5 Key Trends for 2021 & Beyond: Insight | WGSN
This has been a year of pronounced upheaval, yet it’s laid the basis for changes in our relationship with technology, knowledge and each other. These shifting attitudes are the driving force behind Insight’s key trends for 2021 and beyond
WGSN Insight Team
12.21.20 · 5 minutes
1. She-covery Strategies

The impending global recession caused by the pandemic will differ from previous downturns in that the majority of the jobs lost have been in sectors typically dominated by women (hospitality and service), leading to what's been dubbed a Shecession.

In the past, navigating a recession required a ‘He-covery’, or job creation in traditionally male-dominated fields in order to to get those impacted by job loss (mostly men) back to work. In 2020, however, being that it was female-led industries that were hardest hit, governments and companies will need to invest in women so they can return to work, or risk reversing years of economic and social progress.

For example, with many US childcare facilities soaring in price and facing closures, experimental retail store Camp hosted virtual summer camp for kids, offering parents a moment of respite and the chance to get some work done.

‘She-covery Strategies’ ensure women’s financial health, and that of the next generation, isn’t further compromised. Enabling women to get back to work will ensure they continue to contribute to the economy as consumers; incredibly important considering working mums, in particular, control household spend across three generations. According to Armine Yalnizyan, an economist and Atkinson fellow on The Future of Workers, there is "no recovery without a shecovery and no shecovery without childcare".

2. Digisexuality

Forging real relationships with technology will become normalised as a result of our increasingly digital world – particularly as technology matures and becomes more intelligent. We identified this ‘emerging attitude’ back in early 2019 in a report titled The Buzz: Digisexuals, which explored the emerging sexual identity where people emotionally or romantically turn to tech in place of other humans.

No longer a figment of our imagination or a sci-fi movie plot - this is the dawn of a new relational era where the physical and digital worlds are blurrier than ever. Much like many other trends previously forecasted to hit a few years out, the pandemic accelerated the rise of man and machine relations with more people now relying on tech for love, intimacy, friendship and support throughout 2020 than ever before, during a time when IRL connection has been dangerous and impossible. Embracing technology is a safe (and sanitary) solution to socialising while also satisfying the need for companionship and emotional connection amidst a time of so much loneliness and grief.

Those who identify as ‘digisexual’ leverage immersive tech, such as VR, AI and robotics, to cultivate a relationship without the physical or emotional need for other humans to be present. Or, presumably, all that messy emotional baggage.

Lauren Humphrey for WGSN
3. Gamified retail

As the gamification of branded content becomes a staple for consumers, instead of one-off mini-games, brands and platforms are beginning to create more comprehensive gamification systems, with rewards ecosystems that encourage consistent engagement over time. This evolution is also boosted by the effects of Covid-19 on IRL retail, with rising numbers of consumers switching over to e-commerce. Expect more people keen to immerse themselves in this blend of entertainment and shopping online. Taobao launched its in-app avatar game Taobao Life, which connects directly to e-commerce. User avatars can be dressed in Taobao-endorsed products that feature direct links to buy. So far only apparel and beauty brands have a presence. By completing in-game missions, such as viewing and buying from Taobao stores, users gain gold coins to buy new virtual items and unlock product filters. It’s the new ‘window’ shopping.

4. Genuinfluencers

Meet the genuinfluencers, coming soon – just one swipe away from you.

The role of social media influencers evolved in 2020, becoming crucial to the fabric of society, which will remain heading into 2021.  Influencers will step up, driven by their social civic duty, spreading truth to their followers. Look to Finland, where during the pandemic, 1,500 influencers were named 'essential workers'; an unpaid position where they were tasked with spreading important and vetted safety information to the public. Governments will increasingly rely on influencer talent, even employing them to engage with the public amid an ecosystem crippled by misinformation. In August, for example, the UK the government tapped Love Island star Shaughna Phillips to post NHS information in a new kind of paid role for the influencer.

We’ll also start to see a shift to virtual influencers acting as truth crusaders, sharing key (and controlled) information and truth on behalf of influential groups such as the World Health Organization, which teamed up with virtual influencer Knox Frost at the start of the pandemic to encourage donations and to share safety updates.

This new type of serious storytelling will naturally and seamlessly integrate with influencers’ everyday lifestyle content… and will feel less like advertising and more peer-to-peer driven, with a focus on lessons learned over likes.

Lauren Humphrey for WGSN
5. Indigenous insights

The Covid-19 pandemic and growing environmental concerns have set in motion consumer value shifts around the world. Collective conservation is triumphing over individual preservation. To adapt to and prosper in this new world, brands need to quickly reassess their core purpose and strategies, aligning them with the collective good. Forward-thinking businesses – from architecture firms to beauty brands – are looking towards the value systems of indigenous peoples around the world to better inform their own relationships with the environment and community. The holistic nature of indigenous wisdom takes into account the world in its collective state, looking at the complex interconnectedness of issues such as sustainability and globalisation. There’s a real opportunity for companies to adapt their businesses to incorporate indigenous wisdom into their strategies, combining it with the best of Western-centric knowledge to drive business value which benefits people, the planet and the bottom line.