Recently, I listened to a panel hosted by On24 about the changes to people’s openness to new behaviors and experiences, and what to expect from consumers as we close out the year.
What I found most interesting about On24’s research was the prediction on the desirability of in-person versus strictly digital experiences. After delving into analyses on the topic, the only consensus I found is that brands should pay attention to the social nature of events. We’ve seen countless online concerts, dance parties, sporting events, etc. pivot to online, which has been better than the complete absence of these, but the energy of being in-person seems to be near impossible to replicate digitally. On the flip-side, things like grocery shopping, cooking, and movies, more easily executed solo, have more staying power, and therefore aren’t as ideal to focus future brand efforts on bringing back in-person experiences.
It’s naturally important to build a flexible game plan going forward, but as we look to provide strong counsel for our clients, that guidance should help keep them on the right side of future activities. For starters, it appears that people across the world are sticking to the patterns and routines they developed at the start of the pandemic. According to the research, for example, roughly 25% of people with jobs worldwide expect to continue working from home once the pandemic subsides. From other research I’ve seen, that number is triple the amount of people who worked from home prior to this year.
Additionally, the behaviors that people plan to maintain even after the pandemic subsides revolve around comfort. While younger people have long fostered a hybrid model of doing things virtually as often as (if not more than) going to physical venues, older demographics, like Boomers, have learned during the pandemic that they can easily adapt to life online. A great example is grocery shopping — unpopular as an online experience amongst Boomers pre-pandemic. However, due to Boomers’ higher risk levels, they have become exponentially more comfortable ordering groceries and other products online, and this behavior seems to be sticking. Researchers see this behavior change as a key point to consider when designing the future of experiential brand plays.
Taylor’s own research showed that tons of brands created digital activations to mimic their usual counterparts. According to ANA’s Insight Briefs, this will likely have to continue until a vaccine is developed and social distancing rules can be loosened. The subsequent question then becomes: If companies continue to create digital events and those become the norm for more and more people, what virtual vs. in-person experiences and behaviors will remain post-COVID, and what will not?