Thought Pieces

The view from Keko: our predictions for 2021

By 29th January 2021 No Comments

Making predictions after a year like 2020 may sound risky. But because of the sustained nature of the pandemic, the associated lockdowns and the fact that so much of the world experienced the same things at the same time, even nascent trends have become established. And – here’s the first prediction – plenty of them appear to be here to stay.

  1. Masks aren’t going away.
    A behaviour that has long been second nature in parts of Asia, we think mask-wearing is here to stay – especially when it comes to travel. Even when the majority of us have been vaccinated, a raft of research on other airborne ailments will encourage us to mask up on the bus, tube, train or plane. Not because we’ll need to, but because we’ll want to. And this won’t impact our desire to travel in the slightest. In fact, we expect the desire to seek out adventure to be stronger than ever, with travellers choosing destinations based on how well they’ve handled Covid-19.
  2. Diversity is no longer just desirable, it’s essential.
    2020 was the year when the awareness of, and need for, equality went mainstream. No longer just ‘tokenism’, there was a genuine desire to embrace diverse cultures and values from almost every organisation and brand. This was more than just ‘being seen to do the right thing’ – it became about doing the right thing for the right reason. There’s no turning back this momentum.
  3. Shorter supply chains.
    At the start of the pandemic, we saw that the efficiencies and cost savings of long supply chains had a drawback. They lacked resilience and were based on the premise that cheaper was better – albeit not for the environment or the worker. Greater transparency, along with brands adopting ‘closer to consumption’ as a value, will ignite a ‘made locally’ trend. Labels and receipts will be pored over by consumers, and cancel culture will become a potent force here too.
  4. Broadband and tech are utilities, not luxuries.
    Virtual meetings, remote learning and digital dinners revealed the strengths and weaknesses of national infrastructure. Fast and super-fast broadband rollouts will be expanded and accelerated, and hardware will become more accessible to those in society who have had to share or make do without.
  5. Blended meetings and performances.
    Over nine months’ worth of virtual meetings have changed our perception of how normal these get-togethers can be, and how well these digital platforms actually work. Meetings, conferences and launches will always have a virtual element to them, no matter how many people gather in the physical space. But within a single year, we’ve opened up a world where physical presence is no longer a necessity but a nice-to-have, if you will. And this will carry through into arts and culture.
  6. Working in the office, at home and close to home.
    There was one issue which impacted nearly every one of us: where we work. Global surveys show that we missed the office, but also that we benefited from a reduction in commuting hours and distractions. It seems highly unlikely that the mass tidal flows of commuter traffic will return. As vaccines are rolled out and 2021 becomes a transition year back to ‘normality’, expect phased hours. Part working at home, part working in the office and, for many, working in satellite offices between the two. We will make better use of that time in the office too.
  7. The environment matters. Finally.
    Fuelled by revealing data from global lockdowns, the drive to reduce emissions will continue – but now with a bit more passion. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow will be one of the first large international gatherings since the pandemic began – and it will energise policy makers to do more. Individually, our consumption habits will improve, and we will pay closer attention to the behaviours and footprints of our favourite brands. If they don’t tell us, we will ask.
  8. Welcome to phygital
    Many pre-pandemic behaviours have gone for good. Others have merely adapted – especially when it comes to retail. Brands wedded to bricks and mortar who quickly established an online retail presence will not move back. Consumers now wish – or rather demand – to be able to engage and purchase 24/7, entirely independent of their location. And when they do make it into a retail outlet they expect to be amazed. The lingering effect of Covid-19 behaviours will also mean that some consumers will seek out quieter times to shop and a physical retail experience that’s closer to home.
  9. A reshaping of communities.
    The rebalancing of our city centres has begun, with major cities around the world using a reduction in road traffic to introduce more dedicated cycleways. This is a slower transformation than some cyclists might want, and it requires economic growth in return, but the debate had already started before 2020 – now it has simply accelerated. Meanwhile, large retail spaces will be broken up to attract more independent companies, and the conversion of retail and office spaces to residential will provide much-needed housing for both ends of the spectrum – the young and the retired. And because people have been spending more time in their local environment, they will take more interest in its development.
  10. Out is the new in.
    Over the course of the pandemic, we embraced eating, drinking, meeting and exercising outdoors. Temporary road closures to provide extra space for outdoor restaurants is already talked about as becoming a seasonal feature. Winter may well still push us back indoors, but perhaps not for as long as before. In the meantime, we predict a micro-trend boom on down jackets, hats and gloves – alfresco drinking is not just for the ski slopes now.

So there you have it – our top ten predictions for the year to come. If you’d like to be among the first to know when – or if – they come true, we can keep you posted via The Keko Debrief. We hope that 2021 proves to be a predictable year for you in a more general sense. And we look forward to spending it with you.