This and many salient trends in 2020 can be our guidepost for strategizing insightfully for the next 12 months.

Based on evolving public perceptions and sentiments tracked across the Asia-Pacific region, some researchers in decision science and data content have noticed that 10 key trends were fast-tracked by the pandemic and addressing these factors will define 2021 and beyond.

  1. E-commerce exploded, but the experience fell short for new shoppers. For them, satisfaction levels were consistently low, requiring e-commerce players to drastically improve user experiences.
  2. As modern retail blurs the digital divide, shopping is now ‘click-and-mortar’. Consumers are growing impervious to binary channel segmentations, making it less about where a purchase journey begins and more about what drives a purchasing decision.
  3. ‘Work from home’ will become ‘work from anywhere’. Remote-working has become a key business continuity mechanism, redefining notions of workspace, collaboration, and productivity.
  4. Full-time work and career progression redefined. The pandemic is shifting labor dynamics in major ways, and technology-driven innovation will play a major role in the future of workplace dynamics.
  5. Neo-banking is on the horizon, not beyond it. The pandemic took fintech start-ups from the fringes of finance to mainstream name recognition. 
  6. Financial advisory gets the app treatment. The pandemic has accelerated the rise of digital platforms for everything from financial advice to retirement planning.
  7. Health and well-being got up close and personal. The lockdown have been opening people’s eyes to health tech, driving them to spend more money on health-related products and services.
  8. Global anxiety hits the roof thanks to creeping germaphobia. The pandemic has turned many people into anxious germophobes, leading to record-breaking sales of cleaning and disinfecting products, as well as transforming the way we greet, mingle, and interact with one another.
  1. Many large institutions failed the litmus test for leadership. The pandemic revealed the limitations of many respected institutions. Meanwhile, people valued essential workers and frontline officials who dealt with the pandemic up-close.
  2. Rise of the Asian resilience model in crisis management. Asia-Pacific nations applauded their country’s handling of the crisis, while disappointment and resentment grew in Europe and the Americas.

Commenting on the insights, David Black, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Blackbox Research, which created the trend report, highlighted the growing need for people to take greater ownership and control of everything from consumption, work, and finance to health and governance. “The data shows that there is a marked desire for a greater sense of agency in these difficult times. People have changed the way they look after their own health, approach personal finance, navigate workplace dynamics, or even relate to governments and institutions. This has accelerated a lot of the technology, innovation, and mindset changes that we were not expecting to converge until a few years from now.”

Three strategies to watch in 2021

  1. Society: Public distrust in institutions will continue if they fail to act
    The pandemic revealed the limitations of many respected institutions, from the World Health Organization (WHO) to national governments and Fortune 500 companies. Most notably, Blackbox’s data indicated that 31% of people felt that the WHO performed below expectations, and 36% expressed the same sentiment towards the United Nations.

    Since people valued essential workers and frontline officials who dealt with the pandemic up-close, this may suggest that organizations can overcome the trust gap by walking the talk, breaking away from superficial messaging, and by taking swift, tangible action.

  2. Less reliance on office real estate, more on a distributed worldwide workforce
    The lockdowns have transformed remote-working from an occasional perk to a key business continuity mechanism: some data claims that 9 in 10 workers are not rushing to resume office life, having fully adapted to working remotely.

    Beyond discussions on the new videoconference-driven economy and how future home interior design will give rise to workspace planning, the rise of flexible work arrangements will have wider repercussions. Employers now have the ability to hire well beyond the cities in which they operate, making remote locations much more attractive than big cities where talent, taxes, and real estate are infamously expensive.
  3. The future of banking is not just digital, it is ‘digital-only’
    The pandemic has accelerated the rise of digital platforms for everything from financial advice to retirement planning, shaking up the advisory industry as a whole. Blackbox data reflected a 6%–8% growth in the use of digital financial services platforms, suggesting that people may be hedging against future crises by taking more control over their finances.

    In the next few years, financial advisors will need to step up their game by offering tailored, user-friendly, and automated digital services that make them stand out in the new world of online advice.

“The pandemic’s most enduring impact will be its role as catalyst and accelerant,” said Black. “As this year comes to a close, there is a sense of hope and opportunity—however tenuous—that comes with the dawning of 2021. It is up to us to figure out how we can build ourselves back up to not only survive, but thrive, in the new normal.”