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Business Unusual

What 2021 may hold, a look at the trends that will shape the new normal

9 December 2020 7:15 PM

A look at some of the shift predicted by TrendWatching that may take hold as a result of the impact of Covid-19 and the growing impact of climate change. 

Trendwatching is a company that relies on hundreds of spotters to send the examples of interesting business practices from around the world. They are based in the Netherlands with offices in six other cities and work to take those interesting practices and try to determine if they are clever once off campaigns or part of a bigger shift or trend. Here are some of the trends they believe will be more likely to take hold thanks to the impact of a stressed global economy, Covid-19 and climate change.

You can read the full list, but here is an overview of some of them.

  • 15-minute cities - improve access to necessities to make everything in walking distance. The example offered is of a company in the US called Reef that is repurposing parking lots and parking garages to be used for delivery kitchens for food and as collection and drop off points for retailers. Rather than requiring you to travel long distances they hope to see most services made available locally or to have distribution points extend a store footprint right across a city.

  • We have relied on Supply and demand economics for the longest time but they believe that the Doughnut economic model is a better way to go. It looks to counter the extractive attitudes before Covid-19 looking to move to a regenerative and distributive economy. The model seeks to find a balance between the things we are short of and to limit the things we produce too much of. Shortfalls are water, food, health, education, income and work, peace and justice, a political voice, social equity, gender equality, housing and energy while managing the impact of our actions on air pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen loading, land conversion and biodiversity loss. Hardly the sub headings you are likely to see in a company business plan, but governments could develop policies to promote the opportunities that businesses can then adopt to entice responsible consumers to choose their products over rivals.

  • A ride hailing app in Colombia makes drivers owners in the company which is a better way to manage the relationship rather than exploiting drivers to grow market share in order to cash in on an IPO and ultimately fail to turn a profit exempt for the founders. There have been some very big IPO’s this year which do look more like a pyramid scheme than a sustainable way to build a solid business, Quartz noted that the last time we had such a big year for IPO’s was 2000 and what followed was the dotcom crash.

  • Making mental health part of product design I think is not just a trend but already looking to be a reality. Much like fast food outlets that would like to see their customers eat their product, it does not benefit them if they eat so much, that they get ill and need to stop. In the same way digital products which are a major driver of new retail options would not want to see them become rejected or regulated for having a negative effect on our lives. Devices will look to not only check on how you are feeling but look to have you avoid behaviours that will impact on you negatively.

  • VR concerts. while real concerts can't happen the potential for a VR option can be explored. They could become the modern music video. Or the inverse of a theatre in the round. The performance is place around a central camera, you put on your headset and headphones which places you where the camera was and you can watch the band perform from the best seat in the house while looking all around you. Not only do you get a great seat, but everyone gets to share the same one. You decide when the concert will take place. It is unlikely to replace the effect of being in a crowd singing along to your favourite act but will be a step up on the silent dance clubs which have become a lot more popular.

  • Internships for the over 50s - this they based on the creative industry having very few older people still working and while it is an industry that needs the young to come up with the ideas, the processes and methods for ensuring it is executed correctly would benefit from someone who has been around the block. The same mix of youth and experience might apply to education, accounting and countless other industries provided there was also a model to fund it.

  • Better banking for the unbanked, lower fees and more access to financial services. This is almost guaranteed but not because banks will see an opportunity for big profits or for moral reasons. Banking has become so automated that many of the services are more like commodities with the marginal costs for managing accounts almost zero once you have spent the huge amounts to secure the servers to manage it all. The other reason I think this will be a certainty is that telecommunications companies are morphing into banks and banks are seeing the benefits of getting into telecommunications, a big userbase base will make that easier.

  • Robo roaming - robot sentries and workers. The robo-dog Spot used as sheep herder but also for managing social distancing and mask wearing, a version for moving livestock between fields to ensure better grazing would help look after the animals and the land.

  • Post work benefits - AirBnB created an alumni for staff that were let go to help them find new jobs and allowed them to keep items like laptops if they did not have one themselves, this could become a new standard for exiting staff.

  • Carbon labelling, not just the sales price but the hidden costs too. By managing a cost budget along with a carbon budget you may get consumers to force producers to lower their impact. In the same way that demand for free range products were initially way more expensive with time the costs of managing free range options at better scale with more stable prices allowed them to drop. Having a set carbon budget of say 20kg a week would see you move to products that have less and in time see more products with less carbon become more typical

  • Goodwill gaming, as more play games, it becomes a better space to encourage players to do good deeds. For organisations that are happy to donate but want exposure for their philanthropy you can get gamers to play in order to unlock the rewards for charities, not unique but likely to become a bigger way of handling donations.

9 December 2020 7:15 PM

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