Recent research indicates that digital learning is here to stay, there’s a new sense of closeness amongst employees and that multi-brand stores are key to luxury’s long-term future.

Education enters a new reality

As schools and universities around the world prepare for a new academic year, many are unsure exactly what teaching will look like week to week. Platforms, schedules, personnel, curricula and means of assessment all remain worryingly contingent. The only certainty is that century-old modes of learning are currently inviolable, and most don’t expect them to return. A new study by education service provider Pearson and market research firm The Harris Poll found that over three-quarters of people believe that education will fundamentally change as a result of the pandemic. The research, which canvassed the opinions of 7,000 consumers aged 16-70, revealed that 88 per cent think that online teaching will continue to be part of the learning process across all levels of education in the future.

Respondents are convinced that this will mean a larger number of students receiving better tuition, with 78 per cent stating that online learning will give people more access to a quality education. Despite its current inconsistencies, digital tuition is already seen as something that can provide a great foundation for success in future job markets. Just over half of people (52 per cent) believe being able to make human connections remotely is one of the most important skills needed in a technology-driven economy, alongside virtual collaboration (46 per cent) and managing or working on virtual teams (53 per cent).

COVID creates a more empathetic workplace

The pandemic has created many frustrations for the worker, not least an elongation of the work day, as we wrote in a Data Dive from last week. One surprising positive it has brought – given that most teams haven’t seen each other in person for months – is a new sense of closeness. That’s according to a survey by business outlet Quartz and experience management company Qualtrics, which revealed that 37 per cent of people feel their company culture has improved since COVID-19, compared to 14 per cent who think it has deteriorated. For those who feel it has improved, contributing factors include greater kindness (80 per cent), more generosity (71 per cent) and higher levels of internal transparency (64 per cent).

‘One reason for any perceived improvement might be that many workplaces are making a new effort to take concerns like inclusivity seriously,’ writes Quartz reporter Cassie Werber. ‘In part, this is because the pandemic has foregrounded employees’ personal circumstances, which companies used to be able to ignore. Workers are letting managers into their lives, and managers are opening up in turn.’ This has primarily to do with a shared sense of crisis, but, as the study also shows, the accessibility and informality of digital platforms has also played a role. How can companies maintain this ethos when (and if) they return to base?

A healthy outlook for luxury

Bank of America has forecasted that sales of luxury goods will rebound strongly next year, almost making back 2020’s projected 16.9 per cent decline with growth of 16.6 per cent. ‘We believe the underlying demand for luxury product remains solid, as shown by the strong bounce-back in local consumption as countries come out of lockdown,’ the financial institution reported. Capitalizing on that recovery in the long-term will require brands to pay close attention to the shifting attitudes of the next generation of luxury consumers, with Millennials and Gen Z set to account for 61 per cent of the luxury market by 2026, according to Highsnobiety and Boston Consulting Group’s recent Culture, Culture, Culture report.

The study unpacked the attitudes of 1,900 industry-shaping ‘Cultural Pioneers’ – hyper-engaged consumers drawn from Highsnobiety’s US audience. The key finding? These elite-level fashion fans don’t place much stock in brand-owned channels when it comes to inspiration, especially in physical retail, where they’re twice as likely to favour a multi-brand store over either a brand outlet or department store. The takeout seems to be that third-party curation and self-guided discovery will have growing importance. ‘If luxury today is driven less by brands unveiling new high-end products and more by network-born desirability, cultural credibility represents an evolution of how we understand that desire,’ write the authors.

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