The pandemic obviously has altered life for everyone, as social distancing and stay-at-home orders have changed the way we do business. While much of the disruption hopefully will be temporary, six trends are likely here to stay across all industries:
1. MORE COMPANIES WILL EMBRACE WORK FROM HOME
Out of necessity, companies adapted to employees working from home once states began shuttering non-essential businesses. Now, after more than a month with the experience under their belts, an increased number of businesses will likely embrace remote work for the long term. Microsoft reported that users of its Teams app increased from 32 million per day to 44 million in one week’s time. Businesses are using apps like these — and ones produced by Google, Zoom and others — to collaborate on projects and hold meetings.
Once restrictions on work are lifted, industry experts believe it won’t be a return to the old way of doing things, at least not completely. For example, Microsoft is seeing twice the number of new Teams users every day in China (even after the country lifted restrictions related to the coronavirus), because people are concerned about health and hygiene, and companies are realizing remote work is possible when done properly.
As such, companies will likely continue to allow segments of their employee base to work remotely. This in turn will eventually allow them to save on expenses such as rent, as they’ll lease smaller offices or avoid rent altogether.
2. MANUFACTURERS WILL MOVE AWAY FROM “JUST IN TIME”
Over the last few years, manufacturers shifted to what was known as “Just in Time” supplies, keeping only enough inventory on hand to meet demand for the relatively near future. They did this because it cut costs and waste, and because it became easier in recent years to produce products faster. The pandemic has shown this isn’t always a good idea: try going to a store or searching online for toilet paper, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer or multi-purpose cleaners.
According to Nielsen, year-over-year sales of aerosol disinfectants increased 343% in March, while sales of multi-purpose cleaners jumped 166%. This dramatic increase in demand shows that sticking by the “Just in Time” principle of inventory probably will not work long-term. Expect to see manufacturers embrace the middle-ground between stocking just enough product and having warehouses full of extra.
3. EVERYTHING WILL MOVE ONLINE
E-commerce is far from new, but there were still plenty of categories that either weren’t available online or didn’t have a huge presence.
One of those was grocery delivery. As guidelines became stricter, consumers stayed home and did their shopping online. While some grocery chains with delivery services were overwhelmed by the demand, those without a delivery service — or that didn’t partner with a third-party company such as Instacart — were left in the dust.
Soon, expect grocery chains to get into and capitalize on the delivery business.
4. TELEMEDICINE WILL BECOME THE NORM
While virtual appointments with doctors existed before the outbreak, they weren’t readily available or popular. Now, patients and health care professionals alike realize it’s not necessary for every interaction to be in an office setting.
Telemedicine will never replace more serious cases of illness or injury, of course, but routine care and general questions can be answered and guided remotely. This could ultimately change the health care industry forever and cut down on health care and insurance costs.
5. PLACES OF BUSINESS WILL ENHANCE HYGIENE
One aspect of life likely to forever change is hygiene. People were concerned about cleanliness before, but now we’re overly concerned about it.
Post-pandemic, don’t expect people to completely revert to the old way of living. Consumers will want to know that when they enter a store, for example, they are in a clean and safe environment. Consumers will want a place where they can wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. Businesses that gain the most trust among customers will be those that provide those hygienic measures and integrate best-in-class sanitation. This could entail anything from installing air purifiers to hiring a company to frequently and completely clean the establishment — and then telling customers about it.
Back in 2018, Stella McCartney opened what was touted as the most “sustainable store in London,” featuring a store-wide air purification system. While not all stores will implement the same, expect trends like this to continue.
6. PEOPLE WILL STAY CLOSE TO HOME AND TRAVEL WILL BECOME MORE FLEXIBLE
Perhaps the industry hit hardest by the coronavirus has been travel and tourism. When restrictions are lifted and most coronavirus fears subside, the industry is likely to rebound, albeit in slow but steady fashion.
Two likely trends will come out of this situation:
- First, when people begin to travel again, they’re likely to stay close to home because of financial considerations and wariness of traveling to exotic places.
- Second, travel and tourism companies will likely become more flexible. For instance, airlines may update their cancellation policies to allow passengers to make changes to their reservations without huge fees. The same goes for the rest of the hospitality industry, as customers will choose travel companies willing to work with them when unpredictable situations arise.
SIX TRENDS LEAD TO ONE NEED: RELIABLE DATA
In closing, it’s important to emphasize that these business trends rely on available internet connections. The pandemic has tested the strength of networks around the world; it will continue to do so as these trends stick. That means tech companies will rush to build out their networks, beef up speed and bandwidth, and create new technologies compatible with emerging 5G to serve their customers.
Whether through traditional ISPs or mobile data from cellular companies, the only way this works in the long run is if customers can access what they need when and where they need it.