and similar outdoor activities being cancelled, there is going to be a massive void in peoples' lives. By means of these immersive technologies, the virtual experience can replace the traditional outdoor sources of recreation. With no options left, VR experiences of travel, retail, gatherings like birthday parties etc are becoming more meaningful to the consumers now more than ever.

Ubisoft released a free in-game update for their popular game Assassin's Creed which can be a great source of entertainment in this category under the current circumstances. The update lets the owners of the Origins version of the game access the Discovery Tour mode. This mode lets the players travel around the map without any interruption of the quests or combats and have guided tours in locations like Alexandria, Memphis, Cairo, the Nile, the Faiyum and many more. Similar initiatives are being taken by other brands with VR to take consumers as close to travelling as possible.

Virtual Companions 

People today are getting increasingly accustomed to digital assistants. With evolving expectations, consumers will soon start to seek virtual personalities that can entertain, befriend and heal them while in crises like the one we are in now. Once consumers get a taste of it, these behaviours may well persist in the post-pandemic world.

Samsung introduced Neon, virtual beings that can behave like humans exhibiting emotions and intelligence, at the CES 2020 in January. The introduced avatars are designed to work with people, share experiences and teach skills in addition to merely supplying data. The project is still under development and is expected to offer a beta version later in 2020. With widespread positive and emotional reviews about other AI software like Replika, virtual companionship is likely to find its way to consumer lives in the post-pandemic world once consumers have realized how helpful some of these can be at times of need.  

Ambient Wellness and Cleanliness  

Although some of us may go back to having less hygienic habits, the will to stay stronger and healthier will be more than ever in the post-pandemic world. This will create opportunities for providers and business owners to incorporate measures endorsing healthy lifestyle practices, sustainability and good hygiene in places where consumers go to.

Stella McCartney opened a flagship store in London that features an in-house air filtration system. The fashion designer's store at Bond Street has a sustainable air solution that removes 95% of airborne pollutants. Coming out of the pandemic, people will be more concerned about the air they breathe, the things they touch and the water they drink. Hence, providers will need to think and invest accordingly in initiatives like Stella's in order to make sure that the stores are clean and the surrounding physical components of these have a positive impact on consumers' physical and mental well-being.    

A-commerce 

With the increasing necessity of contact-free interactions and advancements in robotics, there is now a growing demand for automated commerce with AI and robotics. Proactive brands can experiment with their plans with A-commerce since consumers will be more receptive to this type of changes now more than ever.

Domino's has already piloted an initiative similar to this. They worked with Nuro, a robotics company, and launched the initiative where driverless robot cars deliver pizza to customers in Houston, Texas. The vehicles were monitored by remote technology and human drivers in chase vehicles. 

Open-source Solutions 

An open-source solution is a new frontier to sustainability where companies share their innovative solutions to fight global pressing issues. In our neighbouring country India, top fund managers from several blue-chip venture capital firms — Sequoia Capital, Accel and Lightspeed etc— joined prominent startup CEOs to set up a Rs 100 crore fund that will help the firms working on products and services to fight the pandemic. A few days ago, Apple and Google came together to provide a comprehensive solution that includes APIs and operating system-level technology to enable contact tracing. In May, APIs will be released by both companies to enable interoperability among Android and iOS devices. Having seen the fruits of meaningful collaborations among different companies, the post-pandemic world will further endorse such partnerships to address other pressing issues of the world. 

Coordinated Development  

With a lot of free time and little idea about what to do with it, many people will take initiatives to master life skills like cooking for themselves. Although branded as 'millennial', these trends have resulted in a huge growth of on-demand services that help users learn different life-skills.

Equal Parts, a cookery equipment brand, gives consumers access to pro tips through their feature Text a Chef. Through texts, users can get tips, inspiration and meal ideas. Similarly, WAHL Home Products has included a How-To feature in their website where most popular men's haircuts are shown with instructions that are very easy to follow. Trends like these are the reasons not all of us will come out of the pandemic as cavemen.

Virtual Status 

When it comes to identifying ourselves and gaining respect from society, nothing replaces physical goods as these are limited and have value. However, there is a wave of change as a part of which consumers of younger age groups and gamers are seeking virtual goods that include newer technologies like blockchain and AR etc. With the current crisis where everyone is keeping up with the world staying inside their households, the adoption of virtual goods to portray status is more imminent than we think it is.

Fashion gaming app Drest revealed its waitlist in September 2019. The game is available on Android and iOS. It gives the users stylish challenges to execute on realistic photos featuring brands like Burberry, Gucci and Prada. The end-products can then be bought in-game or from online luxury retail platform Farfetch. With a huge part of the population now working online, spending more time gaming and in social media more than ever, people will realize there is a whole new realm where they are noticed. Providers, going forward, will try to understand the social dynamics at play in these virtual communities and provide online platforms where consumers will derive status through price, scarcity, feeling of accomplishment, sense of belongingness etc in their quest for status in virtual environments. 

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