WGSN Futures London: 5 Key Ideas

Wellness and the future consumer

WGSN Futures arrived in London this week, inviting 200+ senior executives to a day of keynotes, panels and discussions focused on The Future Consumer. Taking place at Altitude 360 – complete with breathtaking views of one of the world’s most creative cities – the event opened up a number of big ideas that brand leaders and creative thinkers should take note of as they develop their future strategies. Here are five of the key takeaways.

Your future consumer will have a very different relationship with technology.

“I live with two hackers,” announced James Poulter, social technology lead at LEGO, as he took to the Futures stage. One of these is Alexa, the Amazon-owned AI that operates his Echo speaker. The other is Hazel, his two-year-old daughter. And it’s Hazel who really points to the mindset of the future consumer. “For Hazel,” Poulter said, “there’s no such thing as the Internet of Things; there are just things. And there is nothing artificial about artificial intelligence.” Hazel’s interactions with Alexa, he explained, are entirely normal to her.

The next generation’s reliance on tech will go “far beyond convenience” to sheer necessity, he added, proposing that as well as AI, we should be prioritising AE: artificial empathy. Key to increasing empathy will be increasing play. “Play unlocks our ability to see from a different perspective,” he said. “We need our socially connected experiences to become more playful… and we need to design safe, non addictive experiences for future generations” – so that their relationship with tech, as well as being more intuitive than ours, can also be more healthy.

The mood market is emerging: here’s how to design for it.

We live in the Age of Anxiety, said Lorna Hall, Head of WGSN Insight, in her keynote speech. “Engagement with tech is creating a world where we’re too busy to process our own emotions. Our own internal processes can’t keep up. Tech can bring us together, creating moments with meaning that matter, but it can also alienate and isolate us, and that is coming to the fore at the moment.”

The result is the emergence of the mood market, where emotion can – and increasingly will – be designed for, and experiences should centre around helping consumers to understand and optimise their state of mind. “It’s about creating an experience in which your customers feel alive and connected,” said Lisa White, Head of WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors and The Vision. Identifying six emotions – out of “a possible 300” – she described how brands are designing for Joy (“In today’s climate, optimism must become a strategy”); Calm (“Customers are always searching for that feeling of calm. If we can help them at all with that, we must”); Curiosity (including a VR experience from Sotheby’s that “lets you enter the artist’s brain”), Comfort/Discomfort (“Breaking out of your comfort zone, for your clients and your customers, will be key”); and Belonging (“Kindness is a key word”).

Workspaces of the future will revolve around wellness.

Another place where brands will increasingly be tackling anxiety will be within the workplace. 1 in 4 workers experiences workplace stress, anxiety or depression, said Abigail Rappoport, CEO of Emoquo – a service that enables workers to digitally assess and analyse ways of working in their office to help improve wellbeing. Helping people to discover their own communication techniques and preferences, and better understand other people’s, leads to a feeling of control as well as self-care, she said – and doing this digitally, rather than with a human-based service, can help take away stigma and fear of judgement.

Inky Thinking for WGSN Futures London. Photo by Joshua Sherwood

The next wave of virtual fashion retail is coming.

“VR and AR are going to have a huge impact on the future of fashion”, said Simon P Lock, CEO of online showroom provider ORDRE. The next generation of virtual reality technology will bring in interactivity, he explained – so that buyers, for example, can swipe through VR fashion shows to speed them up, as well as swiping to save their favourite looks within the program. ORDRE is also exploring VR versions of physical showrooms, including the possibility to design a number of different fit avatars, so that customers can visualise outfits on their own size and shape of body to see if it will suit them.

Another innovation to watch will be in haptic tech – particularly new technology that profiles fabric using radio waves, then reverses the radio waves through a glass touchpad so that you can feel the fabric on your fingertips. This particular tech, he said, is at the stage of development where salmon scales can be scanned, so that you can feel the fish skin virtually, but with absolute clarity. 

Make a difference – but make sure you commit to it.

Much of the discussion across the day centred around caring, activism and compassion. Daianna Karaian is the founder of Thoughtful Works, a creative guild that brings thoughtful creators together with mission-driven start-ups. She described her company as being run by “passionate pragmatists and quiet rebels”, who want to work “with the system to make it better”. In today’s world, she said, “there is increasingly no other option than to make money by making a difference – to the people who work with us, the people who buy from us, and the planet we live on.”

A number of speakers backed up this assertion, while underlining that caring must be credible – and to be credible, it must come with commitment. “It’s better for brands not to stand for anything than to pretend to stand for something,” said Lauretta Roberts, manging director and editor-in-chief of The Industry London. “If you just pretend you care, people are going to find you out. If you’re not going to do it with conviction, far better to not do it.”

Josh Coombes, a hairdresser who is the creator of the #dosomethingfornothing initiative, summed up many of the themes across the day – empathy, emotion and a move from selfie-ish to selflessness – when speaking of his own experience cutting the hair of, and spending time with, homeless people around the world. “It’s not raising awareness, it’s raising compassion,” he said. “Since I started this project, I haven’t been more fulfilled than when I do this.”

WGSN subscribers will be able to access our full report exploring the key themes at WGSN Futures London 2017 later today. To find out more about WGSN Futures and to book your ticket for upcoming events, click here.


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