Future Digest - January 29th
In this Future Digest we explore the continued consumer trend towards mindfulness; how LEGO connects the physical and digital to create new experiences; Amazon being a civic brand, the rise of experiential e-commerce; the impact of living in a disconnected society; how Gamestop and an army of retail investors defied all rules of the market and how leaders should act to prevent populists from profiting of the crisis.
Before the pandemic we saw the emergence of relaxation in a can. No not gin in a tin, but rather non-alcoholic drinks infused with various ingredients to help you unwind or even sleep. The pandemic has further boosted the interest in these drinks and new start ups such as Kin Euphorics, Tranquini, Just Chill, Recess, and Marley’s Mellow Mood - all profess to offer some quick way to relaxation. Now big player PepsiCo is entering the market as well with their “enhanced water” product, Driftwell.
Slow TV emerged a couple of years ago around the same time we saw the emergence of mindfulness apps such as Calm and Headspace. Many of those platforms created content intended to lull us to sleep, instead of keeping us on the edge of our seat. JWT reports that it seems mindfulness has now made it to the big(ger) screens with HBO, Netflix and Disney getting in on mindful programming.
PepsiCo is also teaming up with Beyond Meat, to develop, produce and market innovative snack and beverage products made from plant-based protein. So far no details have been shared on exactly what products the partnership will bring to the market, but it is another strong indication of diets quickly moving towards plant-based protein.
Lego is launching a new, augmented reality social video service called Vidiyo. Using a combination of physical tools and their phone, kids will be able to create their own music videos and dance clips and share them with friends.
Amazon has offered to help the Biden administration meet their goal of completing 100 million coronavirus vaccinations within the next 100 days. In a letter to the president they put their operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise at the disposal of the US government to assist it in its vaccination efforts.
The pandemic has accelerated many existing trends, but it has also given birth to some news ones. Enter experiential e-commerce. Last year was a tipping point for virtual technologies - allowing brands to create high-resolution immersive digital experiences and making these very accessible to consumers. As many were stuck at home, looking for anything new to stimulate them, this more immersive online shopping format proved very successful at engaging and conversation customers. Research done by FIA showed that this new form of e-commerce led to 78 percent of consumers saying that knowing the story behind the product adds positive value to the garments which in turn led to an increase in sales.
The New York Times and the OECD report on the devastating effects social distancing has had on children's mental health. While many are still connected digitally, this has proven insufficient to meet most kids’ and adolescents’ social needs.
Earlier this month, China unveiled a prototype maglev train which is supposed to reach speeds of about 385 mph (620 km/h), according to The South China Morning Post. In about six years time, when the train becomes commercially viable, it will be able to reach speeds of 497 mph (800 km/h).
Gamestop's bust to boom is set to become the new textbook example of a short squeeze. This week an army of mainly retail investors, organised through the Reddit thread Wallstreetbets, led the Gamestop stock to an incredible price - 1,400% higher than January last year. This has rattled the financial markets who betted heavily against the company and are now in completely unknown territory where they must scramble to understand the new market’s rules. .
The Economist reports on studies that suggest that economic crises can lead to a rise in authoritarian regimes. Interestingly, these studies found it is not enough for a government to focus on recovery. They found that it was important that leaders also communicate about what went wrong and why in order to counter anti-democratic efforts that use the crisis to stoke unrest.
Many have forecasted that the pandemic will be the end of cities. However, not everybody agrees. Professor John Rennie Short and professor Michael Orlando argue that history shows cities are more resilient than we might think and that economies of sharing, matching and learning are what drive the success and appeal of cities.
The trend towards mindfulness and relaxation, like many other trends, has been amplified by the pandemic. As there is a clear desire for peace of mind, serenity and calm brands should explore how they can use their product or retail experience to unwind.
LEGO is showing how to seamlessly connect the digital and the physical to create new experiences. As we continue to spend more time online, businesses should make more of an effort in connecting their physical experience with their digital experience.
As brands are starting to experiment with experiential e-commerce, businesses are going to have to explore how they will create engaging retail experiences online. Being a curator and having an editorial voice may no longer be sufficient.
The shift towards brands being more politically and civically involved is not new. However, as ESG is set to continue to dominate boardroom conversations for the decade to come, businesses are moving from promises to processes to create change. By lending is incredible infrastructure and know-how Amazon is putting its money where its mouth is and is actively contributing to improve our lives.
Social distancing has meant we are leading increasingly disconnected lives. With many businesses embracing a shift towards working from home and some schools praising distance learning, we can expect this trend to continue. However, as humans we make sense of the world not only through perception and reasoning, but also through social interaction. In order to avoid a workforce struggling with mental health, businesses will need to adopt an agile strategy when adopting new work models that are more dispersed.
Maglev trains could help create clean transport infrastructure and transform travel as we know it. They may exacerbate further disconnect between our workplaces and where we live, change the face of travel retail and increase inter-regional trade.
The Gamestop case study is one example of how retail investors have taken the market by surprise and created outcomes that nobody thought were possible. As investing apps and communities continue to grow, it is reasonable to expect more volatility in the short-term. In the long-term, this could prove to be a fundamental power shift to retail investors, which would mean boards and the C-suite might have to start paying more attention to Reddit than Wall Street.
Monitor how governments respond to anticipate whether we will see a continuation of civil unrest or not.