10 Trends for 2021

Posted by on March 12, 2021 in Articles

10 Trends for 2021

Prepare and prosper in a post-pandemic paradigm

By Vivienne O’Keeffe, CIBTAC, AAD, PEA

Regular readers will be aware of my belief that trends should be a component of everyone’s business strategy. Now, as the end (fingers crossed!) of the coronavirus pandemic approaches and leaves behind a changed civilization, it’s more important than ever to get a glimpse of the big picture.

For this article, I have combined my own observations with those of a couple of excellent reports: the just-released Wunderman Thompson Future 100 trends to watch in 2021 and the Euromonitor International Top 10 Global Consumer Trends 2021.

I’ve managed to boil them down to 10 that I think our industry needs to be aware of. Wellness and self-care are the big winners in my mind, with tech up there as well.


1. Taking charge of our health

Nootka cedar sauna, British ColumbiaWitnessing the fragility of our health care systems during the lockdowns has prompted many of us to take charge of our health and wellbeing as never before. Some fitness equipment shops have sold out of home exercise devices like rowers and stationary bikes, and in my neighbourhood in Coastal BC I’ve spotted many new installations of outdoor home saunas, such as the Cedar Barrel Saunas made by Nootka Saunas in Whistler.

The self-care trend has similarly increased demand for clean, eco-conscious skin and body care products as well as proof of their legitimacy.


2. Spas crossing over to wellness and medical

A new medi-spa in Edmonton that I helped design last year – Activ MD Derm Spa – leverages the expertise of a purely medical dermatological facility next door run by the same ownership. This crossover spa offers a range of aesthetic services, and is a good example of the kinds of crossovers the Wunderman report says will be emerging in 2021.

“Expect to see more crossover between the beauty, wellness and medical categories as sanitization and protection from COVID-19 are increasingly considered key aspects of self-care practices,” predicts the report.

Wunderman quotes Dr. Patricia Celan, a psychiatrist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, calling makeup ‘a form of self-care.’

“Wellbeing has never looked so imaginative, personalized and refreshing,” sums up the report. “A year of restraint has unleashed a burst of creativity as experimental beauty takes over the home and social media, inspiring beauty brands to add versatility to their offerings.”


3. Rising eco-consciousness

Communing with Mother Nature has been one of our few permissible joys during Covid. Environmental consciousness and bias towards eco-friendly products can only continue to increase after the pandemic is gone as consumers align their values with the ethos of skincare brands.

It’s hardly a surprise that the beauty industry is onto this trend. Zero Waste Week reported as far back as 2018 that more than 120 billion units of cosmetics packaging are produced globally each year, most of which are not recyclable. Since then, niche beauty brands with more sustainable approaches to ingredients and packaging have arisen, and today we are seeing a greater push to rethink the industry, with bigger brands getting involved.

The Euromonitor report calls it ‘Build Back Better’– rejecting a purely volume-driven economy in favour of a value-driven one geared to fixing environmental damage.

And there’s a social component.

“The health crisis profoundly impacted people’s needs and shopping habits,” it says. “Higher empathy for brands with a strong sense of social responsibility became a permanent consumer demand.”


4. Earth-friendlier eating habits

Since diet and eating habits are of high concern to the majority of our wellness clientele, you should know what some experts think about changes coming to the ways we grow and consume our food.

The problem, according to Our World in Data, is that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are food-related, with a disproportionate amount from commercial livestock and dairy, and nearly 60 percent of the world’s arable land devoted to beef production alone.

According to YouGov, one in five millennials is already changing diets out of environmental concern.


5. Home as a haven and nature-infused design and interiors

Home as a safe haven is ongoing as consumers continue to comply with their forced cocooning. I am seeing more home spas and wellness interweaved into all aspects of our home and work lives.

Wunderman reports our rediscovery of the great outdoors is making us leave behind the bright, saturated hues that trended in 2020 in favour of organic-looking palettes of warm, earthy tones, soft whites, rich golds and deep blue-greens.

“Décor in these kinds of colours will settle your clients and bring them closer to our wild origins. Interiors are becoming sanctuaries as never before, and as people are seeking stability, they’re gravitating toward colours and spaces that evoke feelings of warmth and security,” says Gemma Riberti, head of interiors at trend forecasting company WGSN, in the report. “The softness, dependability, and versatility of neutrals create interiors that soothe, comfort and protect.”

