FJORD
TRENDS
2020

Ready, reset, reinvent:
the emerging trends in
business, tech and design

AccentureInteractive
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In brief

  • Capitalism is evolving. People are becoming increasingly conscious and hyper-aware of how their purchases affect others and Earth’s resources. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend as the crisis reshapes our priorities.
  • Growth for profit alone will fade away as people demand products and services that are personally meaningful and socially and environmentally beneficial.
  • The widespread reliance on digital solutions to accommodate customers left homebound by the pandemic may pave the way for greater adoption of even more innovative technology.
  • The focus of design is transitioning from “me” to “we.” Design will shift to cast its net beyond the end user alone, pivoting from user-centered design to design for all life.
  • Brands with a long-term, forward-looking view that care for the planet and people—and the causes that matter to them—will emerge as winners.

Business unusual

Economics and politics, capitalism and resources, technology and society—all have long been entwined. But more than ever before, the consequences of that have burst into the public consciousness. The outbreak of COVID-19 around the world has strained supply chains and supermarkets, left governments scrambling for public health solutions, and led public officials, private citizens and companies to increasingly turn to new and promising technologies to accommodate a world suddenly beholden to lockdowns and disease control measures.

These unexpected events have only accelerated many of the themes we talk about in our 2020 trends. They are forcing businesses to change strategies and rethink their approach—and possibly their purpose—earlier and faster than imagined.

We defined the over-arching theme as a major realignment of the fundamentals, which was already important but has now become critical. Changes in our behaviors, values and priorities are affecting all areas of business and design.

We feel this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to innovate business models, services and products around new definitions of value.

One thing is likely: Those who embrace the long-term view—starting with their impact on the world and society and embracing the systemic complexity of the world—will emerge as winners.

As you explore the trends, consider the questions they ignite—for the future of business, technology and design, and the world, in the wake of the pandemic and beyond. The curiosity, concerns and actions they inspire will shape how brands serve people for the decades ahead.

Each year, Fjord—Accenture Interactive’s design and innovation practice—crowdsources trends for the coming year from its global network of 1,200 creatives in 33 studios. With new studios opening across Latin America and Japan, this year’s Fjord Trends are the most closely connected yet, telling a comprehensive story about our landscape and what’s coming next.

META-TREND

Realigning the fundamentals

Well before pandemic, the world was grappling with constant political, social and environmental disruption.

People were demanding products and services that were not only meaningful to them, but also socially and environmentally responsible. The crisis intensified that demand, with companies under even more pressure to act appropriately and, where possible, proactively in tumultuous times. Meanwhile, technology continues to fuel unprecedented change—change that again, might very well be accelerated by the crisis. Social distancing and lockdowns encouraged more people to embrace digital solutions, potentially smoothing the future adoption of everything from national digital currencies to the creation of digital doubles.

What does all this mean for businesses and people? In short, a complete realignment of the fundamentals.

This is not a bad thing. For all the upheaval COVID-19 has caused, it also presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to innovate in business models, services and products around new definitions of value.

The companies brave enough to recognize and respond to this meta-trend will experience many opportunities and challenges on their journey to transformation. As those transformations play out, one thing is likely: Those who embrace the long-term view—starting with their impact on the world and society—will emerge as winners.

TREND

01. Many faces of growth

For decades, companies have been laser-focused on one main objective: financial growth—the faster the better. Now, people are challenging organizations to define their success in more ways than financial growth, the long-established benchmark for prosperity. Today, companies must pursue a broader set of business objectives that are balanced with the reality that profit is critical for longevity. This opens the doors for opportunities to imagine entirely new ways to create and sustain value.

For decades, companies have been laser-focused on one main objective: financial growth—the faster the better. Now, people are challenging organizations to define their success in more ways than financial growth, the long-established benchmark for prosperity. Today, companies must pursue a broader set of business objectives that are balanced with the reality that profit is critical for longevity. This opens the doors for opportunities to imagine entirely new ways to create and sustain value.

Today, companies must balance the priority of profit against the necessity of pursuing a broader set of business objectives One of the top objectives of late? Their response to COVID-19.

Brands and companies shifted their efforts and focus fast, for instance by filling gaps in medical supplies such as face masks and hand sanitizer.

