By Retail Doctor Group, in association with Ebeltoft Group
As remote work is now a staple of the office environment, Australian consumers are increasingly seeking a lifestyle that accommodates a blend of work and leisure activities, known as ‘Hybrid Lifestyles’. This trend is aligned with the growing emphasis on wellness and health.
One of the top trends of 2023 was Time as a Currency – showcasing how consumers value how they use their time. In 2024 this moves to a need to prioritise self care, happiness and spending their time wisely.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What is the Hybrid Lifestyle?
- Key Drivers of the Hybrid Lifestyle
- Impacts of Hybrid Living on Consumer Behavior
- Key Opportunities for Retailers in 2024
Evolution of the Hybrid Lifestyle
Thanks to extended lockdowns that necessitated the need for hybrid lifestyles, people have had the freedom to discover themselves, their needs and desires, and what they don’t want out of life. Out of these elevated standards and principles rose boundaries that forever altered the way people will live and work. These boundaries helped create a hybrid lifestyle for billions of people around the world.
Some of the biggest lessons the pandemic taught us was that we are not as isolated as we once thought we were, that we are all connected in fundamental ways that matter, and that our needs and desires are important to our health and wellbeing. Once those lessons were acknowledged, the hybrid lifestyle quickly became a more-permanent part of everyday life than just a mere trend would be.
We also learned that we no longer have to settle for poor workmanship, low-quality products, and waiting for days on end to receive a parcel. Thanks to the fiercely competitive nature of survival in a post-pandemic retail environment, consumers now have more choices than ever before, right at their fingertips and available in an instant.
Given the flexibility to blend remote work with leisure, consumers now actively seek out brands, products, services, and experiences that tie in to their values and cater to their new-found need for balance, versatility, and wellbeing in all aspects of their lives.
As a retailer in 2024 and beyond, how you understand and cater to this cultural shift will make all the difference to your relevance, influence, loyalty retention, and bottom line. This article explores the key drivers of the hybrid lifestyle, including actionable tips on how retailers can tap into this trend to boost their competitive edge.
What is the Hybrid Lifestyle?
The hybrid lifestyle is a merging of work and personal lives, a concept that became popular when people were able to flexibly work a remote job from their home base. The ability to work from anywhere meant that consumers were no longer constrained by the traditional 9-to-5 office routine, nor were they limited in how and when they could shop.
Instead, consumers now structure their days to seamlessly integrate professional and personal activities. This could mean anything from home schooling during the day and working at night, to running errands in the morning before settling in to work for the afternoon.
No two hybrid lifestyles are the same. In other words, the days of catering to the mass population are long gone, replaced by people who want to be recognised as unique individuals with their own set of standards and needs.
Key Drivers of the Hybrid Lifestyle
RDG’s Future of Australian Retail survey results indicate that one in every three (34%) Australian employees now work remotely from home or in a non-office setting. Comparatively, just 29% of global employees work remotely. These figures show a substantial uptake in Australians’ appetite for a blended work-life integration to balance their modern lifestyles.
Several cultural and economic factors have converged to make the hybrid lifestyle an entrenched way of life and not just a mere trend for 2024 and beyond. These include:
- The mainstreaming of remote working arrangements
- Prioritisation of health, wellbeing, and self-care
- The desire for flexibility and autonomy
- Advancements in technology
1. The Mainstreaming of Remote Working Arrangements
We now know that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote working arrangements, proving that it’s a viable way for many people in many industries to earn an income yet not be confined to one desk and chair. As a result, Australian and global businesses use hybrid and flexible working arrangements to attract and retain talent.
Trailblazers in normalising hybrid work include companies like Atlassian, Canva, and Versent. By adopting hybrid working arrangements, large corporations like these have ensured that a blended work-life has become more of a cultural norm than an exception to the rule (as it was in pre-pandemic times).
2. Prioritisation of Health, Wellbeing, and Self-care
According to the Australian government’s website, wellbeing is defined as a “complex combination of a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health factors”. Therefore, wellbeing as a holistic approach to feeling better overall is no longer seen as just the absence of disease or illness.
But… why the change in definition and approach?
People everywhere were forced to re-evaluate their work-life balance and priorities when the pandemic struck. Isolation, burnout, grief, and desperation led to a much greater focus on mental and physical health than ever before.
Influencers, celebrities, and thought leaders were suddenly talking about their mental health challenges. With the stigma removed, health and wellbeing took centre stage, one of the most talked-about topics on social media.
Health, wellness, and wellbeing (both physical and mental) are considered top priorities for 84% of Australians, according to McCrindle research. 70% of employed Australians acknowledge their leaders now view employee wellbeing as a priority, with a 70% margin on employee wellbeing and 69% on mental health.
Hybrid lifestyles make it easier to support these renewed priorities, and include valued self-care activities like exercising, taking up hobbies, and spending time with loved ones helps facilitate a greater work-life harmony.
3. Desire for Flexibility and Autonomy
Supporting hybrid working arrangements is quickly becoming a business imperative for many Australian businesses who strive to understand the freedom and flexibility their younger workforce values.
