insight • Mar 08 2022

6 Experiential Trends That Will Affect Our Lives

Remember those Magic 8 balls? It was always so much fun to ask a silly question, give it a good shake, and see what answer popped up in the little window. Every year we see articles and lists about what to expect in the coming year. And while we no longer rely on Magic 8 balls, lists based on experiential trends and past behavior can provide valuable insight to help us put our best foot forward, business-wise. 

What we know for sure is that the best organizations are those that are forward-thinking, with their eyes focused not just on what audiences want right now, but what they will want and need in the future. 

Our research across a wide range of industries — from retail to hospitality to healthcare and commercial properties — indicates a variety of experiential trends that will affect our daily lives in myriad ways. One common thread is that people increasingly prefer to spend their time and money on experiences. In fact, a recent global trends report indicates 34% of people surveyed said they would rather spend money on experiences than on products. Keeping that in mind, let’s jump in. 

Here are 6 experiential trends that will affect our daily lives in 2022:

 

1. Immersive Experiences

Immersive exhibits such as the popular Van Gogh or Sistine Chapel experiences are wildly popular and are expected to become even more widespread. There is a growing interest among consumers to not just be the observer on the outside looking in, but rather to feel they are part of the experience. This desire and ability to literally immerse and become a part of the art is unlike anything we’ve been able to experience in history and it’s an indicator that VR-type experiences are here to stay.

The very nature of virtual and immersive experiences is to provide multi-sensory interactions between the consumer and the product or service being offered. Certainly, many of these experiences were fast-tracked during the pandemic as a way to sustain and grow businesses. However, now as we begin to see pandemic restrictions lifted across the country, it’s a prime opportunity for organizations to take a page from the virtual experience playbook and implement these strategies to create a dynamic in-person experience. 

Bottom line: Consumers are exploring virtual worlds and looking for nontraditional ways of experiencing many things including fitness, art, culture, dining, sports, and more.

 

2. Flexible Hybrid Options

The most successful businesses, and the ones that were more likely to survive this pandemic, were those that were open to change and able to adapt and pivot their business models quickly to respond to the changing needs of consumers. Consumers want businesses to be responsive to their needs and to deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations. This is what consumer loyalty is built upon. Every day and in every touchpoint in the customer experience, organizations are either building loyalty or they’re eroding it. 

In the past year or so, healthcare organizations and hospitals amped up their safety protocols, limited or cut visitor access, and conducted much of their non-emergent business virtually through remote scheduling and zoom-type apps. This high-tech approach prioritized patient and employee safety as much as possible without compromising the customer or patient experience. Now, as hospitals return to a post-pandemic world, it is risky to abandon many of these high-tech communication tools as patients’ and customers’ expectations have risen. 

Consider independent and chain restaurants, bakeries, and other dining establishments. They, too, had to pivot to hybrid out of necessity during the pandemic, and the result was unmistakable. Think digital menu options either online or with QR codes in person, curbside pickup, the growth of third-party delivery services such as DoorDash and UberEats. In cities such as New York and Boston, temporary outdoor dining popped up to accommodate social distancing — and many of these temporary structures have been enhanced with heating and cooling to maintain a year-round presence. Certainly, these kinds of hybrid offerings will hinge on the availability of smart technology and the ease with which customers can use these offerings. 

Bottom line: Business models across most industries, particularly healthcare and hospitality, must continue to be increasingly and continuously responsive to offering a kind of hybrid approach to in-person vs virtual services, depending on the customer’s needs. 

 

3. Climate Responsibility

This has been an emerging trend for several years now; however, younger consumers are increasingly having a profound impact on the economy. In particular, Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are actively looking to engage with businesses and brands that are committed to combating climate change. 

In real estate, Millennials represent the largest share of home buyers, and this younger demographic is wielding their purchase power and looking for homes with features reflecting their values of sustainability, energy efficiency, smart design. 

In the workplace and at home, consumers are making changes in their day-to-day lives such as adding solar panels, installing energy-efficient doors and windows, and purchasing hybrid or electric vehicles. Consumers are mindful of where they spend their money and they want to engage with businesses and organizations that share their values and that show a similar commitment to the environment and are doing their part to combat the effects of climate change. 

Bottom line: Sustainable design in buildings and homes is no longer just a nice thing to do. With purchasing power on the line among the fastest rising group of consumers (Millennials), it’s vital that brands apply the same level of rigor and commitment to protecting the environment as they do to growing their bottom line. 

 

4. Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Burnout was a huge problem pre-pandemic, and now nearly three years into Covid, it has become endemic across many industries. 

In healthcare, doctors, nurses, and other “essential workers” have reached epic levels of burnout. They are taking care of patients, but have we ever considered who is taking care of them? The nursing shortage was at peak levels a few years ago and the pandemic has only exacerbated the need to focus on retention efforts.

In restaurants and retail industries, there are almost daily news stories of workers who have been harassed for asking customers to wear a mask, socially distance, or show their proof of vaccination cards. Hourly workers and entry and mid-level managers are deciding in large waves that this is no longer for them. In what a recent economist noted was the “Great Upgrade”, people are leaving their high-stress jobs for better wages and less stress. 

In healthcare, the term “patient experience” has been the focus for the last decade or so. In hospitality, the phrase “guest experience” is often tossed around. Today, we also see a focus  on the ”employee experience”. Successful organizations know that happy employees = happy customers. 

Bottom line: Investing in design that elevates the Employee Experience can improve employee satisfaction, increase employee loyalty, reduce turnover and burnout, and ultimately, elevate the Customer Experience. 

 

5.  Workplace Expectations

At the beginning of the pandemic, most, if not all traditional brick and mortar buildings sent their workers home. Now, two years later, as some return to their offices, many others are choosing to work from home. As a result, homeowners with means are investing in the creation or redesign of home offices to support a flexible work environment. There has also been a significant jump in interior and exterior home renovation projects (think: upgraded kitchens, luxury swimming pools, outdoor kitchens, and decks), as more people attempt to transform their homes into luxury oases. 

Leading the pack among the home renovation crowd are Millennials, who not only represent the largest demographic of current homebuyers – they also spent tens of thousands of dollars on home improvement investments during the pandemic

Bottom line: Expectations have increased. Expectations that is, among workers — not employers. In 2022, workers that return to a traditional brick and mortar will expect the same kind of conveniences as when they worked from home, otherwise, they may look for employment elsewhere.

 

6. Simplifying Digital Tools

QR codes, online shopping, online covid test scheduling for work or travel requirements, online vaccine scheduling, and more. For people that aren’t savvy with digital apps and online scheduling platforms, navigating many of these things may prove not only difficult but incredibly frustrating. 

Seniors especially were forced to adapt. And, they remain among the groups most vulnerable during this pandemic who may also have been the most likely to have to rely on apps for online shopping, food or prescription delivery, and other vital services. 

Offering these tools digitally is the first step, but if your audience has difficulty navigating or using these tools they are ineffective. Online tutorials or intuitive, easy-to-navigate apps and software can prove useful in guiding those less familiar with technology to successfully get what they need. 

Bottom line: Organizations must take into consideration the wants, needs, and tech-savviness of every consumer demographic when designing new digital engagement strategies  (particularly for the healthcare industry as Baby Boomers increasingly rely on more care as they age). Those organizations that do, will likely earn loyalty from their consumers. 

 

There are many experiential trends that will affect our daily lives this year. Ultimately, for an organization to be successful, it comes down to knowing what people value. By adapting and proactively anticipating consumer wants and needs, we build systems and processes that create a seamless human experience.

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