Originally published on LinkedIn by Risto Lähdesmäki
We’re entering a new era of consumer behavior. Brand-new habits are emerging – it’s already happening. Just a few weeks ago we were hugging and shaking hands with no fear. Today, we’ve come to accept greetings and interactions from six feet apart … and who knows, is that gonna be the new normal? The increased need to do everything online is ushering in the next digital revolution. What other new habits will arise? Who will lead the charge?
Habits drive how we work, play, eat, and live. Habits shape the collective consciousness of our culture. Habits endure, and yet habits can suddenly shift in unpredictable directions. Nothing changed habits like the 1929 stock market crash and the decade-long, brutal Depression that followed it. The pain and hardship of World War II was another global behavior shift. Yes, the crisis we all face today will be much more than just a passing thing.
Together, we all have the power to shape these habits that will define our lives and our future. So we better take action now.
The patterns we spent years acquiring are disappearing by the minute. Work, food, friendship, entertainment, sports, fashion, and travel – we are about to see so many experiences and things from an entirely different perspective. This will not pass like a summer rainstorm. Whatever your industry or business, mastering new and evolving digital technologies will be central to how these new habits and behaviors play out in business and our lives. Now is the time to adapt your strategic response.
Oh, and before I go on, it’s not just about business. These habits will heal the planet and change how we live in it. This is the silver lining of the crisis.
Here are my Seven Habits of the Digital Revolution
Habit One – Technology becomes the engine of work, collaboration, and creativity
- High-level remote work skills will be like reading and writing. The baseline for professionalism.
- Top teams will function like elite Navy Seals in their mastery of online tools and experiences, with demonstrably superior collaborative capacity and productivity.
- International collaborations will accelerate, as travel is no longer seen as a prerequisite.
- Offices will become secondary or unnecessary. Companies will need to provide data to justify the extra cost and risk of the physical overhead.
- Caveat: This doesn’t mean that meeting people would become unnecessary, we will find new ways. We still need human touch.
BONUS TO PEOPLE AND PLANET: Carbon emissions will be lowered dramatically (and precious time saved) as people reject unnecessary travel, including long-haul flights and daily commutes. We’ll learn to manage our time more efficiently and since we’re traveling less, we get to spend more time with friends and family.
Habit Two – Businesses and stores become digital-first, physical second
- E-commerce is your core business. Brands need to seduce customers into engaging in an in-store experience.
- Stores and offices will transform to “touchless” but not “heartless” environments. (Think Amazon Go 2.0, or the next Apple store. As one of the first modern experiential stores nearly 20 years ago, I can guarantee you they are working on it right now.)
- E-presence will drive brands. Value-based digital-native subscription/DTC models like Stitch Fix, Peloton, Warby Parker will gain in popularity as they offer a clear and enjoyable alternative to brick-and-mortar experience.
BONUS: Commercial property will be freed up for positive community activities. We’ll see huge energy savings from fewer offices and stores.
Habit Three – Companies will excel at prototyping and innovating digitally
- Leading firms will reinvent customer research (online interviewing, video, data).
- Firms will master faster iterations and release of new products, offerings.
- Companies will demand less friction and more end2end when developing new ideas – all the way through go-to-market and beyond.
- Marketing and R&D will finally extinguish the firewall between their silos. This crisis will force companies to work closer together. Fewer silos, less politics, more value!
BONUS: An alliance between marketing and R&D will increase chances of product success as we start delivering what people really need, not what we want them to buy. As a by-product, people working in these companies will be happier as they feel their work is meaningful.
Habit Four – Storytelling’s central role rises with the digital revolution and the decline of physical touchpoints
- If your product is not authentic, your brand won’t be authentic and therefore you’ll suck. Don’t suck.
- Storytelling authenticity and aptitude will become the cornerstone of your brand
- Companies that are doing good right now, messaging about their positive contribution to combating the crisis, will be at an advantage. Empathy finally drives marketing!
