Here at Foresight Factory, we’ve been looking for “hidden doors” that reveal new pathways of innovation uncovered by the shifts taking place in consumers’ lives as a result of the pandemic. One that we are monitoring closely may not be so hidden or indeed so far away – it’s the door to shoppers’ homes, which have been transformed in the past year into multi-use spaces and in every sense the headquarters of their lives. This already had and will continue to present innovation opportunities for companies in multiple sectors.
Right Place, Right Time
There are many examples of companies which have benefited from the pandemic already, by having the right product offering at the right time to cater to consumers looking at their homes and lifestyles in new ways. These range from Zoom, whose revenues quadrupled in 2020, to Netflix, which grew its subscriber base by over 20%, to the home improvement giant Kingfisher, which saw its share price boosted by the same proportion over the year.
Longer-Term Trends for Innovation
While the rollout of the vaccine and the gradual easing of restrictions in many parts of the world mean that other parts of the economy – such as the beleaguered travel industry – will hope for some respite in the years to come, we also believe many aspects of the changing role of the home will stick. Not just because of what consumers are telling us, but also because the resulting changes are manifestations of trends we had already identified and were tracking before anyone had heard of SARS-COV-2.
One example is the shift to working from home. In our research last year, we found that 14% of consumers in GB and the US expected to work from home more once the pandemic is over, compared with before it began. It’s worth bearing in mind, of course, that working from home has largely been, and will continue to be, the preserve of the white collar professional. But just to take one example, global banking giant HSBC announced in February 2021 that it would be reducing its global office space by 40% and moving to a more hybrid working model. This has led to a need for more flexible use of space within the home, and the emergence of innovations such as the PIVOT bed, which transforms into a home gym.
Innovations in Brand Interaction
We have also seen changes in how consumers would like to interact with brands, with 63% owning or interested in owning a smart home assistant in 2020, up from 47% in 2017. Meanwhile, 57% globally were interested in a service that automatically replenishes basic household supplies in 2020, up from 52% in 2019. Burgeoning interest in such services reflects a sense that the consumer is thinking about their home as a connected space, which can be serviced rather like a business by companies in all kinds of sectors.
Some brands in the retail space are being required to rethink their physical presence, with potentially less footfall in city centres, and more focus on suburban areas where remote workers live, and now work, more often. Even when not in the office, these consumers may still yearn for a takeaway coffee or a freshly-made sandwich to get them through a busy day of back-to-back Zoom calls, so delivery and other forms of local fulfilment such as food trucks become more important for the hospitality industry. Subscription services are another channel to explore, along the lines of Lush’s new Fresh and Flowers deliveries of beauty products and blooms.
Small and Nimble Innovators
It’s important to bear in mind that the opportunities on offer are not only for the titan brands of this world, however. The resurgence of localism that has accompanied the shift to more home-based living means that smaller, more local organisations can also serve these homes as headquarters, with more individual and characterful products that serve a purpose or brighten up another day in front of the webcam. The altruistic angle of supporting a local business is also boosted.
Home as Part of Identity
More broadly, we found that 48% of global consumers in 2020 agreed that their home is important to their personal identity; a figure that has grown from 43% a year previously. It is not just the enforced confinement of lockdown that is important to bear in mind, but also a shift in the very way we think about our homes. This has fuelled the growth in remodelling that has been so beneficial to brands such as Kingfisher. Other categories can get in on the act too, for example Samsung with its new Frame TV, which blends in with the rest of the home like a work of art. Even when we have hopefully cast off the shackles of the coronavirus for good, many consumers will no longer think about their homes in the same way.
Your Hidden Doors to Innovation
To explore how you can best capitalise on this and other future opportunities offered by changing consumer need, have a look at our opportunities and innovation solutions, or get in touch about which specific trends are best to activate, and where your most lucrative areas of innovation could lie.