According to the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, these younger generations crave autonomy over how, where, and when they work. In a world where climate change and the astronomical rise in cost-of-living expenses have limited lifestyle choices, more and more of these youngsters are choosing a life that:
- gives back to the planet.
- gives them complete control over what they will and won’t do to earn a buck.
- and allows them the freedom of movement to do anything they like at any time of any day.
For those industries and niches where hybrid working arrangements are possible, a full return to the 9-5 in-office working model has become unappealing and now contributes to the ongoing talent shortages.
Businesses must create some kind of hybrid model to attract skilled younger workers who demand flexibility and change.
4. Advancements in Technology
Technological improvements in devices, internet connectivity, and communication tools have helped make the switch to remote working arrangements more possible than ever before. Productivity outside of a traditional office is a breeze.
Thanks to advancements in technology and working spaces that enable cloud computing sessions, shared online workspaces, virtual meetings, and mobile devices that can be taken anywhere. The fall of these logistical barriers to working seamlessly from multiple and remote locations has given Australians the tools to innovatively blend work and everyday life.
Impacts of Hybrid Living on Consumer Behaviour
Hybrid living is a cultural movement that’s transforming how Australians (and the rest of the world) structure their day. It’s also changed the way products are consumed and services are used.
Understanding these behavioural shifts is key to retailers being able to identify new opportunities that speak to the customer’s needs. These opportunities include:
- Blurring of Work and Home Life
- Freedom From the Set Workday
- Local Community Involvement
- Appetite for Health and Wellness
- Off-Peak Purchasing
1. Blurring of Work and Home Life
This shift was always inevitable when people began having a personal life during the day and working remotely at night or weekends from their homes. The products that make this life easier must be able to seamlessly transition between professional and personal use at any time of the day.
For example, convertible laptops that double as tablets when out and about reflect this demand for multi-functional items. The same can be said of wardrobe choices, where businesswear is paired with casual clothing items like sneakers and jeans.
Retailers must focus on stocking versatile, crossover products that consumers will find useful when seamlessly switching between tasks.
2. Freedom From the Set Workday
Long commutes and set office hours that steal away the day are gone, and no longer dictate how people use their time. Consumers have autonomy to structure their day in such a way that errands, hobbies, leisure, and family coexist alongside work in a harmonious blend.
Within this structure, time is valued as a currency. Retailers will need to focus on services that save time, such as convenience stores, drive-throughs, home deliveries, and integrated apps that appeal to this ‘time as a currency’ trend.
Above all, retailers must ensure efficiency is valued and enabled at every touchpoint.
3. Local Community Involvement
With lengthy commutes out of the way, consumers are now more interested in what’s going on in their immediate vicinity. This level of freedom means they can explore their neighbourhoods, support the small businesses that operate here, and strengthen ties with local communities.
There is an opportunity for local retailers and those that embody community values to build loyalty by catering to the demand for bespoke and independent brands that reflect the local identity.
4. Appetite for Health and Wellness
Self-care has become a priority, and it’s driving the demand for athleisure wear, fitness gear, preventative health services, wholesome food options, and eco-friendly or sustainable product choices.
Bridging work and recreation means that wellness activities like health checks, meditation, nutritional advice, sports, and yoga can flourish and should be integrated into shopping malls to increase the customer’s experiential journey.
There is ample opportunity for health-conscious retailers such as pharmacies, holistic or ayurvedic medicine stores, free-range grocers, and even private medical practitioners located in malls to flourish.
5. Off-Peak Purchasing
Fragmented work schedules mean that shopping habits are shifting to times that suit the consumer, not their bosses. Foot traffic that was once confined to jam-packed weekend and after-dark queues now goes shopping in the morning, perhaps midweek, and even early evening.
This spread of demand has had a positive effect on congestion and the overall in-store customer experience. As a result, shopping has become an adventure of sorts, a family outing, a chance to find entertainment that breaks the ever-present spectre of work at home nowadays.
Retailers will need to adapt their operating hours, inventory levels, staffing needs, and promotional strategies to account for this fluctuation in purchasing patterns.
Key Opportunities for Retailers in 2024 and Beyond
There are significant commercial opportunities across various categories for retailers. From fashion to food, technology to transport, and entertainment to exercise, retailers will be able to harness the power of the hybrid living trend in 9 key ways:
- Targeting Hybrid Working Needs
- Embracing Athleisure Fashion
- Providing Hybrid Solutions
- Supporting Local Sourcing and Supply Chains
- Creating Wellbeing Hubs
- Leveraging Time-Saving Innovations
- Rethinking Physical Spaces
- Adjusting Operating Models
- Optimising for Omnichannel Integration
1. Target Hybrid Working Needs
Retailers must cater to the practical needs of the hybrid workforce now working remotely. All-in-one solutions that could be presented as a package deal in-store include ergonomic office furniture, coupled with a laptop and video conferencing equipment.
For technology retailers, think productivity enhancers. Combine collaboration software with data storage solutions, or transcription products with voice-over gadgets.
Local cafes and collaborative working spaces are uniquely positioned to offer customers a myriad of services and goods, including loyalty-based incentives for returning visitors. Providing customers with various points of differentiation such as WiFi, power outlets, and printing capabilities – while also ensuring the customer has access to good, wholesome food and beverages – will meet customer needs in a way that brings them back time and again.
