Who will thrive in the post-Corona world?

There are too many variables to predict exactly when the Corona crisis will end. But futurists can offer insights into how the business landscape might look once it does. As 80% of consumers globally say they’ve already changed at least one behaviour, here are ten trends for a post-Corona world.

Great escape

Experience of previous global crises suggests the immediate post-crisis period will see a brief but intense reaction. There’ll be an explosion of social gatherings and communal leisure. There’ll be a mini travel boom, and a spike in service industry profits: electricians to hairdressers. Data from post-lockdown China suggests we may also see divorce and baby booms. Months spent in the same space may also drive a short housing boom.

New normal

Once these sales spikes subside, we’ll reach a ‘new normal’. A world that’s been recalibrated by the crisis, with new behaviours considered the norm. The 2008 crisis created a permanently savvy consumer, for whom Private Label products and money-off vouchers became standard. This will intensify post-Corona. Many Britons have had to reduce monthly outgoings: a discipline which’ll outlast the crisis. Big purchases may be delayed indefinitely. Despite a post-lockdown spike, cancelled luxuries may not be reinstated: TV subscriptions to designer haircuts. Staycations will continue to rise.

Cleaning up

Another key element in this new normal will be hygiene. Globalised travel, commerce and environmental concerns will keep pandemics an ever-present threat. Demand will rise for products, services and legislation that keep our living and working spaces cleaner. The desire to prevent future pandemics will accelerate spend on DNA-led health.

Technologies that avoid physical touch will flourish. The trend for contactless payment will accelerate and invisible payments become standard. Iris scans, gesture-controlled screens and self-maintaining technology will thrive. Demand will grow for AI-led services like chatbots and voice-activated assistants. Virtual reality will be more attractive.

Packaging reconsidered

The crisis has forced consumers to reassess environmental priorities. Not long ago, they were united in their rejection of over-packaging at retail. That’s crumbled amid a new demand for food safety. Post-Corona, shoppers will seek a compromise between safety and sustainability. Manufacturers and retailers will need to find low-cost alternatives that still deliver hygienically.

Germ-free adolescents

Psychologists claim young people, whose psyches are still evolving, are most affected by crises long term. The 2008 Recession, for instance, embedded in younger Millennials the importance of financial self-sufficiency.

Similarly, Coronavirus will make today’s teens more safety- and germ-conscious. Tomorrow’s employees will make new demands of their places of work and socialising: expecting clean air, contactless office equipment and virtual meetings as standard.

We are the mods

I identified a trend for Modular Companies in my recent ‘Trends for 2020’ column in The Director. The crisis will accelerate this.

Coronavirus was a wake-up call for CEOs to build more adaptability into their companies. To better adjust to an increasingly volatile commercial environment, more will embrace Blended Workforces with fewer full-time employees but more freelancers and part-timers. Extensive fixed office space will feel like a luxury. Many will lease more short-term space; and desks in co-working offices.

Keep your distance

Until now the trend for remote working and virtual meetings has been steady but slow. The current crisis will supercharge it. Myriad UK companies have had to manage mass remote working for the first time, enabling them to iron out problems in the field. Companies have road-tested communication and meeting services. Technical skillsand call etiquette have improved dramatically.

The crisis has showcased the benefits of remote working. Many businesses will continue it once employees return to work. Meanwhile time management skills learned during lockdown will re-open the debate around flexible hours and target-based remuneration.

Diversify supply

The crisis has taught companies the danger of getting all their eggs from the same basket. They’ll need to diversify suppliers across territories.

Similarly, many will explore diversification across products and markets too, to ensure an income stream whatever crises they encounter. Companies from airlines to cinemas have become painfully aware of the danger of single sector focus. This will likely drive a broader shift from vertical to horizontal integration.

What really matters

Health and economic crises typically focus people on emotional issues. When work and social structures collapse, individuals are forced to reassess ‘what’s important’.

According to Global Web Index, many have rediscovered the offline world and the ‘joy of missing out’ (JOMO), accelerating the Digital Detox trend. Old hobbies, from jigsaws to gardening, have returned. Social media is awash with spirituality, philosophy, mindfulness and Nature.

Stripped of many regular conveniences, locked-down consumers have been taking pride in self sufficiency: buying breadmakers to darning socks. This is likely to accelerate a small but steady anti-consumerist trend evident in the recent rise of rental, home-made and second-hand.

Care for the community

Another growth area will be community. Already one of the key trends this century, its influence is only increasing. The crisis has reinforced the importance of family, friends and neighbours, and businesses that support them. Use of local suppliers and P2P commerce will grow. So will new community-driven online trends: the Internet as a group leisure and communications platform, and uploading home-made videos as a mainstream activity. Families and friends may move closer together, and more children and grandparents move into the family home.

As retail experts in ‘Business of Fashion’ have identified, consumers are also monitoring how businesses treat customer communities in the crisis. Ethical and trust issues are now key purchase drivers, and many will switch loyalty to businesses that behaved ‘well’. Sectors, companies and CEOs adopting an ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude might make short term financial gains, but could pay a major price in the long-term.