The pandemic has taught everyone to adjust and be flexible in life. People have realised the value of self-care, mindful living and a more sustainable lifestyle. These changes will soon be the new routine.
Kantar brings 10 themes that define how consumers are preparing themselves for 2022.
Instagram is the new store
Fuelled by India’s fast growing smartphone penetration and inexpensive data, social media access and engagement has been steadily growing. As the pandemic further accelerated the growth of e-commerce, social commerce has emerged as a favoured means of online shopping.
Making a purchase on social media has brought back the element of the shopping experience that shoppers miss in the online store environment. Discussions, direct messaging and video sharing features make social commerce closer to shopping in person. Consequently, social chatter is fast becoming an active driver of brand choice; while advertising manages to influence *38% towards a brand, *41% tend to be swayed by comments or reviews posted on social media. Riding on social word-of-mouth, today there are social commerce shoppers, account for **53% of total online shoppers in India.
Stepping ahead of dynamic customer engagement, social commerce has proved to be an effective and affordable channel for smaller businesses. This channel has also presented a cost-effective alternative for larger businesses and brands reeling under the pressure of mounting customer acquisition costs and struggling to protect these precious customers from competitors wooing them endlessly with deep discounts.
Going small to live big
In earlier times, the big city fuelled dreams and aspirations of the youth and beckoned with the promise to ‘make it big’. The same city now seems stifling with matchbox homes, chaotic traffic, hectic schedules and cluttered living. The urban trapped millennials have been looking for breathers in their busy corporate lifestyles, often finding respite in trips along unchartered tracks.
The lockdown and the opportunity of working from home has allowed them to consider an alternate to the city humdrum. As companies chose remote working as ‘business as usual’, the service sector employees chose to move ‘back home’ to smaller towns.
What might have started as a prudent decision to save high rent expenses eventually seems to have translated into a more longer-term lifestyle adjustment. There is a conscious effort to recalibrate needs and wants as *59% believe that the pandemic helped them be more appreciative of what they already have. Many are stepping away from the tiring race to success and charting their own path for professional fulfilment, often trading off a heavier pay cheque for a fuller life.
Much of the infrastructural development in India has been metro centric. The current trend offers a unique opportunity to reimagine our cities, our infrastructure, and mobility. Brands, on the other hand need to reinforce supply chains to avoid losing customers due to last mile connectivity gaps.
Seeking assurance in ‘ghar jaisa’ khana
The pandemic has made consumers painfully sensitive about the importance of health and immunity. A more focused approach to individual health requirements, an increasing appreciation of the traditional diets and a growing interest in the functional benefits of our familiar kitchen ingredients are triggering conscious food choices.
Consumers are seeking comfort in familiarity, especially in the times of turbulence. They are more mindful of what they eat and are willing to make an effort to table fresher meals, *72% prefer fresh home cooked food than the packaged with the fear of preservatives. If the meals are not from their own kitchen, they would prefer it from someone else’s to be assured of the hygiene and quality of ingredients, thus making home chefs a rage. ‘Bahar ka khana’ is not yet worry-free as *44% do not feel safe ordering food online these days. At the same time there is a growing awareness about mindful eating rituals such as slow eating, appreciation of what’s on the plate and a deeper consciousness of the emotional connect with food.
With increasing importance to freshly cooked meals, consumers would be open to kitchen solutions in terms of ingredients or appliances that make ‘home-made’ easier. Additionally, the affinity towards ‘home like food’ will also guide what the food industry will offer in terms of offerings on restaurant menus.
According to the World Economic Forum, while the rapid evolution of machines in the workplace will displace 75 million jobs by 2022, it will also create 133 million new roles. As companies have been on their accelerated journey of digital transformation, the moot question has been whether the Indian workforce is ready for this change.
Constant learning has become an imperative for workers to adapt to changing times and stay relevant. Through this volatility, upskilling has become the new insurance cover in the job market, ensuring stability in an unpredictable workplace disrupted by technology. Proactive self-learning through online courses has become the new norm for working professionals trying to stay employable as well as students gearing up to join the work force. *65% of learners upskilled to strengthen career prospects and *33% of learners were senior-level professionals. As both freshers and experienced employees become more conscious of the skill gap and lean in to bridge it, enrolments into online courses continue to exponentially grow.
Proactive and consistent training and development led by employers will be increasingly critical, not only to keep the workforce equipped for the changing workplace, but also to ensure that employees are engaged and invested in the evolving business imperatives of the organisation.
Exercising autonomy through gig work
The Indian freelance job market gained rapid acceleration with the pandemic induced job instability. However, what started as a necessity, is now a carefully considered choice for many. The comfort of flexible work schedules, coupled with an apathy for the corporate workstyle has been holding freelancers from going back to full-time employment.
On the other hand, the Great Resignation of the west is showing signs in India too. ***62% of India’s workforce has the intention of switching jobs this year, compared to an average of ***41% globally.
Most gig workers value the potential for higher earnings and flexible timings in their choice of work and are happy to trade off a steady income and job stability in the bargain. Women looking for employment after a sabbatical have found freelancing to be the much-needed bridge to join back the workforce. The nature of freelance work has also evolved and gig working is not limited to factory or support function jobs. **70% of the Indian freelancers on their platform were working in core management functions.
With 15 million freelancers, India is already the second largest gig market in the world. In the long term, the Indian gig economy has the potential to service up to *90 million jobs in India’s non-farm economy. India Inc. should make the most of this opportunity to absorb diverse work force and let them contribute professionally while taking care of their personal comfort.
