This comprehensive report investigates the rapidly shifting digital landscape and its impact on end-consumers
Together with the unveiling of its Bath Bot, Lush presents a special report on the future of social media and digital engagement.
16 Jun 2023

Over the last five years, the in-house tech and digital teams at the British cosmetics brand Lush have developed the world’s first Bath Bot (pictured above).

— When paired with Lush Bathe — a feature on our app, where the user can choose between audio-visual experiences for ’me-moments’ or plunge into our own podcast — and any of our bath bombs, the result, I’d say, is a sensory-transformational experience, says Adam Goswell, Head of Technology R&D. The design is identical in size and shape with our bath bomb and features a distinctive domed convex speaker for 180-degree sound and full-spectrum multidirectional lights that fill your bath and bathroom with an ’audio waterdance’ of tiny bubbles and a radiant light show of colours.

Together with this launch, Lush also joined forces with The Future Laboratory, presenting the new report Digital Engagement: A Social Future, investigating the rapidly shifting digital landscape, its impact on consumers, and existing barriers to digital transformation.

— It’s about digital engagement and delves into how and why digital spaces represent the next human rights or ethical frontier, says Annabelle Baker, Global Brand Director, Lush. We’ve brought together grounded data from different markets, debunking digital myths, revealing what society wants from digital platforms, and providing a manifesto that can unleash techno-optimism. It looks at the emergence and capabilities of Web3 technologies, along with the evolution of the metaverse and what this means for the future shopping experience. After our Anti-Social Policy stance (Lush left social media in 2021, Ed’s note), we wanted to help elevate and develop the positive actions that are happening in this space. We need to move the narrative from what we can’t do to what we can.

What are the key takeaways here?

— Big Tech is too big. That’s what our research has revealed, with a significant majority of the consumers we surveyed feeling like big brands and corporations dominate technology and online culture and wanting Big Tech to have less control online. One of its biggest failings is social media. In competition with each other, technology providers and their social media platforms have lost sight of their original function as each race to be everything to everyone. The promise of social media was connection, expression, and community. But today many people experience platforms as hostile places, with nearly half (49%) of consumers believing social media platforms do not do enough to protect users from harassment, harm, and manipulation. Despite its inventor Tim Berners-Lee stating back in 1997 that ’the power of the Web is in its universality’, the reality has unfolded very differently. Left in the wrong, irresponsible, unregulated and commercially driven hands, it’s become highly damaging, says Baker. She continues: 

— But is Web3 now providing an opportunity to course-correct the cultural narrative around digital, technology and the internet, and its impact on society? As one of our experts, digital anthropologist Katie Hillier, states in our report: ’Web3 isn’t just the next iteration of Web2 – it’s a complete rejection of it. What’s incredible is that those building it are attempting to realise the original goals of the internet.’  Although another of our contributing experts, Mica Le John — educator, author and CEO of Idoru — doesn’t feel we should be striving to do what people set out to do in the beginning. We should be looking to develop tech that gives back more than it takes. With technology and digital at a tipping point, we need to ensure the world shifts both in the right direction to fulfil their potential to act as a tool for betterment and progress — with tech giving more than it takes away. Now is the time for techno-optimism. 

The report includes a manifesto of five principles around which the mentioned future can unfold: Sustainable, Open-source, Community owned, Iterative, Accessible, and Life-affirming.

— It’s impossible now to separate commerce from digital spaces. Looking ahead, increasingly immersive virtual worlds — or the Metaverse — are promising to transform the future shopping experience. This report really helps us understand the why behind the what, which is what enables us to build longevity into any responses. When we understand why something is happening and not just the outcome, it opens up limitless possibilities for dealing with anything at its core — rather than finding interim and sticking plaster solutions.

As mentioned, you’re not present on the major social media channels. How come?

— In the last 12 months, there has been momentum building behind the need for platform safety and mental well-being amongst both customers and staff, says Baker. We care about the safety of our community and want them to feel safe online, whilst at the same time putting a bit of pressure on the big tech companies to do better. We are exploring new ways to be social this year and enjoying meeting with passionate people doing positive things in the social space, like Sue Fennessy, the CEO of WeAre8 — a social platform looking to drive change in the industry. 

Commissioning the report with The Future Laboratory was also part of this, Baker continues, so Lush had an expert opinion on what’s next in the area of digital engagement. 

— We surveyed 12,000 consumers across the UK, US, and Japan as part of the report, to garner consumer insights into what’s important to the public and what they want to see. The results were interesting. For example, almost 7 in 10 surveyed believe that if a social media platform is unethical then brands should step away from it. It also opened our eyes to the fragmented nature of digital culture and how it feeds into your life, along with the potential of Web3 technologies and spurred us on to dip our toes into the metaverse. Not only did we have a physical presence at SXSW in Austin this year but we also built a digital twin replica of the activation in Decentraland. In there, visitors were able to get a first look at the Digital Bath, learn about our future-forward messages at SXSW, and could be rewarded with a limited-edition digital wearable. We know we’re heading into a future where these multidimensional platforms are an important part of people’s lives, so we want to be able to meet them in their world to have interactions and conversations.

Takeaway from the report.

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