Katie Spreadbury, our UK Managing Director continues our series exploring one year on from the start of lockdown, by talking to Paul Flatters, CEO and Co-founder of strategic forecasters, Trajectory Partnership. Paul shares his thoughts on the individual nature of everyone’s Covid experience, the milestones still to come as we emerge from lockdown and trends that are here to stay.
Katie: What are you noticing most, about how society is shifting and changing as a result of the pandemic?
Paul: A key element of how we’re all continuing to respond to the pandemic is remembering that one size does not fit all. Everyone’s experience of the pandemic is very different and this naturally impacts how they’re feeling about their lives one year on and the continuing extent of impact on their daily lives. For example the financial impacts of the pandemic have been quite polarising. We now have a group of accidental savers in the UK, for whom not going out or commuting has had a positive impact on their budgets – will they have a big spending splurge or are some of the saving habits here to stay? On the other hand, significant numbers of people have been on furlough or lost their jobs causing financial distress, increased debt and worry. People at the opposite ends of this spectrum are going to have very different experiences and pressures as we all look at how our lives will be going forward. They are going to need different types of support and opportunity from the brands trying to reach them.
Katie: What milestones do you think are still to come as we shift out of lockdown and ‘normal’ life resumes?
Paul: We’ve been talking a lot about what we’re calling Vaccine Efficacy Day – or VE Day. A phase of possibly premature euphoria, where in different ways we all ‘celebrate’ the end of the pandemic. Our latest Optimism Index has shown a very distinctive jump in optimism, primarily due to growing vaccination programmes. The feelings of freedom may be accompanied by a splurge in Summer spending, supported by the changing patterns of our social lives that we’ll all once again experience.
However, for every up there is a down and the bill for Covid-19 will eventually have to be paid. We expect some belt-tightening across every group in society, reality will bite and be the slightly longer-term focus as we enter 2022. Again everybody will enter this phase at slightly different times and in different ways. Some are already having to belt tighten. Being mindful of the experiences of needs of smaller groups of consumers, will make it easier to engage with them in ways that are relevant to what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.
What pandemic habits do you think will last for the long-term?
Changed working patterns are something we’re not going to see go away. The Pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already starting to happen. But to me, what’s even more interesting than what it means for our lives in the office, is what it means for our lives at home and in our local communities. Less time spent in an office, means more time and money being spent locally. Where this money gets spent impacts so many industries. From transport and logistics, to hospitality and retail. Service-based businesses such as gyms and hairdressers will be impacted too.
Those who previously commuted daily out of their local community, are now going to feel more engaged, invested and responsible for their local community. Brands that support local activities and the local area will benefit from the heightened sense of locality, local engagement and purpose is a huge opportunity for brands.
To get a sense of perspective on changing trends over the last year or so, why not read the summary of a panel event we held with our Change Agents (in person) just over a year ago.
Watch out for our fourth and final blog in this series – a personal note from Elspeth Rothwell, UK CEO on her experiences over the last year and what she’s learnt.