Repeat after me: this too shall pass. Soon the world will emerge from quarantine and resume its turning. But things will be different. The human psyche will undoubtedly be affected by the first global pandemic in 100+ years. Our lives have been turned upside down and we may not find our footing again for a long time. Yes, there will be confusion and fear, but after the dust settles, we’ll likely see the emergence of some interesting and heartening new trends. Here’s what we can expect from the post-pandemic marketplace.
The Clean Revolution – Antibacterial Packaging & Interiors, & Functional Fashion
COVID-19 poured gas on the already towering e-commerce fire. As online orders continue to skyrocket, we can expect an increase in concern for how products are being handled and antibacterial packaging will soon transcend food preservation. Think: packaging with antibacterial handles, mini Purell package add-ons and anti-microbial cartons.
This trend will eke its way into our environment too, with antibacterial interiors infiltrating the rising residential and hospitality wellness-based design boom. Anticipate an emphasis on air quality, cleanliness and antibacterial surfaces. Think: clean-air recovery rooms, detoxifying salt caves, germ-resistant brass hardware and robotic vaporizers.
Capital ‘F’ Fashion was a first responder to the crisis, quickly retrofitting production to help manufacture masks for the front line. This trend isn’t likely to reverse when production does. Masks, gloves and an assortment of protective outerwear – as social distancing because the norm we can expect style to reflect it. Think: customizable face masks and ‘shopping gloves’ distributed at retail.
Lastly, beards are out and cleanliness signaling is in. Expect an increasingly paranoid populace to shift from hipster grunge and deliberately disheveled to exhibit more clean-cut grooming and fashion as a social signal of health and cleanliness. Think: the decline of ‘beard culture’ and the re-emergence of tailoring.
The Luxury of Space – Housing & Working from Home
Just when the trend of ‘co-living’ was taking off, social distancing got real and grounded the trend. Micro-housing as a necessity isn’t going anywhere but the allure of it definitely is. As anyone who’s quarantined in a small apartment can attest, space is sexy. And as working from home becomes more and more prevalent, we can expect consumers to seek out more comfortable (see personal) spaces. Think: individual bathrooms for sanitary purposes, closed-concept design and increased interest in suburban and rural locations.
The Rise of Local – Brand China & ‘Real’ Work
Consumer confidence in Brand China has unquestionably plummeted. Is it fair? No. But it’s real, and a heightened skepticism towards products originating there is likely to emerge from consumers. This will translate into increased demand for local products, from foods to consumer goods. Decrease in overseas trade will lead to an increase in opportunities for homegrown manufacturing. Think: ‘locally made’ as a badge of distinction and an increased emphasis on brand trust.
With this new demand for local production we’ll likely see an increase in manufacturing jobs and skilled labour. Couple this with the general detachment from reality (by way of social media) of Gen Z and we can expect more interest in work that with the perception of ‘real’ outputs, as opposed to ‘virtual’ ones. This will be further intensified by a growing interest in self-reliance (a key learning from this is how ill-prepared most of us are to truly fend for ourselves). Think: the renewed relevance of physical work and new opportunities in homegrown manufacturing.
Renewed Trust in Authority – World Leaders, Vulnerability & Compassion
Never underestimate the power of compassion. Take Andrew Cuomo, the one-time mildly-disliked politician has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent weeks thanks to his head-on, impassioned tackling of the crisis and his openness regarding his brother’s diagnosis. Business leaders, world leaders and community leaders now have the power to rewrite their narratives. By foregoing know-it-all-ism and embracing vulnerability, they’re embracing humanity – and humanity sells. Consumers aren’t looking for answers, there aren’t any, they’re looking for positivity. So as of now anyway, hatred, vitriol and politicking has been supplanted by compassion and vulnerability. Think: a decline in rebelliousness and cynicism, and a renewed confidence in humanity.
Slow Going – Balancing Work & Life
The value of ‘being busy’ is steeply declining, and with it the ‘rise and grind’ economy. With many people working from home and many more losing their jobs, the value of family and the importance of balance is set to increase. And with the economy slowing, we’ll likely see an increase in work style diversity. Nuanced versions of full-time, part-time and freelance will abound in the post-pandemic marketplace. Think: four-day work weeks and deliberate workplace stoppages (remember breaks and hour lunches?).
It’s been a while, so we’d be forgiven for forgetting just how often pandemics have rewritten human history. Things have changed dramatically and rapidly over the past few weeks, and they’ll continue to do so – maybe for the better.