Covid-19 is upending a lot of what we considered “normal.” It’s ramping up changes predicted to occur not until years from now. To tackle the next steps for a post-pandemic world, let’s take stock of what’s currently happening around us.
Which trends have early adopters already been embracing? Which new behaviors—expected to gradually materialize in years—have become norms in just a few months? Which of these changes are posing more challenges than opportunities, and vice versa?
The nature of the global pandemic is increasing the demand for Telehealth services. People are following governments’ stay-at-home policies. Hospitals are reserving facilities for seriously ill patients with or without the virus.
In March, Amwell, a Telehealth company, saw a “huge hike of 10- or 20-fold growth in a week” and expected it to be the new norm. Across the health system, medical professionals are offering online consultations via video, phone, and chatbot.
Post-pandemic, technologies that facilitate Telehealth services will see more opportunities for growth such as wearables, video conferencing, imaging, and more. The main challenge will be the interconnectivity across channels and devices.
2. Contactless payments
The way people pay for things is rapidly changing as governments and businesses encourage digital payments. According to ABI Research, compared to pre-pandemic, contactless adoption will increase between 6% to 8%. In 2020, the market advisory firm forecasted growth of 14%.
The key challenge is security. One solution which will be an opportunity for providers is biometric payment cards. Other technologies that will help push digital and contactless payments are RFID and wireless networks.
3. Remote work and enterprise communication
For many organizations, remote work has been in consideration for quite some time. The global pandemic pushed them to make the jump, and business continued almost as usual.
Of all video conferencing providers, Zoom rose to the top, recording a 378% growth in daily active users. Other companies that facilitate enterprise communication seeing increased demand include Microsoft, Slack, Cisco, and LogMeIn.
As remote work becomes the norm during and possibly after Covid-19, there are challenges and opportunities in workforce management, data infrastructure, and SaaS. Other things to consider are work-life balance, and labor and income tax issues.
4. Distance education and online learning
According to the World Economic Forum, over 1.2 billion children are currently out of the classroom worldwide. Some countries such as Denmark and Vietnam are reopening schools. But most governments prefer to keep schools shut.
Even before the health crisis, the online education market is projected to reach $350 billion by 2025. Today, the use of video conferencing, online learning software, and virtual tutoring has increased. Other technologies that can enhance online learning are virtual reality and AI robot teachers.
However, the major challenge in distance learning is access. Without widespread support to enable digital readiness, online education could widen the gap across income levels.
To minimize the spread of the virus, robots have been deployed to do a variety of tasks. From disinfecting cities and checking temperatures, to delivering goods and distributing face masks and hand sanitizers.
Robotics has a lot of room for growth, and it’s interesting to see how robots will develop to add multi-functionalities and human interactions. On the contrary, there will be challenges in security, ethics, navigation, and production of new materials.
6. Online shopping and virtual experiences
Since the declaration of a global pandemic, not only did online sales grow but also first-time online shoppers—especially among older generations. According to Signifyd, the shift from in-store to eCommerce sales is speeding up by a year or two.
As more people rely on digital shopping, retailers have to create immersive virtual experiences to enhance the buying journey. For instance, Asos is scaling up the use of augmented reality. Shoppers can see a more realistic (simulated) view of models wearing the products. Asos can release new products and keep customers engaged.
Challenges and opportunities exist in setting up omni-channel retail, innovative ways to fulfill orders, and managing supply chain disruptions.
7. Supply chain and operations
Covid-19 highlighted how globalized we all are. Not only in terms of communication and information access but also in supply chains and production. As globalization halts and national borders close, businesses will explore ways to optimize “onshore” manufacturing.
Even before the pandemic, Nike and Adidas have already been investing in automation. According to Morgan Stanley, the two companies could have 20% of production done in automated factories located closer to the US and Europe markets by 2023. Amazon warehouses also already have over 200,000 mobile robots alongside human workers.
After Covid-19, businesses will put more importance in productivity to manage costs and bounce back from revenue loss. While companies and technology providers have several opportunities to grow, the key challenges will involve human workers. From getting replaced by automation to developing new skills to move into better-paying jobs.
8. New consumer behaviors
Sustainability has been part of the public discourse for decades. With the health crisis, consumers are now more inclined to support brands that are socially responsible and environmentally friendly. There’s also increasing sentiment towards supporting the local community.
As people stay home, spending on comfort-related and home products will grow. Moreover, since safety and hygiene have become more significant, cleanliness and health will be staple features of businesses.
Digital transformation at the core
When everything seems to be uncertain and in a state of flux, it’s hard to distinguish between challenges and opportunities. However, across trends and industries, it’s apparent that being digital-ready is essential.
Covid-19 accelerated not only the implementation of various technology solutions, but also the competition between digital early adopters and laggards. To remain competitive post-pandemic, building the infrastructure to support a digitized world will be vital for countries, businesses, and people.