What the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2021 Mean for Events

Author: Michelle Russell       

trends 2021

Morningstar used VR — an example of the phygital reality trend — to demonstrate a spirit of experimentation at its Morningstar Investment Conference (MIC).

Euromonitor International, a London, U.K.–based market research firm, has just published its Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2021, which provides insights for the business events industry. Because what are your attendees if not consumers?

The top takeaway as a result of the pandemic is that we want to make our world better — “either for our own sake or for humanity,” according to the report. Resilience and adaptability are the driving forces behind these top global and consumer trends in 2021.

Here’s what Euromonitor says we should be on the lookout for:

Build Back Better — Consumers are expecting that companies care beyond revenue and that they protect the health and interest of society and the planet. “Companies should help reshape the world in a more sustainable way, leading a shift from a volume- to a value-driven economy and turning the tide on social inequity and environmental damage,” the authors of the report write. Nearly seven out of 10 business professionals surveyed by Euromonitor said that they expect consumers to be more concerned about sustainability than they were before COVID-19. And before COVID, consumers identified reducing plastic waste and food waste as among their top environmental concerns.

How are your events taking a stand on social and racial equality and environmental sustainability and following through on those values in your planning and execution? For example, plastic waste and food waste are two things organizers have control over when planning in-person events.

Craving Convenience — This is an easy one. “Digital commerce provides a seamless experience without the in-person component that consumers are familiar with,” according to the report. “High-touch and relationship-driven businesses have an opportunity to test self-serve, touchless, or unattended operations.

The takeaway here is to make your registrants’ online — and in-person — experience as frictionless as possible.

Outdoor Oasis — Indoor meeting restrictions and the rise of remote working have consumers craving the outdoors. “Consumers still desire socialization and human connection despite health hazards associated with large gatherings,” reads the report. “Dining, exercising, socializing, and relaxing in open-air venues become essential for trapped consumers.”

It’s clear that outdoor venues and spaces will have an edge when in-person events return. An additional insight: City dwellers are moving to more rural areas, the report points out. Perhaps that will make second-tier destinations that brand themselves as being close to nature more appealing to consumers.

Phygital Reality — Phygital Reality is defined by Euromonitor as a hybrid of physical and virtual worlds where consumers can seamlessly live, work, shop, and play both in person and online.

The business events industry has obviously embraced hybrid events, but there are additional insights here for consideration among event organizers — nearly 60 percent of consumers under the age of 29; 55 percent of consumers aged 30-44; and one-third of consumers 45-59 have used AR/VR in the past year. For those over 60, it’s just 22 percent — a challenge Morningstar recognized when it offered a VR version of its online conference. Here’s an additional takeaway from the report for event organizers: “Businesses can develop a Phygital Reality strategy using apps to facilitate onsite virtual experiences and partnering with technology providers to recreate in-person occasions at home. Companies that deliver safe and memorable experiences via multiple methods and platforms will develop loyal customers.”

Playing With Time — Newfound flexibility as a result of WFH (working from home) provides consumers with more time “but finding the best use of this time can be difficult,” the report points out. “Managing work, family, social, and personal lives is both a challenge and an opportunity.”

This is the side benefit of online events offering asynchronous and on-demand sessions that attendees can access at their convenience. The challenge is to help remind them to go back to view these sessions. As Velvet Chainsaw’s Dave Lutz has learned from experience, scheduled replays outperform on-demand views from an engagement and consumption perspective.

One bonus takeaway: Consumers now expect a 24-hour service culture, so having a chatbot feature for frequently asked questions about your event is something to keep in mind.

Restless and Rebellious — Distrust in leadership has become the norm, according to the report, and social unrest has led to lootings and riots. “The pervasive distrust in media and online content means companies have an opportunity and an obligation to ensure that marketing dispels information,” Euromonitor said.

This speaks directly to event organizers: “In 2020, 37 percent of consumers shared their data to receive personalized and targeted offers and deals. More precise marketing on social media and via gaming will be key for a company navigating 2021. Online virtual experiences will remain relevant, and businesses will be at a loss if they do not consider these avenues for growth and branding.”

In other words, despite a distrust in major institutions, consumers are willing to provide personal information in order to receive content tailored to their needs and interests. Event organizers should make sure that the information they are collecting from attendees will benefit them in return.

Safety Obsessed — This is another trend that is easily translated to the business events industry: Enhanced safety measures and innovations that target consumers’ demands for increased hygiene and contactless solutions are necessary reassurances. Venues that are Global BioRisk Advisory Council certified will have a leg up on venues that haven’t achieved that level of accepted hygiene credibility.

Shaken and Stirred — Mental wellbeing has become top of mind for consumers, as the pandemic “brought new stress factors, including health risks, unemployment or economic hardships, isolation, upended routines, and demands for new roles and skills.” Offerings that promote “self-improvement, skill development, life-balance support, and financial resilience will gain traction even as the pandemic wanes,” Euromonitor said.

For event organizers, that means an emphasis on activities (online or in-person) that help their attendees in terms of mental wellbeing (e.g., yoga or meditation breaks). Additionally, your events need to address how to equip your stakeholders with the changing skills they need now in order to thrive.

Thoughtful Thrifters — With discretionary spending declining due to the current economic climate, Euromonitor said, “companies should pivot toward value-for-money propositions, offering affordable options without sacrificing quality. Premium attributes should be reinforced with a new empathetic story and have as strong tie-in with health and wellness, self-care, or mental wellbeing.”

On top of economic constraints they may face, your audience might have gotten used to digital events being free in the initial pivot to online, making the thrift trend even more of a challenge for virtual event organizers. Which makes it all the more important to make sure your program is relevant and communicates its value. As a recent unconferences post said: “Given the present state of most industries, we’d argue that platforms that gather communities to share insights and co-create solutions are more valuable than ever.”

Workplaces in New Spaces — The final trend in the report underscores that with WFH still the norm, businesses must support work-life balance and productivity needs. One tech innovation that arises from this trend that is particularly relevant for event organizers: tools that facilitate remote collaboration and help connect colleagues. “Businesses should give consumers a sense of belonging and connection through interactive digital engagements,” the report states. Which is exactly the business of the events industry.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.