Shifts for 2020: Blurring Boundaries

By 2020, more people will have mobile phones than running water or electricity at home.1

And for the first time in history, more people will be connected to the internet than not.1 Mobile will generate nearly half of US ecommerce sales2 and Millennials will make up half the global workforce3—but don’t look for them in customer service, given that 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.4

A whole new world? Practically—and it’s just over 30 months away.

There’s never been a better moment to find growth in change. And sitting at the bustling intersection of over 1.86B people and 5M advertisers, Facebook IQ has a unique, global vantage point.5 That is why we are launching Shifts for 2020—an ongoing content series that will steer you where people are headed, so you can accelerate your own rate of change and secure relevance in a shifting world.

We’re kicking off the series with an essential look at five ways traditional boundaries and barriers are evolving—from the blurring of gender lines to the duality of globalism and localism. The way people see themselves in the world is shifting, and this is critical because it shapes how they will see and interact with others—people and brands alike.


1. Omnicultural identities


As technology exposes people to more perspectives and allows people to explore more multifaceted identities, many will reject traditional boundaries. Instead, people will increasingly embrace more personalized, complex and fluid means of self-identifying. While these changes—in areas like gender, parenting and cultural and linguistic belonging—have been building over time, in the coming years, expect them to go from niche to norm.

2. New negotiations


With people’s relationships with businesses mediated by technology, as technology evolves, so too will the “contract” between people and brands. We will move into a new era of continuous negotiation, as technology enables new possibilities, control and advantages for both businesses and people. On the one hand, people will continually expect more from brands (e.g., better mobile experiences and customer service). And at the same time, people’s acceptance of surge pricing demonstrates a growing willingness to pay more for convenience when it’s perceived to be worth the time and effort saved.

3. Next-gen work


Millennials have officially overtaken Gen Xers as the most populous generation in the US workforce,and it’s estimated that by 2020, they will make up half of the global workforce.3 As these digital natives grow in number and influence, Millennials will define the future of work. While so many studies on the Millennial mindset have yielded confusing (even contradictory) findings, when it comes to why and how they want to work, most Millennials seem uniquely clear on their strategic vision. And they will drive a major cultural shift as they seek more purpose, flexibility and meaningful connections with the organizations and people they work with.


4. Beyond aging


As people expand their perspectives on aging and increasingly see retirement as obsolete, Western notions will align with those of much the rest of the world, where the institution of “retirement” was never as relevant to begin with. People who may previously have seen retirement as a time for inactivity will increasingly prepare to do their best work yet. You will find them living more healthful, connected and fulfilling lives. And thanks to tech-enabled social connections, people will not only live better but longer too.7


5. Shopping near and far


It will be one of the great dualities of digital commerce: the push and pull between local and global. On the one hand, people will increasingly value and support commerce and culture right in their own backyards. And at the same time, in our increasingly globally-minded world, Facebook data reveals that of the 65M businesses on our platform, 35% of their connections are to people in other countries.8 360M people have already participated in cross-border ecommerce.9 And much like the flow of people, ideas and technology, the growing flow of products across borders will continue to connect us.

Marketer Shifts


2020 will be here in just over 30 months, but many of the clues to what it will hold are already around us. This gives you the opportunity to proactively pave your own path, so that when 2020 rolls around, you are already shaping a world that others will have to respond to.

Reimagine familiar frameworks: As fundamental concepts like gender and aging head towards irrelevance, leverage these shifts in everything from product innovation to campaign creation and implementation. For example, you could tap into new kinds of spokespeople to expand the relevance of your offering or rethink the pronouns you use to address your customers.

Find growth in fluidity: Consider how you can tap into new technologies to disrupt old models—for instance, introduce dynamic pricing into new contexts or find growth across borders, as emerging markets become a global growth engine.

Ignite change from within: Attract and retain tomorrow’s talent through a work culture that embodies purpose, transparency and flexibility. Reinforce this culture through digital tools that facilitate collaboration regardless of location. Learn from the success of companies that are already shaping the workplace of the future—from CEOs who use live video to connect with employees, to coworkers finding new ways to share knowledge and connect with each other—sometimes in the way that only a GIF can express.


1 “Cisco Visual Networking Index” by Cisco, Jun 2016.
2 “US Retail Mcommerce Sales” by eMarketer, Feb 2017.
3 “Transitioning to the Future of Work” by Deloitte (Facebook-commissioned survey of 245 global c-suite executives), Sep 2016.
4 “Here’s How Customer-Service is Going To Explode in 2015” by Inc, Oct 2015.
5 Facebook data, Apr 2017.
6 “Millennials Surpass Gen Xers as the Largest Generation in US Labor Force” by Pew Research Center, May 2015.
7 “Living Longer With Friends” by Facebook Research, Dec 2016.
8 Facebook data, Sep 2016.
9 “Digital Globalization: The New Era of Global Flows” by McKinsey Global Institution, Mar 2016.