- The more we see, the more we know. Yes, we are all watching, reading and listening to more stories than ever, and that experience will make us value true stories even more and detect false stories even faster.
- Traditional, dull stories will be replaced by fresh models attuned to our new habits and powered by emerging technological tools.
- Emotional connection will drive the most compelling stories.
BONUS: The heightened focus on stories will bring new attention and action to true environmental and human causes. As companies introduce more meaningful products, we’ll be drawn to the authentic stories behind them. Better thoughts = less anxiety.
Habit Five – Safety and security replace the cost-savings and convenience of sharing models
- Hygiene is now foundational. But how do you make it transparent or even possibly fun? Gamification, anyone?
- Trust becomes the prime value proposition for stores, hotels, transportation, businesses, partners. Touchless interaction with technology becomes a norm – and we’ll see products engineered with antibacterial materials.
- Novel ways to design safety and security into products and services will be critical. Think Airbnb and Uber, they will reinvent themselves fast – or die.
- Creative yet secure methods of tapping data will be imperative.
- We’ll be more willing to share our personal data in exchange for better experiences. When traveling, countries may demand to know your health condition before they’ll let you in. Wanna share or not? Gonna be part of your passport?
BONUS: As people take more initiative in their own cleanliness and hygiene, they’ll learn to extend that care and custodianship to the planet. (Like Native Americans.) Services that provide security and trust (e.g. through blockchain) will become mandatory. That technology might help us avoid “Big Brother” dilemma.
Habit Six – Desire for local (food, products, experiences) challenges the anonymity and vulnerability of global supply chain powerhouses and mega platforms
- Back-to-basics replaces conspicuous consumption.
- Local community ties sway buying, brand loyalty, and major consumer choices.
- Instead of buying from faceless brands, we wanna know the actual people who are providing our eggs, wine or even toothpaste! Remember, a brand has to be authentic.
- Repairing and re-using products becomes a value and life choice.
- Blockchain and distributed ledgers will come into their own in new applications for secure tracking/authentication/provenance.
BONUS: Keeping the trucks home saves millions of gallons of fuel, and increases community engagement. Local business will thrive and we’ll become “local citizens with unlimited global opportunities”.
Habit Seven – Digital experiences & learning eclipse the physical, in-person model
- E-learning, digital workshops & online collaborations become the gold standard in all training and education
- Big conferences, physical workshops and colleges struggle.
- Virtual virtuoso performances (avatars, holograms, and AR) will reign in lectures, workshops and entertainment.
- Designing for serendipity becomes a key goal. Innovators reinvent how to mimic the discovery process at the heart of chance meetings. New models will emerge to facilitate “smart” meetings and collaborations, both in the physical and digital world. Your online profile will never be more important. Your data and preferences will determine your access to real-world events and successful matches in the online world.
- Haptics, here we come. Now is the time to prototype the future of human touch.. The next experiential breakthrough will create the same connection, joy and emotional response – without “traditional” touching. Ready Player One becomes real. Homes will have dedicated rooms for all this.
BONUS: Students of all ages will suddenly have more agency to make autonomous choices. A whole new class of leaders will emerge who might not have been candidates in the offline-world. We become like Jedis. We gain the digital superpowers we’ve dreamed about all our lives.
Why are these new emerging habits so important to visualize right this instant? The world is changing by the minute, and if we want to stay ahead of the curve, we need to design with vision and empathy. It’s not going to be easy. It takes courage to be bold. To be first. There will be a tendency to step back, to hope for the old ways to return. But there’s also an optimistic side to this challenge. We have a tremendous opportunity to remake a lot of things for the planet and the people. A chance to change things that need changing.
One final thought. Empathy is as important as ever, but caring can be that “filter” that helps us to see the future and define our best habits. Care deeply about each other and about what’s happening around us. That will allow you to rethink your priorities and have a positive impact on society. That’s what we need right now, as leaders, creatives, innovators and human beings. I’ll write more about this later.
The next phase of the digital revolution is already in motion. What do you think? What habits will change, which ones won’t?