In Search of Meaningful Connections
What is the one thing that has been most disrupted by this pandemic? No question about it: our freedom to connect in person, physically with other people and places. Our physical, sensory experiences have been curtailed. We’ve retreated into the virtual, digital world of online relationships with family, friends and colleagues. Our physical connection with places has diminished to a small radius of only “essential” interactions.
The result? A sensory disconnect that has created a strange dichotomy of both craving and fearing physical reconnection with our greater world and community.
“What does this have to do with Season 3 Episode 3 – Retail Therapy” you ask? Well – we explored the relationship between retail, travel and tourism, with invaluable insights offered by our guests Andrew Jennings and David Green. As you know, in RISE – AND SHINE we like to dig a little deeper and understand more about the human behaviours driving the decisions we make. We also like to check in with our viewers and get a sense of where you are in this – which is why we have our RISE viewer polls. Some interesting patterns are apparent.
The common thread that seems to run through the choices we’re making is our pursuit of a meaningful connection. Our need for meaningful connection includes:
- connecting and identifying with ourselves and who we are
- connecting to the people inside and outside of our ‘bubbles’
- the way we connect with places – from our local communities to our choice of shopping and holiday destinations.
Connection with ourselves
Over the past year, we’ve seen the increased focus on self-improvement, re-invention, and making decisions in our personal and professional lives that re-examine who we are versus who we want to be. In some cases, this has been forced by changes in personal circumstances such as unemployment. In others, the pandemic has simply raised questions which have redefined our personal priorities, and our definition of ‘meaningful.’
On a consumer level, we see this reflected in the rise and rise of personal improvement and work out apps – and the increased expenditure on luxury retail as people ‘treat’ themselves to compensate for missed holidays and entertainment opportunities. We need a treat if not a break!
In our next RISE episode “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”, we’ll also be looking at the increase in cosmetic procedures and “wellness” tourism, but we digress…
Connecting inside our bubbles
As our lives are lived within home, support and work bubbles we’ve benefitted from more time with loved ones inside our bubbles and attempted to maintain meaningful connections with loved ones we’re physically distanced from. This has contributed to the strengthening of some bonds, and the dissolution of others. We’ve reassessed which relationships work and which don’t! Anita made reference to increased expenditure on luxury retail within our “affection bubbles.” Whilst disposable income isn’t being spent out-and-about on entertainment, dining and holidays, we’re treating ourselves to retail items for our homes, our loved ones and our pets! Andrew Jennings pointed out, “the retail winners over the past year have been technology, products for the home and pets’ accessories.” Fizzy bubbles are also a great example of luxury in-home retail expenditure – and no, we’re not just talking about Anita here!
Outside our bubbles
Our connection with those outside our homes has become almost exclusively digital. An interesting aspect of this is our exposure to colleagues’ homes and families – and all the vulnerability and humanity that goes with that. There’s no better example of this than the Richard Quest CNN interview with the CEO of Trivago which was interrupted by Axel Hefer’s young son. What makes this so appealing, apart from Quest’s delightful handling of the situation, is that it’s so relatable to all of us working at home with children and barking dogs. Hooray for the rise and rise in humanity!
Moving between bubbles
In our previous Season 3 episodes, 1 and 2, we discussed the trend of moving from one safety bubble to another. This is apparent in the current preference for resort destinations and short-term rentals such as airbnb accommodation. As travel restrictions are lifted, the preferred destinations will be the more remote ones, and the chosen travel companions will likely be extensions of our social bubbles, rather than random strangers. The motivation to travel has become a meaningful connection with others, rather than purely adventure seeking or sight-seeing.
Emerging from our bubbles
As we move beyond lockdown and begin to re-engage with our greater community, it’s likely we’ll continue to seek meaningful connections with the places we visit, whether we’re dining out, shopping or holidaying. Is this because as David Green points out “people yearn to get back to retail,” and when we return to bricks and mortar retail shopping, we really want to make it count, and maximise the experience? This seems likely. Our RISE viewer poll indicated that most of us yearn for both the sensory aspects of shopping – the tasting, smelling, touching aspects (29 %) and the social aspect of meeting with friends and dining out (32 %.) Andrew Jennings agrees that “socialising is becoming an important part of retail and the future of retail will involve socialising and interacting with people.” This is good news for our resident Grouch, Demian! Whilst he proclaims that he doesn’t miss shopping at all, he did also let slip that he quite enjoys socialising at the cosmetic counters of department stores!
After more than a year of limited physical interaction with other people and places, the shoppers and travelers of the near future will be looking to mindfully, safely, re-engage with people and places we’ve yearned for, and rediscover the sensory pleasures of retail and travel, and the social interactions that go with both. What will be different from before? Quality over quantity, and the increased importance of meaningful connections between people, places and products.
As always, we’d love to hear your views on this. What do you most look forward to when you’re able to shop in person again?
Don’t miss the next ‘live’ episode of RISE on Monday, March 01st, 12:00GMT – “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall.” We’ll be talking about the rise in cosmetic procedures (including domestic Medical Tourism) and Wellness Tourism with our brilliant guests, Dr Clare Neser and Mia Kyricos. RISE promised you interesting angles on our Travel, Tourism & Hospitality industry and we love being able to deliver!
Register here to catch us live, or to watch previous episodes. Thank you for being an invaluable part of RISE.