There is no doubt the world is going to change after the pandemic. Some of those changes will be temporary, and some will be more permanent. Most industries had to adapt to remote work and adopt new technology immediately, but it already existed. Change was imminent, but possible.
Take restaurants, for example. A quick shift to takeout was required because eateries had no other option. Returning to the in-person experience will be awkward, at best, but it will be necessary in most cases to continue doing business and turning a profit. We were already using delivery apps as a subset of the food-buying experience, and they’ll see a continued uptick in the short term.
But when there’s a vaccine or a clear and obvious return to safe socializing, most will continue to go to restaurants for the experience. And restaurants aren’t alone in this.
This will also be true for sporting events, concerts, and other experiences that simply can’t be replicated online. Denmark is doing drive-in concerts right now, hosting 500 cars per show. That’s something that’s interesting in the short term, but it won’t permanently replace the concert experience once crowds are permitted again.
Sports may be a smart arena in which to test VR seating experiences, offering a sort of premium option for people viewing from home. Placing cameras in select locations that move with the action wasn’t a priority before, but ticket prices were getting tough for the average fan to manage pre-pandemic. That’s something that could work in teams’ favor, especially if it takes a couple years for things to get fully back to normal for all consumers.
And that’s perhaps the most important part of industry and technology going forward: People will take some calculated risks for the things and experiences that can’t be replaced.
Where we will see the biggest changes? That part is obvious: Those will take place in the industries that were already shifting and needed to shift.
The most obvious example could be found in retail. We were already trending online: Malls and big box stores were losing consumers’ interest as more shifted to boutique retailers and online outlets. It took 20 slow years, but people finally got comfortable with ordering almost anything online. Direct-to-consumer companies were able to keep their costs low and disrupt industries.
As consumers, this one seems easy — it’s safe to say that the majority of people will opt to keep buying things online, even when there’s an all-clear. When spending power is back, this will create plenty of online retail opportunities. And for a while, there will be a broadening of brands and entrants. That will consolidate over this decade, but if you’re in retail right now, consider market share a free-for-all fight.
There will always be those nostalgic for the mall. There will be a few exceptions that work because they create a unique experience, like Lush and other retailers in the health and beauty realm. But younger generations will be fine with buying products online and getting their tutorials from Instagram and TikTok.
On the flip side of cosmetics and beauty are how we treat common illness, get medicine, and stay informed about health. These aspects of well-being will become better suited for telehealth. Most people weren’t using it pre-pandemic; if we look closely, health and medicine probably hosted the most antiquated systems people were using. It’s ironic in a world where medicine has come so far.
Online portals for primary care still look like something from the early 2000s rather than the efficient apps and systems we expect. It’s easier to learn a language on your phone than it is to check in with your doctor. That’s an opportunity that’s apparent now.
In every stage of life, expect to see app-based systems that inform, track progress, send updates, and map out health. Seem far-fetched? Here’s a good example: FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) conducted a study on peanut allergies. Approximately 1.6 million kids have these allergies. However, the study found that 80 percent of those allergies could be eliminated by introducing certain allergens early to infants.
Give parents something on their phone that lets them track what they can be doing. Then, kids will grow up with that system and use it as adults, rendering our healthcare system more efficient. There will be bumps, but that’s where we should be heading.
And now, perhaps the biggest change: online education. There was a solid resistance to online education, even a few months ago, with people feeling the virtual experience deprived students of vital elements. Now that everyone has been forced to become online students and homeschoolers, they’ve discovered there are some benefits.
Thirty million learners were already using Instructure’s tool Canvas to manage online learning, so the technology exists; many colleges and universities already use it. That means that unlike healthcare, where tools will need to be built, there’s already an accepted standard in education.
Shifting more to online education has a couple immediate benefits. Students may be able to keep costs down and work more during school with a flexible schedule so they don’t have as much student loan debt in their early career. Today’s students get everything on-demand already, making education feel like the next frontier to follow suit and boost productivity and efficiency as a result.
And on-demand learning will see a bump post-conventional education. As conferences and networking events go on hold, LinkedIn Learning and Skillshare are growing. Forbes8 launched before the pandemic as a digital alternative to conferences and continued education via mobile videos and tutorials. Expect that sector to grow, as well, as the business world shifts its focus from in-person experiences to online development.
The world is always changing. A pandemic and a recession are just accelerating the pace and making people comfortable with certain changes faster. Rather than wait for change to come, businesses should look at how they can influence and shape it.