7 Predictions for a Post-Coronavirus World
As economies and normal life has been shut down across the world over recent weeks by the spread of Coronavirus, it’s clear that the impact will be felt for the next 12 - 24 months at least, with some changes forced upon society that will simply never return to ‘normal’. In fact, the enormity of this pause on life as we know it cannot yet be fully understood, with each passing day revealing new norms that will have a long term imprint on our collective lives.
It may be too early to start making predictions, but what will all these changes mean as we emerge from the crisis, and how will the ‘new-normal’ be accepted? A Digital founder Andrew Armitage makes 7 simplified predictions that will impact on business and society as the world recovers from this huge shock that has affected just about everyone on the planet.
It's been clear that those sections of the economy that have been able to continue with relative ease have digital at their core.
Digital Natives are Getting Younger
It's been well known that as we’ve gone from Gen-X, to Millennials and the current Gen-Z, the adoption of digital has grown with these latter generations known as ‘digital natives’.
With schools forced to close and Zoom becoming a household name practically overnight, kids as young as 6 are comfortably using the online meeting platform to chat and meet with friends online. This means that although they’re not getting a full school education, they’re learning a host of soft skills that many businesses are still lacking. There’s time for this age group to mature, and with digital transformation now a critical priority for companies (see below), over the coming years these soft skills that have developed from using collaboration software will be in high demand.
Remote transactions and consultations will become widely accepted
As people become more comfortable with video calls, and provided privacy and data protection can be assured, we'll see a significant growth in digital consultations, especially across the healthcare sector.
There will be other advances in society where there will be a growing expectation to be able to transact across video without person-to-person contact, so this will need to be an option companies offer for interviews, procurement and other negotiations. This will see a greater geographic spread of the supply chain and employment (and of course, working from home), with the ability to do business with people in more distant locations no longer a barrier.
Face to face contact will still be valuable to individuals however, and social trips to the pub, restaurants and other leisure venues will return once social distancing restrictions are lifted.
Local eCommerce will Thrive
There’s been a surge in local businesses stepping up their services or pivoting from their core offering by delivering goods (notably food and produce) to their local communities. However, up to now, either they’ve not embraced the digital model because of their more traditional roots, or they felt that competing with major supermarkets and the likes of Amazon made it impossible when the failing high street was already putting them under so much pressure.
Either some of these retailers haven't embraced a digital model because of their more traditional roots, or they felt that competing with major supermarkets and the likes of Amazon made it impossible. They've now got an incredible opportunity to give established retailers a challenge by building digital platforms and combining this with more personal relationships.
For the most part, these retailers will have taken occasional orders through social media posts or the odd phone call, but there’s a huge opportunity for them now to scale up their digital offering and retain customers who favour local supply and wish to reduce their environmental impact of using larger retailers. Those retailers who capitalise on the current situation by building a strong digital platform will be able to scale up their deliveries and offer convenience through click and collect. The key point for them will be to make their digital service easy and accessible, which when supplemented by more personal relationships with customers will offer a challenge on more established online retailers.
Businesses will accept the necessity of digital transformation
There are businesses across the country that still haven’t started on a journey of digital transformation. There may have been resistance from senior management to embrace digital or design thinking, perhaps because of a lack of understanding, but this will now be forced upon their organisations and they’ll be under pressure to adapt or die.
Digital transformation will now be forced upon organisations and they’ll be under pressure to adapt or die.
With just about every organisation being thrust into the position of having to literally sink or swim by having some of their teams working remotely and changing the way they service their customers, senior managers across organisations will now be seeing with their own eyes why digital transformation is so important. It's been clear that those sections of the economy that have been able to continue with relative ease have digital at their core.
Despite this recognition and a greater understanding for digital transformation programs, the need for reliable guidance and digital leadership will be crucial to ensure digital is adopted in the right way across the organisation.
Digital First Training
There will be an expectation that future training and educational courses will be delivered online, and only at a physical venue where necessary. Companies will embrace the saving on business travel and the increased productivity as a byproduct, encouraging their employees to seek out remote training opportunities where possible. This naturally offers a huge opportunity for training providers to pivot their offering to an online model that potentially also offers a more flexible learning approach.
Virtual Events will Gain in Popularity
There are events taking place for everything you can imagine and it’s impossible to attend them all - but it may be possible to attend more if they’re held online and the need for travel is reduced. There’s little doubt that online events aren’t the same as attending an event in person, but not everyone feels at ease in large rooms full of strangers, which means that simply taking away the content from speakers will satisfy most attendees.
Larger conferences and trade shows will still take place, but these events will need to offer greater value to justify the time and expense of travel. Visibility through exhibition stands or sponsorship, plus the ability for face-to-face contact and chance conversations from networking will continue to be a driver for attendance at these events, but the return they offer will be under scrutiny like never before.
We’ll be one big step closer to a cashless society
Over recent weeks, society at every level has been encouraged to use contactless payments to avoid touching chip and pin machines, and of course to reduce the spread of the virus from cash that could have circulated in infected environments.
Cash use has already been on a downward trajectory, but the Coronavirus will accelerate its demise. Given the wide variety of low cost and contract free options for accepting card payments now available from the likes of Stripe, SumUp and iZettle, there’s no reason that I can think of for retailers not to accept cards. There’s certainly an expectation among the digital consumer that you will.
This drop in cash usage will also suit the Government as they seek to recover the vast sums of money injected into the economy to keep businesses running. There’ll be a huge appetite to ensure a much tighter tax regime and the argument to be able to quickly identify how support could be offered if there was ever a future pandemic that required similar levels of Government intervention.
In these unprecedented times when Government intervention across the world changes by the day, and given that there’s no immediate end in sight for the spread of Coronavirus, there will inevitably be other large-scale impacts on societal and business norms - some of which are still to be seen.
I’d love to know what observations you’ve seen and whether you agree with these predictions.