Meanwhile, other global concerns show no signs of ebbing among investors, customers and employers. They are putting pressure on organizations to respond to changing societal values, worries about climate change and finite natural resources, and economic and political instability.

The pandemic has added new dimensions to many of these concerns. For example, we’re seeing pollution clear with the decline of economic activity, while the importance of caring for one another and our communities has taken on a new urgency.

This will only heighten expectations that organizations focus as much on purpose as on profit—which is no small ask when many companies are struggling to turn a profit at all. As the economy finds its footing again, balance sheets will override "greater good" concerns for some time...but certainly not forever.

The long-term health of free enterprise capitalism will depend on delivering profit with purpose.

Lionel Barber, Financial Times Editor In Chief

TREND

02. Money changers

Since the virus took hold, cashless transactions have taken on a new significance in everyday life in many countries. Online purchases are far more attractive to customers concerned about exposing themselves to germs at brick-and-mortar stores and while handling cash. Governments are also looking to digital currencies. The U.S. government, for instance, is sharing proposals to create a digital dollar. But even before the crisis, more and more people were going cashless.

Since the virus took hold, cashless transactions have taken on a new significance in everyday life in many countries. Online purchases are far more attractive to customers concerned about exposing themselves to germs at brick-and-mortar stores and while handling cash. Governments are also looking to digital currencies. The U.S. government, for instance, is sharing proposals to create a digital dollar. But even before the crisis, more and more people were going cashless.

Digital money is faster and more efficient. People can now pay using their fingerprints and via facial and retinal recognition. Over time, our personal information and data will become embedded in money, enabling for seamless payment experiences. The personalized payment possibilities are endless.

Imagine applying a student discount automatically at the point of purchase because a person’s student status is embedded into their money. Shifts like these will empower us to do more than just buy things. They will create opportunities for a new stream of products and services.

This trend is about how our relationship with money is evolving. As it further develops, we’ll see the evolution of new ecosystems set in motion by non-traditional financial companies. Almost invisible payment systems will emerge, rendering our connections to and feelings about money more ambiguous.

$2T

in-store and remote transactions—via mobile biometrics that are expected to be authenticated in 2023.

What does this mean for businesses? They'll need to elevate their payment experience and use it as a point of differentiation. And they’ll need to design products and services that address concerns about privacy, transparency and integrity while exceeding customer expectations.

TREND

03. Walking barcodes

For some time, we’ve been trackable by the data our online behavior generates. But our physical behavior has become increasingly traceable, too, empowered in part by 5G technology. This capability has come front and center during the pandemic, as governments monitor our movements through our phones and deploy apps and systems to conduct contact tracing in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. And though privacy concerns abound, we will likely find that people's desire for disease control is making them more accepting of such surveillance.

For some time, we’ve been trackable by the data our online behavior generates. But our physical behavior has become increasingly traceable, too, empowered in part by 5G technology. This capability has come front and center during the pandemic, as governments monitor our movements through our phones and deploy apps and systems to conduct contact tracing in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. And though privacy concerns abound, we will likely find that people's desire for disease control is making them more accepting of such surveillance.

But while governments focus on public health, companies are using trackable data to create exciting new products and services. In addition to 5G technology, brands are also turning to facial and body recognition.

Advances in biometric tech mean that our physical features become increasingly machine-readable—just like human barcodes—resulting in the design of products and services that are more personalized than ever.

This trend is about how our bodies are becoming our signature—effectively blending our digital and physical selves. It’s also about how living services—contextually-aware, sophisticated digital services—will segue from the digital world into the real world. Hyper-targeted customer experiences will become the norm in physical environments.

In entertainment, Disney piloted an interactive movie poster with Accenture Interactive. The AI-powered experience used photography and emotion recognition to enable a poster for the movie Dumbo to change depending on the expression on the face of the person looking at it.

For brands in particular, privacy and security must be prioritized above all else. Used responsibly, 5G, facial recognition and other biometric technology will unlock tremendous possibilities. The Internet of Bodies will become as normal as the Internet of Things. Making the invisible handing over of data safe and worthwhile is a must for all people feeding the machine.

