Mapping out new territory – this is the key thread that winds its way through the 2021 Fjord Trends report, and after the year we have collectively lived through, it feels personal. Now in its 14th edition, Fjord Trends is an annual report by Accenture Interactive that looks at the future of business, technology and design. “This year’s report looks at the new, the unexplored, the scary… but on the other hand, the really exciting opportunities for businesses,” says Martin Wolfram, Country Managing Director at Accenture Luxembourg.
In 2020, Fjord Trends presciently predicted that the world was at a tipping point and that major change was on the way. Already there was a sense that businesses needed to change to better meet the growing importance that consumers and employees were beginning to place on purpose, from environmental sustainability to ethical treatment of workers. Then the Covid-19 pandemic came along and upended every sphere of life, forcing businesses to innovate and reinvent entire processes and products overnight in order to stay relevant. “Businesses are being asked to have a purpose,” says Mark Curtis, Head of Innovation and Thought Leadership at Accenture Interactive, “and for me there’s zero doubt that 2020 and the pandemic have accelerated that.”
Displacement, DIY, empathy and new rituals: Meet the 2021 Fjord Trends
Collective Displacement, the first of this year’s Fjord Trends, reflects the overall sense of displacement we are all feeling, with changes affecting both the personal and professional spheres of daily life. People around the world quickly responded to lockdown life with Do-It-Yourself Innovation, the second trend, coming up with ‘hacks’, especially those using digital technologies, to deal with new challenges. This marks a shift in the expectation of brands to provide finished solutions towards providing technology that enables innovation and creativity.
With the overnight shift to homeworking, the third trend is Sweet Teams are Made of This, reflecting the major changes in employer-employee relations and the ongoing adjustments that will be needed to find a new way of working. “This is the one clients want to talk about the most, as it’s a subject of enormous fascination for everyone,” says Curtis. “We need to find our way back to the core values of work, such as seeing other people face-to-face, while dealing with new logistical problems of hybrid spaces.”
With everyone spending much more time on screens, the desire for new and better experiences has accelerated, reflected in the fourth trend, Interaction Wanderlust. Already, brands across all types of industries are creating immersive digital spaces that feel like destinations in their own right. Liquid Infrastructure, the fifth trend, describes the ability to be able to respond to supply chain demands in real-time, a key new challenge for businesses that involves reevaluating the importance of physical versus digital assets and focusing on delighting customers. “In Luxembourg, the last year has seen a massive acceleration into the cloud and we can expect major investment in IT. At the same time, there’s a clear focus on gaining back client intimacy and evaluating offerings through mobile channels,” notes Wolfram.
As the pandemic has further brought inequality into the spotlight, brands need to ensure they’re meeting the Empathy Challenge, the sixth trend, as consumers increasingly expect not only meaningful brand values but also evidence relevant action being taken. Finally, the seventh trend, Rituals Lost and Found, reflects the deeply felt loss of the key rituals that mark our days and years, and the opportunity that brands have to create new ways to replace them. “Businesses have already been finding ways to be creative and bring hope, from Mars Confectionary offering a virtual Halloween trick-or-treat experience to the London marathon being held virtually, with thousands competing via a running app,” says Curtis.
Navigating the waters to a new way of working
As restrictions are gradually eased over the coming year, companies need to continue to be aware of the psychological state of both their customers and employees. Curtis emphasizes that, “There is still considerable uncertainty, and we need to stay on top of how people are feeling to deliver the right products to them.” Companies should also expect to tackle the challenge of finding the right balance of remote and office work, as well as feel out a new working relationship between employer and employee this year. “We can expect to see a more hybrid workplace – the next few years are going to be about prototyping. The future of work is on everyone’s mind as we embrace the fact that remote working is here to stay,” says Curtis.
Brands must step up to lead the way forward
Despite the difficult year behind us and the challenges still to come, the Fjord Trends report takes an optimistic tone, focusing on the positive impact that brands can make in their customers’ lives and across wider society. “People are exhausted – we’re way further into this ‘new normal’ than we ever thought we’d be,” says Curtis. “During this pandemic, organizations have assumed a role of authority. It’s up to businesses to take a positive and confident view on the future and talk to our customers in a way which brings them hope.”
Discover the full Fjord Trends 2021 report from Accenture Interactive at https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/interactive/fjord-trends