“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” – Woody Allen
Many people hope that 2022 will be better, that the Omicron variant is weakening and reaching its peak, and that we can go back to happier lives. The reality is, however, that people are less happy.
At the end of 2021, global hope and happiness had decreased around the world compared to the previous year, according to a Gallup poll. “Fears of upcoming economic difficulties remain high and steadily growing,” it said in a report, adding: “The global pandemic clearly still impacts the world’s hopes, fears and expectations.”
The “End of the Year” survey, said to be the world’s longest running global poll, found that 38 percent of the world’s population expected 2022 to be better than 2021; 28 percent saw a worse year; and 27 percent believed it would be the same as 2021. “The picture,” according to Gallup, “looks similar to the end of 2020.”
Gallup International president Kancho Stoychev, in an interview with DW.com, said: “Last year was marked by the hope that Covid vaccines would end the pandemic. This year, however, ends with more questions than answers.”
“The growth of inflation was anticipated after the record printing of money, but, instead of a few months, this will go on for years. With the disruption of global supply chains and the explosion of energy prices, mass discontent and political tensions will grow, not only — and not even predominantly — in the less-developed countries.”
There is no available data where the Philippines stood in the survey. But a separate 2021 World Happiness report, which came out in March last year, showed that Filipinos felt less happy in 2020. After the protracted merriment in December that was followed by Omicron, it is likely that Filipinos will likewise be less happy this year.
Happiness can be defined by an absence: the absence of illness, poverty, hardship, freedom to move, or oppression. It is a subjective attitude that is not easy to measure yet plays a vital role in our lives. It impacts the way we live, the way we buy and the way we consume.
Based on a Forrester forecast, weary consumers will, therefore, seek immediate happiness and comfort in 2022. Consumer data analyzed by the firm revealed that “lingering fear around physical and financial health, along with tempered optimism for a post-pandemic recovery, will compel consumers to find brands, products and experiences that provide an immediate — even if temporary — sense of happiness, comfort and relief.”
For some consumers, this means turning to physical goods that spark joy, from comfort food to at-home spa kits. For others, this will come from experiential consumption, like prioritizing time for personal care or face time with friends and family.
We detected these behaviors at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, where we saw the emergence of new consumer segments that seek to address the need to cope with the situation. Three segments stood out as seeking happiness and relief.
Emotional expressionists. Consumers that let their emotions out as evidenced by the copiousness of angry and complaining social media posts; they engage in virtual meetups and look for appeasing activities. Examples of products and services that this segment buys are virtual coaching, self-help webinars, virtual dance parties and self-care products like essential oils and fitness products.
Help and support seekers. This segment seeks help and support from others to enable them to cope. Examples of products and services they buy are virtual coaching and spiritual advice, financial advice and insurance, and errand services and apps.
Problem avoiders. This segment looks for activities to forget current problems and they act as if nothing is happening. Examples of products and services they buy are hobby products such as those for gardening and fitness, liquor, comfort food, popular coffee brands and entertainment content.
As people face the uncertainties of the coming months, consumers will continue to seek happiness, hope and comfort when they buy and consume products and services. Product and service companies need to be cognizant of this need and modify their offerings in order to thrive and even succeed.
For Forrester, a major change in 2022 versus previous years is that “majority of consumers will see the world as all-digital.” As consumers of all ages have been educated on the use of digital technologies like apps in the last two years, the benchmark for consumer technology adoption and usage has changed.
“More consumers have higher expectations that digital experiences work well,” the consulting firm said. “Although consumers are generally willing to forgive companies struggling with pandemic-related disruptions, they also expect companies to double down on building a successful and sustainable digital customer experience.”
Business leaders need to again adapt to this shift.
The author is the founder and CEO of Hungry Workhorse Consulting, a digital and culture transformation consulting firm. He is a fellow at the US-based Institute for Digital Transformation. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.