Render the unseen seen so people can understand when a scan, transaction or consent has taken place. Ensure that people can be the curators of their own personalized experiences by building a platform for people to express, discover, and receive what they want—subject to privacy laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

We’re not able to transmit touch and muscle movement through the internet, but we will with the low latency capabilities of 5G. We are now starting to build the devices which allow you to execute skills remotely.

Mischa Dohler, professor of wireless communications at King’s College London

TREND

04. Liquid people

In Many faces of growth, we present the vision that societal values are changing and societal forces and people-pressure are forcing businesses to rethink their focus on the old definitions of growth. Liquid people is the flipside of the same coin: it’s about people’s reassessment of themselves, the lives they lead, the work they do, and their impact on the world around them. This trend reflects the human side of growth. It takes into account that we're more aware than ever of issues like climate change, mental health and sustainability.

In Many faces of growth, we present the vision that societal values are changing and societal forces and people-pressure are forcing businesses to rethink their focus on the old definitions of growth. Liquid people is the flipside of the same coin: it’s about people’s reassessment of themselves, the lives they lead, the work they do, and their impact on the world around them. This trend reflects the human side of growth. It takes into account that we're more aware than ever of issues like climate change, mental health and sustainability.

The pandemic, meanwhile, has only heightened people's desire to lead purposeful lives. We’ve started to think deeply about how we define ourselves, and what is actually important to us. And we're being more thoughtful about some of the most vulnerable members in our society -- the elderly and those with chronic conditions, for whom the pandemic has posed an even greater risk. With this increased awareness comes internal conflict, as more people experience moral anxiety and start to navigate trade-offs between competing ethical demands and their own desires. We emphasize “start to” because, of course, many of us are still eating hamburgers rather than going vegetarian, buying new clothes that make us feel good instead of browsing consignment shops, and gazing at shiny new products and wondering if we can afford them (and often buying them regardless).

In response, businesses must redefine themselves. Organizations must support customers’ and employees’ increasingly liquid desires and their pursuit of deeper meaning in their daily lives. They can cater to people’s growing thirst for conscious consumption by providing guilt-free experiences, and by creating new ways to help people feel good about being who they are and doing what they do.

1in5

people have reduced the number of flights they took over the past year due to climate impact awareness. (Swiss bank UBS)

TREND

05. Designing intelligence

In the early stages of Artificial Intelligence (AI), organizations used it to enhance efficiency through automation. But AI holds the promise of so much more, including helping scientists combat COVID-19. Cutting-edge AI research companies are using deep learning to detail the structure of proteins associated with the virus, which could provide crucial clues for the development of a vaccine. AI, with the assistance of human experts, has also been used in forecasting the spread of the pandemic and is being deployed in cameras and infrared sensors to measure people's temperatures in public areas.

In the early stages of Artificial Intelligence (AI), organizations used it to enhance efficiency through automation. But AI holds the promise of so much more, including helping scientists combat COVID-19. Cutting-edge AI research companies are using deep learning to detail the structure of proteins associated with the virus, which could provide crucial clues for the development of a vaccine. AI, with the assistance of human experts, has also been used in forecasting the spread of the pandemic and is being deployed in cameras and infrared sensors to measure people's temperatures in public areas.

In the future, we expect the use of AI will continue to focus on augmenting human ingenuity and creating new value, whether it's the realm of public health or elsewhere.

When businesses effectively blend people’s skills with AI, we’ll be better positioned to build disruptive business strategies. AI will also empower people to navigate the increasing complexity of the workplace and strengthen the human experience.

With more organizations seeking to use AI beyond automation, they’ll need access to better and more dynamic tools, and to more carefully plan for AI’s social and economic impacts. To succeed, business leaders need to commit to designing for human intelligence and optimize the relationship between people and machines.

While AI helps us better understand business, design is helping us understand AI. Some organizations are already researching ways to tackle potential bias issues. For example, Accenture’s algorithmic fairness tool uses Machine Learning (ML) to detect potentially biased training data and suggest ways to adjust for it.

Through Fjord’s work with The Dock (Accenture's flagship R&D and global innovation center in Dublin, Ireland), we’re also exploring how evolved intelligent design will dramatically affect how people work with AI to gain the best results. We’ve identified three key areas: Enhancing the human experience, empowering people in complex systems, and envisioning new products and services.

