The global landscape is changing, forcing companies to adapt to a “new normal” spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. While these changes have thrown some industries off their axis, they’ve also revealed some key areas to build on and innovate.
As the global landscape changes, the business industry is being forced to adapt and see this as an opportunity for growth and change. With the multifaceted global disruption we’re all experiencing, the time is now to reimagine what business can look like. The COVID-19 pandemic, a growing reliance on technology and further digitalization of business may pose new challenges, but it’s also a chance to start fresh and build new, more effective business models.
Innovation is at the core of this change. Advancing technology and e-commerce sectors have become more important than ever, with a big focus placed on sustainability. To survive this change in trajectory, we have to start thinking big, starting first by analyzing some emerging trends in business.
A shift to working from home
Easily one of the biggest changes businesses have seen is the shift to a work-from-home lifestyle. For many employees and employers, this meant a significant change in how business was run, and what a typical workday looked like. Some businesses, like Twitter and Shopify, have completely rethought their business models as their employees moved to permanently work from home. Other big-name companies like Facebook are also slowly making this leap over the next few years.
The results are split, with some companies experiencing a rise in productivity, and others seeing a decline. But regardless, the pandemic has surely shook things up, bringing work-from-home considerations—like equipment, mental health support and more—to top of mind for managers and business owners.
With this shift has come the emergence of videoconference technology, which has helped streamline work processes that took longer in person. Remote-working sector startups have boomed and innovated, with platforms being built to improve shared learning, project tracking, employee training and more.
An “app economy” takeover
Contactless and on-demand services have expanded hugely thanks to the coronavirus pandemic forcing everyone into lockdown. Without the same freedom of being able to go to grocery stores, shopping malls and other retail businesses in person, many are taking to shopping via apps on their phones or computers. The desire for getting products and services almost immediately has grown because of this, too—just look at Amazon, an e-commerce company that made a whopping $570 billion in 2020 alone thanks to a surge in on-demand shopping.
Consumer behavior has changed, with about 49 percent of adult consumers avoiding leaving their homes. This leaves a lot of room for innovation when it comes to app technology. With gyms closed, demand has risen for work-out-based apps to stay in shape. During the pandemic, Uber—along with many independent and big-name grocers—introduced on-demand grocery shopping options. Innovative apps will continue to redefine business well into the future.
Making room for automation
Business models have changed significantly since the beginning of 2020. As companies were forced to get more digital than ever, weak spots and areas of improvement were exposed, showing where roles and services typically fulfilled by humans could be made more efficient with machines and artificial intelligence.
An obvious example of this is in customer service, Forbes reports. Most online retailers offer chat support on their websites or platforms, but many have replaced human customer service representatives with chatbots to streamline the process. This type of streamlining is predicted to affect warehouses, supply chains, autonomous vehicles, as well as sectors like law, healthcare and other white-collar professions. It’s up to tech innovators to figure out what human jobs should be passed along to computers or smart robots—and which shouldn’t.
A boom in telemedicine
The global health crisis has caused a major shift to primarily telehealth and medicine. According to Inc., telehealth visits grew 50 percent compared to where the rate sat pre-pandemic. It’s believed that almost a billion people in the US alone will seek telehealth help by early this year, Forrester Research predicts.
Public companies like Livongo Health and Amwell have been offering telehealth services, but it’s also been a great area for startups like MDLive and Sense.ly to swoop in and fill a gap. This growth clearly points to a growing trend of digitalizing medical support and using artificial intelligence for tasks traditionally carried out by human beings.
Hybrid learning systems
Academic institutions revamped their learning models to adapt to lockdowns and social distancing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While online and remote learning already existed, it became paramount in 2020. Professors started using online video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet to conduct classes. IE University, for example, launched a Liquid Learning method that integrates in-person and technological learning opportunities. This system uses a hybrid class model to make the IE University experience, including extracurricular activities, accessible to everyone. This educational shift has birthed opportunities for innovation of online learning platforms.
A huge demand for virtual reality and augmented reality technologies
With more people staying at home than ever before, the demand for entertainment has been on the rise. Technology is constantly changing and evolving, and immersive technologies have become a part of everyday life. There are endless ways that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can be used to make our lives simpler and more enjoyable. The sports world is a multi-billion-dollar industry, raking in $75.7 billion in the US in 2020 alone. But sports fans haven’t been able to fill the stands because of COVID-19, making it the perfect space for VR to take over, allowing fans to virtually attend games from the comfort of their own homes.
Influencer marketing and e-commerce growth
E-commerce dominated last year, especially when it came to social media browsing. A fashion purchase survey found that 55 percent of Gen Zers made purchases online inspired by social media, and this is likely thanks in part to influencers’ marketing products. While this was already gaining traction before, it’s become even more popular now with people staying at home. An increased use of social media platforms, from TikTok to Instagram, means more opportunity to shop and sell. Similar, big-name stores that traditionally shopped in-person quickly transitioned to online-dominant, and this is expected to continue well into 2021.
These are just a few key trends in business that have emerged amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Innovation will leave no area untouched as the challenge to stay ahead grows trickier. Those who grasp at opportunities for growth are sure to stay on top.