Innovating in a radically changing world?

COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. We are shopping (much) more online, home educating our children and enjoying restaurant meals at home. Perhaps the biggest change of all is the obligatory social distancing from anyone who doesn’t belong to our household. Meanwhile, we continue to go about our business as best we can, at home and at work. In fact, wherever you look, innovations, NPD processes and product launches that were on hold until a few weeks ago are being started up again at full speed.

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But how can you best align your new product with the needs of the consumer in a post-COVID-19 world? What burgeoning trends must your new products respond to? Because if one thing is certain in these uncertain times, it’s that new trends will emerge while existing trends will either gather pace or fade away.

Blauw spoke with Blauw associate and Trend Expert Evelien Dieleman. What are her expectations for the future?

We have seen various trends coming to the fore in recent years: one is a ‘healthy and conscious lifestyle’. We want to eat healthy food, be fit, live more consciously, give more thought to daily things and ‘unplug’ from time to time.

We like to be in complete control of our lives and our health increasingly seemed to be in our own hands. Masses of people now wear activity trackers to measure how much they move and what that means in terms of permitted calorie intake. We have also been monitoring our heart rate, banishing e-numbers from our diet and embracing superfoods for years.

But then Corona came along and plunged our health & lifestyle planning into disarray. Empty shelves, closed gyms… Control has slipped from our grasp. We are dealing with a virus whose behaviour is impossible to predict. For years we have been yearning to let things go and unplug, but we never really dared to. Now we have no choice: we MUST let go and be more flexible. And that greater flexibility is probably here to stay… With what innovations can businesses play into that new mind-set? Will activity trackers remain popular, for instance, or be replaced with a 2.0 version or disappear altogether?

Another development we saw in recent years is the growing concern about loneliness, particularly among the elderly. We wanted to devote more attention to each other. But that only happened on a small scale and superficially, when it suited us. Sometimes our efforts may even have felt a little forced and insincere. Now that everyone is obliged to stay at home, loneliness has become a real issue. The attention we devote to each other is genuine, we are sending our parents and grandparents cards and calling (or video calling) them more often than ever, and doing the groceries for strangers who cannot get out themselves. Through these activities and innovations, we are now tackling loneliness head on. What products do consumers need to help them in these efforts?

Corona has thrown us back on our primal impulses, such as fear and love. It makes us more sincere and more creative. We see opportunities that we were formerly blind to and our horizon has shifted from the future to the here and now. Corona has triggered a change in consumer behaviour and new needs are arising. Needs that are rooted in our primeval feelings and instincts, and are less plannable than before.

Corona has spurred all sorts of activities such as home cooking with healthy products, doing jigsaw puzzles, organizing online drinks parties, exercising on our own and spending more time with family. So Corona has definitely also brought many good things. But which activities are only temporary revivals and which ones are here to stay? Which activities, in other words, should your business consider responding to? For instance, will consumers remain true to healthy eating? And are extensive family breakfasts the new normal or will we all revert to a quick morning bite on the go?

What trends will lead to innovations?

Blauw devotes a lot of attention to trends in its concept and proposition research. Focusing not just on the consumer’s wishes and needs today, but also on the bigger picture, including important trends moving forward. Which trends will drive innovations? And how can you as a business get a slice of the action?

In these times of accelerating change, taking trends on board in your concept and proposition development is more crucial than ever.

Are you interested in taking new trends on board in our rapidly changing world?