Over the past two months, our world has come to a collective pause. ‘Business as usual’ is anything but, and countless industries around the globe now face a decidedly uncertain future. Understandably, the media coverage speaking to the far-reaching impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downtown has been vast and — in many cases — rather grim. The language we use to address our communities, co-workers, and clients have been aptly transformed, trademarked by the mention of unprecedented times, uncertain timelines, and “the new normal.” And yet, as we take a step back to consider how to move forward best, we may realize that it’s not all bad news. I’ve said it once, and I’ll surely repeat it; global events are a catalyst to change. Innovation is not only on the horizon; it’s happening before our eyes.
While we cannot deny the challenges now facing businesses across this new landscape, we also must recognize those brands which have emerged as key players, even now. The coronavirus economy may be daunting but, against all the odds, some industries now find themselves in a position to not only survive but thrive. What worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow — but it’s time to consider what is working today.
They say there is no time like the present, and when considering the current consumer demand for online shopping experiences, there really is no time like the present for brands to go digital. Amidst the pandemic, online business is booming, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Even those consumers who, before the pandemic, may have preferred an in-person, high-touch retail experience, are now rapidly embracing a digital model. From essential to non-essential items, consumers are ready and willing to shop online; and the retail landscape may be forever changed.
To address the recent surge in online orders, Amazon recently set out to hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States. Reports also show that U.S. retailers’ online year-over-year (YoY) revenue growth is up 68% as of mid-April, and a 129% year-over-year growth in U.S. & Canadian e-commerce orders as of April 21 and an impressive 146% growth in all online retail orders. Online conversion rates have also increased by 8.8%. Understandably, those brands that can pivot their offering to cater to an online experience utilizing a digital supply chain are sure to thrive both now and in the future.
Recently, Hyper Networks introduced a temperature checking kiosk which leverages facial recognition technology. In Texas, kiosks with Zoom video conferencing are being added to criminal courthouses, allowing defendants to attend plea hearings remotely. China, on the other hand, has begun implementing face mask vending machines, as well as hot meal vending containers. Even still, this is merely a glimpse at the self-service innovation that lies ahead. As industries look to move beyond the pandemic, self-service technology will become increasingly integral. This technology may include, but is not limited to:
– Machines that dispense sanitizer or packaged safety equipment
– Touchless transaction technology
– Self-service kiosks
– Voice-activated assistants
– Touchless entertainment technology (casting solutions, etc.)
– Sensor devices which can take temperature readings of individuals
– Mobile applications
Minimizing any frequent physical touch-points throughout the consumer experience, with the help of self-service, touchless technology, will become commonplace (if not mandated) moving forward. This technology will be especially crucial for any brands operating within the hospitality or retail space as they seek out platforms that offer personalized, convenient service and payment solutions via a digital, hands-free medium.
In a post-pandemic world, the best practices which have defined the cleaning standards across industries will face rigorous reform. These changes will significantly impact the hospitality industry (both hotels and F&B), and with this in mind, Hilton recently announced a new “CleanStay with Lysol protection” program. The initiative includes a rigorous protocol that incorporates Lysol’s trusted know-how and scientific approach to cleaning practices and product offerings, alongside expert advice from Mayo Clinic’s Infection Prevention and Control team.
Consumers are also purchasing cleaning products in larger, more persistent volumes. Reports indicate that in March and April, the sales of aerosol disinfectants jumped 230.5% and multipurpose cleaners 109.1% from this time last year. Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser have been cited as experiencing a great deal of success throughout this period, with a 13-32% jump in sales across various segments.
Delivery Services and Subscription Companies
With an increase in online ordering, comes a simultaneous push for delivery and subscription services. Now, more than ever before, people are eager to stock up on both essential and non-essential goods via online portals, from the brands they know and love. With an emphasis on enhanced convenience and personal safety, delivery services and subscription models that seamlessly meet consumer demand for groceries, personal goods, and more, are increasingly important.
Virtual Meeting and Productivity Platforms
As the global workforce shifts to rapidly adopt a ‘work from home’ model, the digital infrastructure companies have in place to support their internal processes and communication streams becomes undeniably paramount. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that platforms such as Slack and Zoom are positioned to thrive in this new economy.
In fact, Slack recently reported adding 9,000 new paid customers (an 80% increase), and Zoom now hosts 300 million meeting participants a day, according to CEO Eric Yuan. To maintain open communication streams, collaboration, staff productivity, and hands-on client support, virtual meeting, and professional communication platforms will be the way of the future for many industries.
Of course, companies can’t merely ‘go digital’ without also investing in digital security. Cybersecurity has always been a concern for brands, especially within those industries that rely heavily on consumer data and digital technology. Still, we now face an increased dependency on digital tools as companies move their service online. With increased demand comes increased vulnerability, and, as such, brands are aptly considering (and investing in) cybersecurity platforms that ensure the continued protection of user data.
Going beyond the influx in demand for virtual purchasing and company meetings, we witness a subsequent rise in virtual experiences and entertainment. This includes virtual fitness offerings, virtual and augmented reality platforms, virtual tours, virtual concerts, and more. Peleton, a virtual fitness provider, recently reported a 66% increase in revenue derived from paid digital subscribers and, anticipating continued demand, raised its full-year forecast.
Ultimately, brands are encouraged to consider how their target audience can (virtually) utilize their product or service from the comfort of their own home.
‘Stay-cations’ and Luxury Travel
Although non-essential international travel is currently off the table for most parts of the globe, industry leaders anticipate a notable rise in traveler demand for ‘stay-cation’ travel. This will likely include shorter duration trips and road trips, for which travelers will seek out accommodation options that are relatively close to home. Dan Kieran, author of The Idle Traveller: The Art of Slow Travel, thinks that local stay-cations will be the future of tourism and travel at least for the next year or two, as people emerge from the pandemic more cautious and hesitant to travel across borders.
Luxury travel is also likely to experience an influx in demand as travelers seek out destinations that allow them to get away from crowds and participate in more private experiences. Andrea Oschetti, Founder of luxury travel company, Blueflower, states that “security and privacy will become an even more important consideration when planning trips in the post-COVID world.” Other experts anticipate that travelers will likely appreciate the importance of good health more than before, which will translate to a rise in wellness travel.
If fortune favors the bold, a post-pandemic world favors those companies and industries which are ready and willing to innovate, establish a digital infrastructure, and respond to evolving consumer needs in an agile fashion. Although timelines remain uncertain, it’s essential to recognize that opportunity lies ahead, and these industries have begun forging the path to a re-imagined future.
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