COVID-19 Is Forcing Businesses To Innovate Rapidly To Survive, Creating a New Normal That Will Likely Persist
Written by Jason Bloom
In just a few short months, COVID-19 has radically altered the way the planet does just about everything. Not since the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 has the world seen such drastic revisions to daily life caused by an illness.
These technological adaptations are creating a “new normal”
Containing a pandemic 100 years ago was easier by degrees. Globalization hadn’t yet connected the world, and the rapid spread of densely populated cities around the globe was still decades away. Then as now, businesses were shuttered, events were canceled, and social life came to a halt.
Today, however, we have the benefit of technologies that couldn’t have been dreamed of by those living in the early years of the 20th century. Modern communications networks, materials science, and fabrication techniques are allowing businesses to keep doing business even while the planet remains closed.
These technological adaptations are creating a “new normal”. In all likelihood, life, as we knew it before the novel coronavirus, will never return. The changes that are allowing business to continue in the face of withering circumstances are, in some cases, preferable to our previous situation. When the pandemic is finally brought under control, some of these alterations will almost certainly persist. This means we’ll be better prepared if something like COVID-19 happens again in the future.
Technological adaptations are creating a “new normal”.
Radical Changes to Customer Needs Are Forcing Businesses to Adopt New Technologies in Order to Survive
Demand drives business. As customer needs evolve, businesses follow. This is generally a slow process. The current pandemic is forcing rapid revisions to customer demands, while simultaneously hamstringing the ability of businesses to satisfy them. This is leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment and underemployment.
Companies that can, are taking advantage of remote working technologies like video conferencing, mobile devices, and collaborative cloud applications to hold onto as many employees as possible. As of the beginning of May 2020, nearly a third of the American workforce has converted to working from home because of the virus.
Many of these people are employed by companies that wouldn’t have considered allowing their staff to work from home. With their hand forced, they’re discovering is that physical offices aren’t nearly as important as they previously thought.
Service businesses like restaurants, shops, and others are having to rethink basic assumptions about how they do business. Food establishments are leaning on online delivery services, and ramping up their own online ordering, while offering curbside pickup. Many cleaning companies are switching over to COVID-19 sanitization services to help keep their doors open.
Specialty shopkeepers are leveraging Facetime and other live streaming applications to take customers around their stores virtually. And gyms and other workout studios are switching to online, virtual classes to keep their employees on the payroll.
Now, nearly three months in, countries are beginning to reopen. Consumers, and governments, are demanding that businesses explore new ways of keeping their customers safe. Businesses that are heeding the call will find themselves in a better position to capitalize on the return of consumer traffic. Those that are slow to move may find themselves facing permanent closure.
Dramatic examples of companies rising to the challenge.
Customer Safety Will Drive Innovation For the Foreseeable Future
The process of reworking business infrastructure to focus on infection prevention is only just beginning, and we’re already seeing dramatic examples of companies rising to the challenge.
Grocery stores have already begun installing plexiglass shields at each register to protect patrons and workers from potential virus transfer. As non-essential retail stores begin opening, we can expect to see this technology spread.
Other retailers are adopting Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology which uses cameras and other sensors to identify shopper’s purchases as they leave a store, removing the need for checkout workers completely.
Factories have been badly impacted by COVID-19. Meatpacking plants in particular have been hard hit by the virus, due to chilly temperatures and overcrowded conditions. This has led to closures and shortages. As a result, automation technologies are getting a boost as firms are ramping up their efforts to replace vulnerable, potentially infectious human workers with robots.
Automated temperature checks are also filtering into public life. These systems use infrared cameras to read the body temperature of visitors as they enter schools, airports, and government buildings. These can identify people with fevers before they have a chance to spread illness to other patrons.
Many other changes will become permanent.
This Is the New Normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken businesses and consumers to their core. Even after a vaccine or other measures bring the virus under control, it may be quite some time before the population will feel comfortable fully participating in public life.
The natural result is that changes made by businesses to survive will continue to be important for years to come. We can expect cash register sneezeguards and virtual shopping to remain important parts of the business landscape. The mass adoption of convenience grocery delivery services will shift the way grocery stores do business. The increased dependence on online shopping, in general, will mean increased competitive pressure on brick and mortar retailers.
Many other changes will become permanent simply because they’re a better way of doing business. Companies are discovering that remote workers can be more productive than their office-bound brethren. And shrinking office attendance will allow businesses to decrease their square footage, power usage, and other expenses.
Automation and robotics technology have been incrementally replacing human workers for decades. COVID-19 has necessitated rapid escalations in automation investment. Because this is a trend business owners already support, we can expect sizeable changes in future employment prospects because of the disease.
It’s almost certain that some of these technologies will become so central to the way we do business, they’ll create whole new industries. The new normal will affect the future in ways we can’t predict. Entrenched companies may fall away, to be replaced by new firms with new ways of reaching customers.
The businesses that survive may look and operate very differently from what we’re used to. And, on the whole, this is probably a good thing. But whether it is or not, it’s heading our way.
Interested in learning more about how you can successfully market your brand during this worldwide (and completely crazy) pandemic? Reach out for a conversation today.
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