2. Embrace Athleisure Fashion
Activewear clashes attractively with office wear in disruptive style. Combine comfortable athletic apparel that doubles as a professional work kit to meet the customers’ need to interweave athletic activities and fitness into their workdays.
The US athleisure market is projected to reach a staggering $257 billion by 2026. Australian retailers must tap into multi-purpose apparel lines and designs to gain a competitive edge, both locally and globally in e-commerce environments.
3. Provide Hybrid Solutions
Time-poor, multi-tasking consumers value hybrid solutions that solve more than one problem. Opportunities exist for retailers to seamlessly blend work and personal life in versatile product offerings such as:
- wearable technology that integrates well with AR and VR products in-store.
- travel packages that include luggage sets for those on-the-go customers who work from multiple remote locations.
- camping equipment and off-grid supplies for those who work while they play.
4. Support Local Sourcing and Supply Chains
Hybrid lifestyles value shorter supply chains that help offset the ever-increasing cost of living. As consumer support for community engagement with local manufacturers, farmers, and small businesses continues to grow, the onus is on retailers to ensure that Australian-made products are readily available.
Retailers can increase awareness of this trend by:
- promoting locally-designed or manufactured goods.
- stocking fresh food that’s regionally produced.
- and supporting indigenous brands to tap into local and ethically-sourced consumer values, while also boosting sustainability efforts.
5. Create Wellbeing Hubs
Retailers can help consumers achieve their healthy living lifestyles by bringing wellness activities into the retail environments where those consumers are. To do this, retailers must position their stores as a “one-stop hybrid living health hub”, offering services such as:
- in-store meditation or yoga classes
- physiotherapy and other massage services.
- fitness gear tryouts and trials.
- nutritional seminars and workshops.
- healthy eating food preparation classes.
- targeted preventative health screenings and blood or stem cell drives.
- and make healthy, convenient ready-to-eat meal options available to reinforce the wellbeing priority.
6. Leverage Time-Saving Innovations
Frictionless retail is a convenient way for customers to save time, and speaks directly to the need for balance between work and personal life.
Retailers must focus on multi-tasking hybrid living values that offer consumers efficient, seamless experiences. Some examples include:
- after-hours lockers for pickup.
- app-based ordering processes.
- automatic re-ordering for routine purchases
- click and collect
- delivery on demand.
- saved lists
- and self-checkout options.
7. Rethink Physical Spaces
Purpose-built community hubs consist of spaces for sharing experiences across work, socialising, recreation, and shopping.
Retailers will need to reimagine physical spaces, evolve floorplans and layouts, and facilitate the fluid integration of hybrid work patterns to personal life demands to give customers what they want. Some of the more standout innovations recently include:
- on-site childcare.
- coworking spaces.
- health-related services.
- experience-based leisure activities within store boundaries.
8. Adjust Operating Models
Hybrid lifestyles require flexible operating hours that include staff being available to meet the fragmented purchasing patterns consumers now need.
These flexible retail models will need access to big data, analytics, and customer segmentation information to map emerging peaks and troughs in traffic. Retailers must acknowledge that the hybrid lifestyle is here to stay in order to make these much-needed adjustments.
9. Optimise for Omnichannel Integration
The omnichannel strategies that retailers employ will underpin their success. The anywhere, anytime trend means retailers will need to adopt capabilities far more technologically advanced than before.
Of particular interest is the ‘endless aisle’ concept, which allows an in-store customer to place an online order for an out-of-stock item. When stock is replenished, the order goes out.
To boost the need for convenience, integrations that include virtual consults, IoT-connected fitting rooms, AR product visualisations, and cashierless stores will provide hybrid customers with the omnichannel flexibility and versatility they have come to expect.
The hybrid living trend is reshaping the way retailers do business, what consumers need to feel fulfilled, and how Australians spend their time. As work and life merge and overlap, things like multifunctional products, localised shopping, wellbeing services, and time-saving convenience will determine loyalty and satisfaction above all else.
Retailers who understand the hybrid trend should provide customers with versatile solutions that prioritise health, embrace tech-enabled flexibility, support local farmers and manufacturers, and enable a hybrid lifestyle to flourish.
By adjusting their operating models and omnichannel capabilities, retailers can drive profits and loyalty through purpose-driven commerce in 2024 and beyond.
If you’re not sure where to begin implementing your store’s hybrid transformation, get in touch today.
Contact the Retail Doctor Group, a retail advisory and consulting practice that builds retail channels and increases the performance of retail and FMCG businesses through our customised & transformative ‘Business Fitness™’ methodologies.
Since 2005 we have partnered with our clients to build powerful, award-winning, sustainable, and “fit” implemented retail. Ensuring our clients consistently achieve above benchmarks, build sales and margin results. We stay with our clients to ensure success.
As the Australian elected member of International Retail Experts, Ebeltoft Group, we have more than 20 years of experience as retailers and consultants in all retail channels, segments and regions. Today, members of the Ebeltoft network advise 80 of the 100 largest retail companies in the world.
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