Businesses are accelerating their AI programs, with 80%
reporting that it’s now in production within their organization, yet customers and employees are wary of its impact on their lives.

TREND

06. Digital doubles

As the pandemic forced many to stay home and become more digitally savvy, we see an even brighter future for the already promising technology of personalized digital doubles.

As the pandemic forced many to stay home and become more digitally savvy, we see an even brighter future for the already promising technology of personalized digital doubles.

Digital twins are established tools in industry, with data models and virtual 3D versions of real-life machines helping manufacturers troubleshoot and plan predictive maintenance. Now, they’re getting personal. The race has begun to create virtual manifestations of ourselves.

In the beginning, digital doubles will open up a whole new world of personalized entertainment opportunities. In the wake of the pandemic and increased use of telemedicine, people may deploy their digital doubles as they seek medical attention. Eventually, it is probable that digital doubles will become a virtual home for all of our data, a single digital gatekeeper to our personal lives, over which we’ll have control (in theory, at least). People will likely soon use digital doubles to serve their own interests over those of third parties who gather and use their personal data.

With digital twins evolving to become all about us, brands and public services must learn how to design for them. Organizations in financial services, healthcare and the workplace will increasingly recognize digital doubles as essential tools to predict, optimize and personalize customer solutions.

Businesses that want to succeed must ask themselves two critical questions: How can we show people that they can trust us with their personal digital twins? How can we design digital double customer experiences that are safe, secure and engaging?

TREND

07. Life-centered design

Our wants and needs were changing before the pandemic struck. But now, our ability to satisfy our wants and needs has changed, too. Buying things has become physically harder, making customers rethink frivolous purchases while fueling impulses to hoard the essentials, leaving store shelves bare.

Our wants and needs were changing before the pandemic struck. But now, our ability to satisfy our wants and needs has changed, too. Buying things has become physically harder, making customers rethink frivolous purchases while fueling impulses to hoard the essentials, leaving store shelves bare.

Hoarding notwithstanding, people are also shifting from a “me” to a “we” culture as they seek to do their part to contain the pandemic by staying home and avoiding public places, including public transport.

What does that mean for businesses? They need to radically redesign their business models, adapting to life-centered design—inspired by writer John Thackara’s theory of designing not just for human life, but for all life (i.e. the entire planet).

This trend is about how the perfect overlap between the traditional Venn diagram of desirability, feasibility and viability is changing—along with organizations’ design responses to them.

Until now, human- and user-centered design has often separated people from ecosystems. Now, designers must begin to address people as part of a greater ecosystem, as opposed to being at the center of everything. To successfully make this shift, they’ll need to embrace a broader, more holistic systems mindset. Designing for two sets of values—personal and collective—will be critical.

A college student raised more than $3,000
rin a week to create face masks with transparent screens designed to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing lip-read to understand those wearing the masks.

CONCLUSION

Ctrl-Alt-Realign
How the reset will work in 2020

In 2020, we will know more and care more about our world and our impact on it than ever before. What is important to us will be increasingly reflected in all areas of business, technology and design. Even as much of the world focuses on mitigating and recovering from the pandemic, we will see doors open to unprecedented opportunities for innovative and responsive organizations to better serve people.

Success will come to brands that increasingly create new and meaningful value for individuals in our constantly evolving world, effectively blending purpose with profit. In doing so, companies will help their customers navigate changing views around consumption by delivering intelligent, ethical and engaging experiences.

This realignment of the fundamentals leads to innovation moving beyond start-ups in favor of more traditional businesses who will need to work together to make change happen at an industry-wide level.

We might also see a two-speed model emerging as this shift takes place at different paces in different markets. Emerging markets might just leap-frog more developed markets’ attitudes toward endless consumption and go straight for a more balanced view. Meanwhile, people will continue to be ever more fluid in their behaviors, constantly switching between traditional demographic segments in often surprising and contradictory ways.

However these new realities unfold, Fjord Trends 2020 reveal that tomorrow’s success stories will likely belong to organizations that welcome and take positive forward action on the long-term view. Those that design for all life in an ever-complex world—with their impact on the planet and society top of mind—will thrive, now and in the future.

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