While modern consumers are no strangers to digital platforms, quarantines and social distancing measures have accelerated a migration to fully digital lives. With in-person events from sports games to concerts to restaurants shutting down, digital alternatives are being adopted with increasing fervor. As more of our lives are spent online, there is a growing focus on our digital worlds; from what we wear, what our spaces look like and even what we drive; to virtual tourism; to a new dimension of wellbeing practices for the digital self.

Digital possessions

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West Elm's Zoom background designs
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In this new world of WFH (working from home), many are choosing to forgo the full work attire or makeup, but no one wants to do a video call with a messy kitchen filled with dirty dishes—or at least that’s West Elm’s thought. The home store launched a new set of digital interiors ready for Zoom meetings in March 2020. The home décor of your dreams is a few (free!) clicks away with luxury fittings and even your own virtual dog in one option.

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Digital possessions are not a new concept. The gaming world is seeing an influx of designers like Louis Vuitton supplying clothes and other items for avatars. Lifestyle and esports organization 100 Thieves has just made its notoriously hard to get streetwear available in Animal Crossing. On April 6, 2020, the company released virtual versions of every piece of apparel from the last three years in the popular game. Launched last October, Ada, the Chinese mobile app, allows users to purchase clothing and other items from designer fashion brands like Prada and Gucci to dress their avatars for only a few dollars each. The avatars can then go and visit other avatars, all in rooms which can be customized with luxury furnishings in the social-based game. In November 2019, Jaguar launched their first all-electric sports car, the Jaguar Vision Gran Turismo Coupé, in the Gran Tourismo Sport Sony PlayStation 4 game. Featuring all the specs and intricate details of a real Jaguar, the GT Coupé was designed with experimental lightweight materials allowing racing capabilities never seen before.

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Avatars aren’t the only ones playing dress up, as fashion brands look to dress real people on their social media accounts. The Fabricant, a digital-only fashion house, sells high-end items worth thousands of pounds while Swedish clothing brand Carlings released their virtual clothing line offering items for €30 or less proving that all ends of the spectrum are looking to this trend. Originally driven by concerns over the sustainability of the fast-fashion industry and the desire for unique social media posts, we could see even greater uptake as we spend more time online and in video calls.

Digital travel

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Airbnb Online Experiences

As the radius of daily life constricts, consumers are using screens as a window to the world like never before. Airbnb is offering virtual travel with Online Experiences, launched on April 9, 2020. Virtual tourists can ‘travel’ via Zoom to meditate with Buddhist monks in Japan, visit with the dogs of Chernobyl and cook with a Moroccan family in Marrakech. “Human connection is at the core of what we do,” Catherine Powell, Head of Airbnb Experiences, said in a statement. “With so many people needing to stay indoors to protect their health, we want to provide an opportunity for our hosts to connect with our global community of guests in the only way possible right now, online.”

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Airbnb Online Experiences

Destinations around the world are taking a similar approach. Hotels from California to Jerusalem to St. Bart’s are offering live streams of the views from their rooms so would-be guests can take a virtual getaway. The Jamaica Tourist Board kicked off its “Escape to Jamaica” series on April 3, 2020, inviting virtual visitors to participate in Jamaican culture with dance parties, cooking demos and yoga sessions hosted on Instagram Live.

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Xbox Rough Guides
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Gaming, too, is offering a modern mode for digital tourism. In February 2020, Xbox partnered with Rough Guides, British travel guide publisher, to release a virtual travel guide through the diverse landscapes and captivating universes of various games, including Halo 5: Guardians, Metro Exodus and Forza Horizon 4. The guide highlights beautiful don’t-miss digital destinations and otherworldly vistas.

“Game graphics are so immersive and all-consuming, you don’t just experience the gameplay – you experience the very world in which the gameplay unfolds,” Rough Guide wrote in blog post. “That thrilling feeling of being somewhere new is no longer the exclusive domain of real-world travel.”

Digital wellbeing

The online realm has often offered a sense of escape for many, but as daily habits and everyday stressors are moving online, consumers are looking for wellbeing tools that reflect and cater to heightened digital-first lifestyles. New games and activity platforms are helping alleviate the pressures of the new normal and redirect extra energy into something purposeful and uplifting.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

In the UK, the launch of Animal Crossing: New Horizons has sent a wave of stressed-out Brit’s into a paradoxical world of paradise. Users are able to pop into the game where their most important task for the day might resemble picking fruit and running errands, or even relaxing on a beach and doing some fishing.

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Canadian start-up Tru Luv Media has revamped their #SelfCare app to cater to the current wellbeing state of its users. The app invites users into a virtual bedroom and gives them options to fulfill simple tasks, like watering a plant or picking up laundry, to help them find a sense of order and calm. The recent update includes gentler welcome messages and downloadable coloring and crafting pages available on their Instagram.

This marks an evolution of the digital detox, moving from a way to disconnect to a way to cultivate wellbeing practices in the digital realm. As every aspect of our lives—professional, personal and social—now shifts online and is increasingly dependent on virtual tools, fully disengaging from the digital space seems unimaginable. Instead, consumers are developing online habits that help them find balance for their digital selves and coexist peacefully with their digital presence.

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