It feels funny to set out to predict which trends 2021 will bring into the business world after a year that defied all predictions or expectations.
The nature of almost everything we do – from our social interactions to our work life and buying behaviour – has been altered irrevocably by the world events of 2020. And even with the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, the future is still uncertain.
Throughout history, moments of crisis have galvanised and accelerated changes that have been in motion for years. But change can also be an opportunity to do better and be better.
The disruption caused by the COVID-19 has been unprecedented, but it has also forced organisations to do and think differently. The need for vision, innovation and transformation has never been more pronounced.
With these 6 trends for 2021, we hope to give you a compass to navigate this new world, anticipate expectations, and lead with empathy.
Audience engagement strategies have been evolving for years as the direct effect of changing buying behaviours, rising social media adoption and the introduction of new technologies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, highlighting an even stronger need for audience empowerment and interactions in the online world. Think of the incredible popularity of TikTok, the video-sharing social network that allows users to create and manipulate video content, becoming an avenue for self-expression for millions of people.
What we will see in 2021 is the continuation of this tendency. People no longer feel like passive listeners, but seek to be engaged and want to influence, interact and be immersed in a brand’s conversation.
For organisations, this is a unique opportunity to see engagement as a two-way street and craft strategies that involve the audience in a deeper way, such as co-creation or production of original content.
Invite your audience to participate and bring a breath of fresh air to your strategy, products and services.
It's been long recognised that when faced with a buying decision, consumers rely on emotions much more often than on rational thought. As such, emotions are essential to marketing, customer experience and brand loyalty.
But, contrary to the now completely commoditised big data, emotions are innately elusive: they’re subjective, unquantifiable and hard to measure.
This is all about to change.
New research into neuroscience and psychology, as well as new technologies - AI-based text analytics tools, biometric and facial analysis - are entering the business world from the likes of IBM, Nielsen and Realeyes.
In the next few years, brands will rush to harness these new techniques and gain a competitive advantage into the “why” that drives people’s behaviours, as opposed to the “what” identifiable through data analytics.
2020 has shown that organisations built on a strong sense of ‘why’ are better equipped to navigate unprecedented change.
In the midst of the pandemic, organisations that practised informed empathy towards their customers, workforce and community were rewarded with new business and customer loyalty.
Studies have been reporting for years how the younger generations – Generations Y and Z – consider brands’ purpose an important factor in their buying decisions, going so far as to shift service provider if a company disappointed them with tone-deafness or disregard for social issues.
In the post-COVID world, people will ask your brand to make them feel part of something bigger than its product or service and connect them around common values and beliefs.
This shouldn’t be just for show, however. Putting your “why” at the centre of your operations is a long-term commitment to embed purpose across the value chain. Only then this sense of purpose will radiate out of your organisation and reach the customer.
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Coming from a decade in which travelling had never been easier and more accessible, the pandemic upended the lifestyle of many.
The impossibility to travel internationally brought a new trend to the surface: a newfound interest in local.
People set out to explore their own city or country, appreciating what might have been overlooked before. They discovered that you don’t need to take a plane to the other side of the world to enjoy nature, history and cultural heritage.
At the same time, people worldwide, both individually and collectively, ditched big players in favour of local businesses and entrepreneurs, supporting them in the economic hardship caused by the pandemic.
While international travel might restart in 2021, the appreciation of local is here to stay – especially as consumers’ awareness of sustainability issues rises. And with the toll that travelling has on the environment, more and more people will skip unnecessary flying and embrace greener alternatives.
One of the many results of COVID-19 is the changed attitude towards what can be done or experienced without being physically present.
With fewer opportunities for ‘real-life’ experiences, the virtual world has become the preferred space for entertainment, hobbies and work.
NPD reports that in the US alone, gaming sales in August increased 37% year-on-year to USD 3.3 billion.
2020 also saw a surge in popularity of platforms like Zwift – an interactive fitness platform that allows participants to wirelessly connect their stationary bikes or treadmills to an app to power in-game avatars and immerse them in a 3D world.
As virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things (IoT), digital twins and other technologies go mainstream, immersive experiences have never been more cost-effective and more fun. And while we will go back to in-person experiences, people will still crave the immersion and wow factor that we got accustomed to thanks to virtual technology.
As it will become more and more common to augment real-life experiences with virtual features, we predict 2021 will be the year of hybrid events, conferences and meetings.
With the end of the pandemic not a reality just yet, many will still avoid travelling and wasting resources unless strictly necessary. Hybrid is a very attractive format to organisations for its flexibility, allowing your audience to participate, engage and learn without time or location constraints.
But as the demand for hybrid events grows bigger, so will the expectations of attendees.
New audience behaviours will require a shift in the way hybrid events are conceptualised. From static webinar-like events, we will see a rise in TV-like experiences with higher production value. Recording studios will replace event venues or convention centres, with a strong focus on audio-visual and virtual features.
Hybrid event design will be all about crafting an experience that caters both to people participating in-person and those connecting remotely from home. Special focus will be placed on how to engage both audiences through interactive elements and on how to deliver content in a way that is at the same time digestible, entertaining and educational.
As we move forward in this new decade of digital innovations, the need for organisations to connect in a human way and bring people together is more important than ever.
At MCI, we design engagement strategies that unleash the power of your community across all touchpoints, whether live, virtual or a combination of the two. Contact us to find out how we can help you conquer the challenges of the digital age.