Sep 23 2020

Trend scouting only online - is that possible?

Welcome to the new era. A time that is also about furniture, but primarily about networking, cooperation and togetherness. How will we live and work in the future and attract people back to the stores? This was the subject of thought and discussion in the "Digital Talks" at Maison & Objet/MOM. A field report with 12 insights.

As an interior designer and trend scout, I love trade fairs that run like a colorful thread through the year. In January, the imm cologne took place in the usual setting.The Salone was painted without replacement and Maison & Objet used the time to adapt its format to the changed conditions. 

I visit the first digital fair with curiosity and observe whether trends can be found here as well. Two weeks before the trade fair began, it was possible to register online for various talks. I chose eight conferences and received a reminder seven days before, two days before and the same day. Technically really uncomplicated and easy to use.

The very first talk was about trends, presented by Elisabeth Leriche, François Delclaux and François Bernard, who have been designing the trend houses at MOM for years. These trend areas are often my personal trade fair highlight. Individual products are placed in a thematic context and linked to an attitude to life. I was able to find both in the digital presentations. Because I speak French. It was difficult for all non-French speaking viewers. All they had left were the pictures. Neither subtitles nor translation helped them to understand. This can certainly be optimized in the future, because the content was exciting. 

Digital Talk on

Through examples in the presentation, I became aware of companies that I had not known before. And when one of the trend researchers mentioned the exhibition "Down to Earth" in Berlin's Gropius Bau as a reference, I was still able to see it for myself two days later.

Instead of staging and products, the Digital Talks focused on psychological and social insights. Covid-19 has radically and rapidly changed our lives. We experience the effects every day when we shop and work, live and travel. My goal was to gather impressions of how architects, designers and trend researchers experience this time, what they do and what answers they find for themselves and their customers. The digital format was ideally suited for this.

Even the multifaceted approach to the topic of trends was exciting. While some rely on intuition or experience, other agencies use artificial intelligence, analyze data and search for verifiable evidence to make predictions. 

Interestingly, I often found the results of data-based analysis less inspiring and future-oriented than those of intuitive trend researchers. Data-based predictions currently deal a lot with topics like fear and uncertainty. And their countermeasures. The answers corresponded to the tool and often turned out to be technical. Traditional trend researchers use fine antennas to perceive desires and needs more strongly and thus arrive at different answers.

Which tools will provide us with safety during the pandemic? © Maison & Object

 

I found the Digital Talks an enrichment. Especially because they were sometimes unwieldy or concerned topics that I don't deal with every day, they planted ideas and stimulated the mind.  It was all about the content of the new era. About how we want to live instead of what we should consume.

As a designer I have missed in the last months to discover and touch chairs, tables and materials. The online search for the desired products is efficient, but nonsense. It lacks magic and surprise. A reason to go to fairs again in the future. How they will combine digital offers with new exhibition concepts will be interesting. Wouldn't it be great if trade fairs were more worlds of experience than product shows? If both manufacturers and cities were involved in the renewal process? Must it be exclusively new products that are shown or can there also be vintage sections? I would like trade fairs to be the chambers of wonder of the new age and to amaze us.

The 12 most important insights:

  1. While the furnishing industry has been dominated by optics for years, Corona enhances the perception of furniture and rooms with the other senses. In the future, the decisive factor will be whether a chair also feels good and not just how it looks.
  2. The show is over. Authenticity, simplicity and a sense of responsibility are the new customer criteria
  3. In the future, less will be consumed, but higher quality products: From Nice to have to have. 
  4. Feel first. As our everyday life becomes more virtual and technical, the need for handcrafted and sensually tangible products increases. 
  5. Sustainability and the awareness of production chains are increasing. Topics such as circular economy and the focus on the local are becoming relevant for manufacturers.
  6. We want to surround ourselves with things that have a history. Products that stand out from the crowd.
  7. Vintage is growing: instead of throwing away, there is an increasingly large market of attractive suppliers of used furniture, partly also complementary to the classic trade.
  8. A good online presence is an absolute necessity. It can ensure the survival of retailers. 
  9. Instagram is the tool of the hour. Inspire, inform and sell to customers. 24/7
  10. People only go to stores that inspire and surprise. And offer very good service. They find everything else online.
  11. Community Building: What can you do for your customers? How do you create added value in their lives? 
  12. Co-living & co-working: Alone used to be. Sharing is the life model of the future.
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