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What Consumers Will be Looking for in a Post-COVID World

By Alicia Rosa

Brand Central Insights

Consumers are starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel. This new vaccinated world will be a testing ground to see if the pandemic-driven trends and habits will stay. At Brand Central Insights we’ve been able to look at the trends from the last year at a bird’s-eye view to see what’s going to stick around for the long haul and what will join the graveyard of TikTok fads. As we get closer to a post-COVID world, consumers will be looking to reclaim the time spent inside and celebrate extravagantly, but won’t want to lose the conveniences, communities, or creative hobbies they discovered in quarantine.

E-Commerce & DTC

Online shopping and e-commerce habits will likely continue post-COVID, despite the excitement of returning to “normal” and shopping in-store without safety restrictions. DTC brands saw major success during the pandemic—a report from Scalefast and YouGov found that one in three Americans don’t see a difference between buying from a DTC shop and a traditional retailer. As long as purchasing is convenient and fast, consumers will continue to experiment with DTC brands and products instead of relying solely on mainstream retailers. E-commerce in general has become more important to all consumers, and this need for convenience won’t trail off as people return to brick-and-mortar stores.

“Revenge shopping” will also be a theme as people look to celebrate and socialize after a year of quarantine restrictions. Recreational product categories like hiking and camping are already seeing surges in sales and the National Retail Federation is forecasting an 8.2% increase in overall consumer retail sales. Many experts are predicting unprecedented spending in all categories, and similar trends were seen in China after COVID lockdowns were lifted.

The Creator Economy

If you’ve had a trend report subscription with us in the last year you already know the “Creator Economy” has been growing steadily, driven by the fact that 75% of Gen Z wants to be a YouTuber when they grow up. The pandemic kicked this economy into overdrive as Gen Z and Millennials flocked to platforms like Twitch and TikTok to build their own supportive communities, often centered on shared values or niche interests.

These micro-communities will continue to thrive this year, especially on social platforms like Patreon, Twitch and Clubhouse. Unlike the traditional influencer marketing economy of the last 10 years, this new creator economy allows influencers to cut out brands and deal directly with their community. On platforms like Twitch and Roblox fans can even spend real money to purchase digital currencies like Robux or “channel points” to unlock exclusive rewards. 

Brands will need to carefully choose their influencer partnerships and look for creators who have built deep connections with their community, even if it’s a small one. Gen Z also tends to turn to these smaller creators because it allows for more interaction and deeper trust.

Fast Interiors Are Coming

2020’s quarantine gave Gen Z and Millennials lots of time to nest and creatively decorate their spaces. According to NPD, housewares grew 22% in 2020 compared to 2019, and this won’t be slowing as people return to normal. Even retailers like Macy’s saw double digit growth in homewares. Apps like TikTok will continue to drive rapidly changing decor trends and encourage users to get in on the fun before the trend disappears. This will create a growing appetite for decor and home goods that could become as “fast” as fast fashion retailers like Shein or Fashion Nova. Right now Gen Zers tend to turn to makers for home decor trends like weirdly shaped rugs, spray foam mirrors, disco ball textures, and checkerboard prints, but as the obsession with trendy decor increases, a new brand could enter the space and become the Shein of home goods.

Digital Edu-tainment

Educational entertainment has been a lifesaver for parents this year. As kids return to in-person school the need for educational entertainment won’t slow down and we anticipate more brands entering the space, especially on digital platforms like YouTube and TikTok. As the trend grows and consumers find their favorites, we can expect these brands to eventually migrate to linear TV or streaming, similar to what we’re seeing now with Cocomelon moving to Netflix.

Podcasting will play a big role in this trend as more brands turn to the format for storytelling. Kids are going to get more into podcasting, especially series that are interactive or part of a property they’re already obsessed with. Disney dove into this trend with their exclusive “Marvel Declassified” podcast with SiriusXM.

Many of the habits consumers picked up at the beginning of 2020 are here to stay and are set to get even bigger as life returns to pre-COVID “normal.” Convenience and flexibility will be key to keeping new customers and creating excitement.

We Bring You Up to the Speed of Now

We’re Brand Central Insights, a custom trend intelligence service from licensing agency Brand Central. We understand that trends change so quickly it can hinder the ability to strategize and innovate, so we created a unique offering that distills pop culture trends and market insights most important to your business so you can stay focused on the future.

Want even more trends in the meantime? Contact us to learn more about Brand Central Insights and for a sample report! Email Alicia at alicia@brandcentralgroup.com today for more information.


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