Business Will Be Forever Changed Post-COVID - How Can You Keep Up?
150 years ago Darwin told us that nature favours adaptability. He concluded that the advancement of species occurs under the specific circumstances of isolation, small populations and intense evolutionary pressure.
Does this sound familiar?
Covid has upended just about every sector by driving us into lockdown, limiting to regional contact, and forcing us to adapt to a new normal.
But since the world’s greatest problems are also the greatest opportunities, let’s explore how Covid is changing business for the better.
A NEW HISTORY
Events that pose an existential threat to society force us to adjust our norms.
Consider how 9/11 impacted travel. The TSA emerged and previously unfathomable travel restrictions were automatically accepted in the interest of safety. Queues became ubiquitous, security enhanced, and body scans, mandatory. We are already seeing similar trends evolve thanks to Covid.
Just like other crises before it, Covid-19 will leave a lasting imprint on our species.
THE FUTURE OF GLOBALIZATION
Globalization is one of the obvious victims of Covid. Supply chain shocks reverberated globally, serving as a painful lesson in the fragility of outsourced networks. Likewise, the domino effects of just-in-time manufacturing were plainly exposed.
In the future, companies will hedge against supply risks by prioritizing reshoring. As automation reduces labor costs, localizing through robotics and 3D printing might reinvent traditional manufacturing and supply chains entirely.
But unlike commercial supply chains, we will likely see an increase in globalization with respect to human capital. If the “corona-conomy” has taught us anything, it’s that physical proximity is no longer necessary for productivity. The knowledge economy will now be turning to cyberspace and labor-on-demand. This will open up a whole new talent pool of connected intelligence.
As an entrepreneur or knowledge worker, consider how being untethered geographically will improve your options available and quality of life.
HOW DIFFERENT SECTORS WILL FARE
As agility and automation become the buzzwords for this new era of business, we will likely witness a surge in exponential technologies that have come to the rescue during Covid. Think how quickly contactless payment limits were increased in more than 30 countries to support social distancing measures.
The conclusion? People and companies that double down on digitalization will be the survivors in this new world.
Old products and paradigms will fail. And only the best in class will thrive out of the corona-conomy.
Like global supply chains, Covid has exposed the inefficiencies of the healthcare system. But equally, it has accelerated more sophisticated digital interventions as artificial barriers to moving online have been swept away. It has already driven a massive uptake in telehealth, with consumer adoption skyrocketing from 11 per cent to 46 per cent year over year.
What’s next for healthcare?
Remote patient monitoring through wearables, E-tattoos to manage chronic ailments, and smartphone-enabled diagnostic devices will be on the rise. The medicalized smartphone allows for everything from vital signs monitoring via contact lenses, to “underwerables” measuring respiratory movement, and “poopoables” monitoring microbiome health. They will all become staples in our daily lives.
And as data evidences the correlation between immune health and virus resilience, “healthspan” is going to see its moment in the spotlight. Preventive medicine and wellness through genomics and the “iomes” of your body will become mainstream. We are now equipped with enough data and devices to become the “CEOs of our own health”.
As we de-localize, we will also need virtual digital systems to mediate human connection. Mental health will become a top priority, with therapies administered remotely through AI and mixed reality.
Speaking of de-localizing, we’re in the middle of the biggest remote-work experiment in history. As companies work through their remote work dance steps, employees will prefer to ditch the daily commute, propelling 5G adoption for bandwidth increase. Videos optimized on 10 gigabits per second will be standard as VR and avatar-based communication achieve mass adoption.
Stacked office space will transition out of cities into shared working hubs in rural areas, opening up a new business model for a “WeWork” of the social office. Culture and innovation will be two of the core challenges in a socially-distanced workplace, so new models of live-and-work-style-communes will develop in regional outposts to keep people connected.
Remote conferencing will also become the norm. HTC recently hosted the first fully-virtual industry conference, demonstrating the viability of this model. To provide human value, VR conferences could monetize through membership community bases, offering gamified participation and interest-based networking channels.
TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY
With distancing mandated, airlines will introduce new technologies to mitigate virus transmission. In-seat protection like Teague’s 3D-printed AirShield to protect passengers from recycled air, will be commonplace. Aircrafts will also upgrade their air filtration features, and potentially incorporate ultraviolet lights as additional cautionary measures.
These new features will inevitably hike costs of air travel, especially as space constraints limit passenger capacity, which will spawn a new era of semi-private chartered operators like Aero.
And on the landing side of travel, hotels and public venues will have to incorporate social distancing measures and enhanced hygiene practices. Contactless thermometers and automated thermal scanners will be status quo. New models of hotels might even develop based around the desire to be physically distant, with automated check-ins and robot-powered room service features.
FOOD & RETAIL
Given the spike in food deliveries, restaurants are reimagining the future of dining. Dark kitchens, first-class in-home meal service, and starship delivery will be pervasive. Companies like Archer Aviation are already redirecting their eVTOLs from passenger travel to food delivery to accommodate the increased demand.
The gourmet food truck and dark kitchen model will be on the rise as the cost of real estate will no longer be justified with distancing measures. This will lend to the positive externalities of sharing services, resulting in better quality and lower costs for the consumer. Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick’s Cloud Kitchen was already on trend pre-Covid, and ghost kitchens will only continue to spring up as DoorDash and Uber Eats entrench themselves as household staples.
For those restaurants that do choose to return to public dining, virtual waiting areas via digital apps will be adopted to avoid queues and loitering.
As for retail, it will never fully rebound, with major department stores taking the biggest hit. The winners of retail will be the omni-channels like Amazon who integrate AI recommendations. These powerful algorithms will know you so well they’ll replace the personal shopper, leveraging AR on your unique avatar to ensure fit and style.
SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT
In terms of entertainment, YouTube and TikTok consumption more than doubled in 2020. These mediums will be host to the “future of subscription services” for everything from DIY to personal trainer classes to edutainment.
Live sports and music will be consumed via VR, and much like in Denmark, sporting matches will be attended on Zoom via virtual grandstands. If you want to feel as if you were truly at the game, Apple has now patented a synthetic photo tool which allows you to create a socially distant group selfie so you can crop yourself in to just about any event!
Education is going to shift massively away from the anachronistic (and static) institution and into the realm of digital. Imagine MasterClass (whose growth has doubled during Covid) for all scholastic subjects, presented in video, AR and VR format. Maximizing engagement, startups like Top Hat provide video streaming platforms for educators including features like polls and pop quizzes. For the younger generations, services like Zigazoo, invite students to post videos in response to daily prompts that engage them with real life experiments.
The future of learning will be all about kinesthetics and engagement, with digital mediums allowing students to learn at a pace that suits their aptitude and curiosity.
We’re still in early days of many of these remote tools, and many are rather skeuomorphic—we’re still mostly putting traditional businesses online. But once we reconceive a future where digital learning is native, we’ll open the doors for entirely new channels of business.
There’s no playbook for a post-Covid economy, but fortunately like the Dot Com bubble of 2001 and the aftermath of 2008, the post-Covid era will engender a fever for entrepreneurship that will launch us into this next decade.