During lockdown and home confinement, we see articles every day that try to predict the “new normal” way of living – and its impact on businesses. There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused a drastic and rapid shift to a home-centred existence. But in reality, the emerging trends towards “Home HQ” have been coming for a while.  

Home HQ is already an emerging trend.

Data from Google searches and shopping habits indicate that people have been looking to avoid commuting long before the lockdown. They focus instead on pursuits that give them joy, pleasure or comfort, often within their own home.  

Comparing 2019 with 2017, Google found a 210% increase in searches for “remote jobs”. Meanwhile “with me” videos on YouTube have boomed, as people look to become more self-empowered and take on tasks or learn new skills at home.

An analysis into Time Use in the US from January 2020 showed that younger Americans are staying in more. They are avoiding the “effort” associated with going out for entertainment, food, and even exercise – with millennials spending 70% more time at home than the general population. 

In the UK, we’ve seen the rise of UberEats, Deliveroo and Just Eat, Peleton for home exercise as well as a proliferation of TV streaming services.

The pizza franchise, Dominoes, even launched the ‘Joy of Staying In’ advertising campaign in autumn 2019, opposing the popular Fomo (Fear of missing out). According to The Drum: “Jomo is our antidote to this [Fomo] phenomenon and exults the specialness of the night in.”

This so-called “Homebody Economy” (a term coined in 2018), refers not only to streaming and delivery services but to brands that offer to fill your home with sources of comfort, self-care and joy. That includes everything from skincare to mattresses in a box (Casper, Emma), to luxury sheets and houseplants. These trends were already gathering pace across the globe by tapping into an emerging focus on wellbeing. The need to counter the “burnout” associated with the incredible pace of work and social obligations is also a growing trend, especially amongst millennials.

So, if this Home HQ trend was already trending pre-pandemic, what happens now?  

There is plenty of debate about how, if at all, this pandemic lockdown will affect peoples’ habits, needs and behaviours in the long term. Some argue that things will snap back rapidly (Mark Ritson) while many others say that there is no going back.

We don’t pretend to know what will exactly happen next at Untapped. But with the evidence that the HomeHQ trend was already well underway before this – and with an eye on other emerging trends we are sensing – here are three things we think that businesses should take into account going forward:

1. People are changing their relationship with “Home.”

While the outside world may go “back to normal”, people are radically changing their relationship with “Home”. Home is no longer just a place of retreat, relaxation and family. People can now see it – or even embrace it – as a base for work, learning, exercising, creative activities, gourmet dining, entertainment, social gatherings and even as a virtual travel portal.  

At Untapped, we know it’s essential to take account of peoples’ broader life-frame as we dig for human insights and needs. It’s a critical approach to human-led innovation (#humanledinnovation).

The question we ask is if you designed your product or service for the home environment, how might this new relationship with home affect it? What further needs or experiences might you meet in the HomeHQ context?

2. The increased desire for engaging sensorial experiences

There is already an emerging trend towards a form of self-care that is less about striving and enhancement and more towards enjoyment and sensorial indulgence – part of what we here at Untapped call “Life’s Little Lifts” #lifeslittlelifts.  

With pandemic lockdown, people are now also suffering from sensorial monotony due to the lack of external sensory stimulus – particularly those who live alone. Advice is circulating on social media from Occupational Therapists with practical tips on a Sensory Toolkit for those solo self-isolators. The idea is to awaken their senses, including body scrubs, candles, fresh bedding, music, textured blankets, scarves and rugs.  

Looking ahead, how could your product or service help provide more sensorial indulgence or stimulation?

3. Some Lockdown habits will stick.

It’s imperative to learn how people are adjusting their daily micro-habits and rituals right now and what will stick. While many people will want to throw off lots of aspects of life under lockdown, people are making lots of small changes to help cope with the current situation. And, as the behavioural scientist B.J. Fogg points out in his book “Tiny Habits”, real habits form when a celebration or reward accompanies micro-changes in behaviour.  

If that gentle jog for exercise also rewards you by getting you out of the house and feeling fitter, it might stick after lockdown. Or if that new recipe you’ve mastered by using a previously-ignored attachment in your kitchen mixer brings you new taste experiences, you might keep on making it.  

Thinking about your product or service: what micro-habits are forming now? How could those habits affect your future innovations?

Whatever camp of thought you find yourself in regarding the “new normal”, you still need to consider where your product or service sits carefully. 

Find out more about how Untapped can help you uncover human needs, habits and insights, or sense emerging trends by getting in touch

Suzanne Allers