Shrinking personal space with remote work
Working from home had started with the promise of more comfort with workdays without travel and meetings without formals. Very soon this advantage was turned on its head as lines between work and personal life started blurring. Work expected you to be always on call and home assumed you were never away. Though remote work was expected to improve employee productivity, there is mounting evidence of increased burnout.
**1 in 3 professionals in India feel burnt out due to increased workload and unmanageable stress. Professionals are seeking their personal space that has been squeezed between the responsibilities of home and work and they are looking forward to coming back to their workplace. *57% feel that commuting to their place of work would be a welcome relief after months of working from home.
Corporate India has already taken cognizance of this situation and there have been measures to ease life in these times for employees. While focus has been on making work from home more convenient through virtual workplaces, organisations will also need to start rethinking their entire work models, culture, and values to ensure better mental health amongst the workforce. Employees are also learning to draw a line between personal and professional while operating from the same physical space.
Yearning to get away from home
Tired of being cooped up in their homes with social distancing norms, travel restrictions, people have been aching to step out of their homes. With the easing of mobility restrictions, restaurants are witnessing rising footfalls as Indian consumers making frequent visits to their favourite restaurants. Not only are consumers keen to experience a refreshing restaurant ambience rather than ordering in, the average order values have increased by *20%. Work from home restrictive lifestyles have also allowed some more disposable income which consumers are glad to spend outdoors as evident in luxury dining increasing by as much as *120%.
Lockdown fatigue had resulted in strong pent-up demand which is fuelling unique trends of ‘getting away from home’. Travellers have started to rekindle their travel plans through weekend getaways and similar convenient means to escape from the challenging life of work-from-home stifling schedules. Considering the renewed emphasis on personal control over cleanliness and hygiene, travelers are looking for nearby locations for road trips. Staycations are also an emerging trend where people are checking into luxurious hotels to rejuvenate themselves with a pampered weekend.
With varying rules of social distancing as we witness new waves of the pandemic, consumers will learn to switch on and switch off their social lives but would always yearn to step out. As consumers continue to seek respite from house arrest yet again, by planning for getaways, dropping into restaurants for a meal or even choosing to work from coffee shops, the reassurance of sanitation and hygiene-related measures such us fully vaccinated staff would ensure that they keep coming back.
Beauty goes beyond skin deep
The pandemic brought hand hygiene to the forefront where consumers reacted out of fear without having the time or opportunity to make well thought through choices. The scenario however is vastly different today with consumers making well researched choices in personal care and are realising its significance of self-care more than ever.
With virtual workplaces and limited social engagement, there is no mad rush to show up looking one’s best and people are moving towards a more sustainable self-care practice grounded in nature, health and wellness. There is an increasing positive disposition towards slowing down through daily self-care rituals. A stark contrast to the fast-paced world of the beauty industry that sells us quick fixes, cover ups and immediate results.
Consumers have become extremely conscious about taking care of their bodies, and not just for the purpose of looking good. Fewer people are insisting on stepping out of home with make up (*30% vs. *49% last year) and declining interest towards cosmetic surgeries (*17% vs. *48% last year). The millennials especially have become acutely conscious of the long-term benefits of personal care regimes. What started as an obsession for sanitisers and hand-washes, has now gradually moved towards conscious choices of personal care, personal hygiene and wellness products.
Brands need to be cognizant of shift in consumer choices towards personal care and grooming and cater to this growing affinity towards sustained self-care through their product solutions as well as communication of benefits.’
True inclusion finding a voice among the youth
Consumers are being drawn towards brands that embrace diversity and advocate causes that support social equity. The generation Z, being at the forefront of this movement, are evaluating brands with a conscientious looking glass. These globally connected consumers are constantly absorbing information and influences to make brand choices. They deeply value freedom of expression and the openness to accept different kinds of people and bluntly call out brands for stereotyping or alluding to any kind of discrimination.
This generation is also taking active steps to make a change around them *36% of Indian Gen Z educated themselves on diversity and inclusion matters and *37% tried to educate and change the views of those around them. *22% of Gen Zs have boycotted a company because they didn’t agree to its views or actions.
There have been examples of inclusive marketing countering stereotypes to create a vision that consumers can resonate with and embrace. There has been a shift in advertising campaigns featuring stories of real people told with a sensitivity that has found favour with consumers.
Brands looking to engage this generation will need to extend their efforts beyond mere lip service. Just dressing brand communication with diverse imagery will not be enough. To stay relevant, brands need to embed diversity in their organisational culture as well as in their product development endeavours.
Collective consciousness towards sustainability
The pandemic has been a wake-up call; consumers are now acutely aware of the cumulative damage caused to the environment by human carelessness and are eager to ‘make good.’ *76% pay lot of attention to environmental and societal issue in the news.
Increasing awareness and heightened consciousness have paved the way for more mindful living where consumers are seeking to coexist with nature and the environment. *77% are prepared to invest time and money to support companies that do good and while shopping *64% consumers factor in sustainability atleast once in a while.
Sustainable actions that people are most willing to take today like reducing food waste, saving energy are those that have been part of the Indian ethos for generations. Yet, there are gaps between intentions and actions as most shoppers buying on autopilot are focused on saving money rather than the planet. Further, they don’t often have enough information about how sustainable products are different and the impact they make on our environment.
Brands can fuel these actions by increasing awareness about the use of green energy in their production process, making it easier to recycle, incentivizing consumers and making it convenient for them to buy sustainable products.