Something to keep in mind next time your home or business needs a makeover.


6. Touches of nostalgia

A mini-trend – at least in the audio world – seems to be a return to nostalgia. Because, amazingly enough, vinyl records actually outsold CDs in the U.S. in 2020 for the first time since the 1980s. Vinyl and cassettes had a similarly banner year in the UK. And the famous K-Pop band BTS sold out of its last two singles in both vinyl and cassette. Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based NINM Lab launched the It’s OK Bluetooth cassette player, a modern-day version of the classic Walkman. And last summer French startup We Are Rewind unveiled its prototypes for a Bluetooth cassette mini-deck.

What’s the connection to our industry? As I’ve mentioned in past articles, the deeper we delve into the impersonal media of text, email, Face Book and Zoom, the greater will be our need for actual human touch. It’s not hard to infer that young people seeking comfort in the tactility of tape player buttons and phonograph needles are also pretty good candidates for the kinds of hands-on treatments most spas specialize in.


7. Phygital reality

Euromonitor uses the term ‘Phygital Reality’ to describe an emerging digital-physical crossover phenomenon.

“Consumers embraced internet-connected devices to maintain their daily routines amidst COVID-19 lockdowns,” it says. “Video conferencing, smart appliances and technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) helped consumers form new habits around working, learning, exercising, shopping and socializing. These digital tools keep consumers virtually connected despite being physically separated from the outside world.”


8. IRL not dead yet

While COVID dealt a hard blow to physical retail, it has also brought into sharp relief the power of an IRL (In Real Life) retail experience. Whether through more individualized experiences, digital elements or inspiring, unique design, retailers will be striving to make physical retail experiences more memorable, while keeping customers safe.

So before we lament the passing of brick-and-mortar stores, I’m going to say I think they will always be around. People love to shop as much as ever and have begun to cherish in-person experiences even more. To compete with the likes of Amazon and Wal-Mart, stores will return in a format that’s new and improved – with more emphasis on entertainment and service and the kind of customer experience that can never be duplicated in front of a computer screen.


9. Safety obsessed

“COVID-19 sparked innovations that prioritized sanitation as a critical product feature like Haier developing a self-sterilizing air conditioner,” reports the Euromonitor. “Global sales of vacuum cleaners, especially steam models, soared in response to consumers’ anti-virus cleaning needs.”

“Cleanliness credentials are becoming a key selling point as decontamination remains a key issue. Purification protocols will likely remain a leading factor in consumer decisions in the months and years ahead.”

“A safe and trusted brand image will be intangible assets for businesses,” continues the report. “COVID-19 was the catalyst that drove sanitation concerns, requiring prompt responses from manufacturers to meet stricter health and safety procedures. Unattended commerce and e-commerce will be widely adopted where unnecessary human interactions are minimized.

“Safety and health will be at the forefront of consumer behaviour. Companies across industries should develop robust hygiene initiatives in response to heightened concerns. Businesses that incorporate exceptional sanitation features into products and services, while communicating these benefits, will attract Safety Obsessed consumers.”


10. Revenge spending and travel

I came across the phrase ‘revenge spending’ recently, and it instantly registered. Just last week the Bank of England made a statement that there is some 125 billion pounds in pent-up demand for products in the UK. That’s a lot of revenge.

The moment we can put this pandemic behind us, I believe the pent-up demand for in-person experiences, adventure, fun and excitement will take off like one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Spas, which have been particularly constrained by well-meaning but harmful government regulations, could see an especially big resurgence of cautious, eager customers making up for lost time and treatments.

At least that’s my hope. And I suspect yours as well.


Published as “10 Trends for 2021” in Spa Canada March/April 2021

Vivienne O’Keeffe, CIBTAC, AAD, PEA, is President of Spa Profits Consulting Inc., and an expert in designing successful spa concepts. She is also an international consultant in developing product lines, treatment plans and training programs, a member of ISPA and a recipient of the Spa Industry Association of Canada Outstanding Industry Service Award in 2001, 2005 and 2012. 

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