Phygital Reality: Consumer Lifestyles Will Straddle the Physical and Digital Worlds in 2021

This article discusses one of the trends from the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021 white paper.

Amid lockdowns to curb the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), consumers embraced internet-connected devices to maintain a semblance of their daily routines while stuck at home. With the help of video conferencing software, as well as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools, many formed new habits around not only working and learning but also exercising, shopping, socialising and more that enabled them to stay virtually connected to the outside world, despite being physically separated from it.

While many consumers will no longer be forced to stay home in 2021, many will choose to do so more often than they had before the pandemic. Now settled in their at-home routines, they will continue to explore new ways of connecting with the outside world digitally, without having to leave the comforts and conveniences of home. Meanwhile, they will only venture out to reopened physical spaces like gyms and stores as needed, and as desired.

As a result, global brands will continue to make investments in captivating consumers across both the digital and physical worlds in 2021. The most successful will be those that deliver memorable experiences to their customers, no matter where they may be, while also gathering valuable data and driving e-commerce sales.

Fitness gurus will promote a digitally connected at-home routine

Restrictions on gym’s service offerings throughout 2020 prompted many consumers to develop an at-home fitness routine. While some did so with the help of YouTube videos, others purchased internet-connected equipment, such as the Peloton Tread, SoulCycle At-Home bike and Lululemon’s Mirror, that enable them to participate in live classes alongside fellow users, as well as access on-demand classes on their own time. Having transformed their homes into an interactive group fitness studio, they will be reluctant to return to their local gyms in 2021 as often as they had before the pandemic. Instead, they will become advocates for their new at-home fitness providers and the products they sell, including both apparel and equipment, to their friends, family and former gym partners.

Consumers will embrace interactive e-commerce even as retail stores reopen

As the closure of nonessential retail stores led consumers, many for the first time, to shop online for everything from accessories to home décor in 2020, brands and retailers made investments in innovative ways to merchandise their products online. By adopting livestreaming, as well as virtual fitting rooms and stores, companies from Amazon to Ralph Lauren learned to replicate consumers’ favorite aspects of in-store shopping – including shopping with friends, browsing displays and soliciting advice from sales associates – entirely online. As a result, the growth of e-commerce at the expense of store-based retail will only continue even as stores reopen in 2021, as consumers increasingly embrace the digital tools that can now make e-commerce not only more convenient but also more entertaining than shopping in-stores.

At home or away, customer experience will be key

While the promise of effective vaccines for COVID-19 is leaving some optimistic for a quick return to normalcy in 2021, companies and consumers alike will not abandon the changes they’ve had to make throughout 2020. Having shifted much of life online, more global consumers than ever before are now comfortable exercising, shopping, socialising and more from the comfort of home. Therefore, while consumers will begin to venture back out to physical spaces like gyms and stores when they want to and feel safe to do so in 2021, they will also continue to embrace virtual activities and social interactions. As a result, brands must deliver exemplary customer experiences across both digital and physical touchpoints in 2021 to gather data, drive sales and promote loyalty in the new Phygital Reality.

For more insights on Phygital Reality and more global trends driving consumer behaviour in 2021, download Euromonitor International’s Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021 report.