Clearly our lives have changed enormously in the past few weeks as we self-isolate to avoid infection. While some indicate this may go on for 12 weeks, other sources say that this may go on for as long as a year. Either way, it is already clear that these new behaviours will certainly have a profound impact on the way we live our lives; not just today and during the course of the pandemic, but I expect some behaviours to have a permanent impact.
While the digital future is already happening now, the Coronavirus certainly will certainly bring us to that next level. The virtual office will become more prominent, online shopping rates will rise significantly, there will be an increased interest in virtual events, doctor consultations will happen via facetime, movies will be streaming as we move from the big screen to our smaller ones, and there will be an even deeper immersion into digital comms for social and professional connectivity.
The Virtual Office
Many more progressive tech companies have already been moving toward the virtual office format. Virtual offices allow for decreased overhead and maximised employee efficiencies. Workers will get things done in their own time when working from home as opposed to the confines of the 9 to 5 work day. Also, without the distractions of other people around you, interruptions by colleagues, workplace noise, office politics, and the like, it is easier to get things done. Virtual offices also allow access to a global talent pool and is a very “green” choice as no one is commuting to work. Also, for the overworked professional who has minimal time to spend with their partners and children during the week, working from home will allow for an increase of much needed family time.
Innovative tech companies such as Mozilla, GitLab, Invision, Napier, Upworthy, and Basecamp all host a virtual office space. And this is just the short list. Many innovative / early adopter companies have embraced the virtual office. There are certain industries where the virtual office format would be quite easily established. These would be tech, recruitment, digital publishing, marketing, education, law, sports and entertainment management, and accounting, to name a few. While the world is quickly adapting to working from home out of necessity, the shift may certainly be permanent for some as they realise the overall benefits and efficiencies of this new way of working.
The Digital Marketplace
I have read that by the year 2040, 95% of purchases will happen online.1 But, given our need to self isolate in the coming months, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get nearer to that in 2020. While more than half of us already make online purchases every month, I do expect a sharp increase in the coming weeks and months. Before the coronavirus, many people shopped online due to the convenience of shopping 24/7, the overall accessibility of getting what you need without leaving the house, ease of gift-buying and sending in one go, access to online reviews, better bargains, and access to larger inventories. In our post coronavirus era, people will soon be shopping online because we have no choice. In the weeks to come, we will see a massive increase in online grocery shopping, online pharmacies, and retail shopping. And because of the ease and convenience, people will likely continue this behaviour well into the future.
According to research, only 64% of UK SMEs have a website and even less have eCommerce solutions to sell their goods and services. Given the state of the economy, many SMEs will struggle through the coronavirus era, and many won’t make it. Those that do not have a website or offer online access to goods and services will be at an even greater risk of failure. These businesses will need to get into the digital age very quickly. For businesses to survive in the immediacy and prosper in our digital future, they must have a website and source a solution to sell their goods and services on their own property or through an online retail consolidator. I expect to see many SMEs rushing to create or optimise their websites so as not to disappear.
Virtual Reality come to Life
Virtual reality is not necessarily a new thing. But, it really hasn’t made any significant impact on the way we live our lives at this point. For the gamers among us, perhaps virtual reality has changed the way you play your video games, but other than that, virtual reality has touched few of our lives. But, given our need to stay away from mass gatherings, things like concerts, sports events, and theatre productions will no longer be accessible. This is where I see virtual reality coming in.
While I am not a technologist. I do know we already have the technology to create the sensory experience of being at a live gig or match without actually being there. All we need is a live feed of the match or performance and create a sensory experience of being surrounded by people, noise, and the native environment. While it may not be the actual reality of being at a match or gig, it allows for more an alternative way to enjoy your favourite sports team, band, or theatre performance. If mass gatherings continue to be an issue, the sports and entertainment industry will certainly be exploring a virtual presence as a way of reaching their fans.
Your Doctor comes to You
I have been working in healthcare marketing for some time now and I do remember, about a decade ago, there was a lot of chatter about how we will start having doctor consultations via digital screens. There were some apps and healthcare platforms that started to offer this service, but it never really took off. This is likely because screening and tests often need to be performed on site and with the use of machine technology that is impossible to administer through FaceTime. While this is still true, many doctors will start to recommend virtual patient visits when possible above in person visits. It will reduce the risk of infection for their already ill patient and will help contain the treatment of coronavirus itself as you need to ensure the afflicted patient does not further the spread of their germs by traveling back and forth to the doctors office or hospital.
This will be a necessary immediate step that many healthcare providers will be taking. In fact, I had a doctor inform me today that he will be consulting via phone moving forward unless there is an emergency where I need to come in for treatment. And, like many of the things discussed in this article, I see this being a permanent solution for healthcare consultations. Many people find it miserable to have to travel to a hospital or doctors office when they are sick, they risk further infection or getting worse with exposure to the elements, and they risk spreading the virus or infection that they are currently suffering from. If and when they can, more and more doctors will be taking this step if and when possible as a way of preserving the health and well being of their patients.
The big screen gets smaller
As a long time digital marketer, every year I look at pending digital trends and every year video is at the heart of those trends. With the advent of the coronavirus, we will definitely see a further immersion into this space. As with the live events, movie theatres will not be accessible in the immediacy either. If the coronavirus extends to the summer months, what will we do with our summer blockbuster film? Will it be delayed to next summer or will producers look to platforms like NowTV, Prime, and Netflix to distribute. Given the premium nature of the content, it will certainly not be offered for free, but distribution of major film productions will be vital to recoup investment and reach their target audience. While I think the big screen will survive the coronavirus era, it may turn it into more of a novelty than the place you go to see the newest films. In the very near future, people will start turning to their small screens for all content including the new release movie blockbuster.
Social Media becomes less anti-social
It will be interesting to see how the coronavirus changes the way we interact with social media. To date, many people use platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to show how great their lives are. They brag about their kids, show themselves having fancy meals, travelling to exotic destinations, and showing off all the many interesting things they do. With all of us homebound, there will be less of that to share. But, there will be more of a need to actually socialise through digital platforms. I think there will be greater adoption of one to one or curated group interactions through Facebook messenger and Whatsapp. There may be more sharing of helpful tips and advice as we all navigate a very changed existence. There may be more sharing of meaningful professional information on LinkedIn as people begin to embrace a global work space. I see more sharing of family and close friend time as that in person time increases in value and importance. I hope to see the social media space become a bit kinder and slightly less self-obsessed.
While I do think further immersion into the digital age is imminent, I don’t mean to imply that we will all turn into small screen obsessed, self-isolating robots. I think there may be a positive side to many of these technological changes. I think there will be a renewed focus on the family unit with parents spending more time with their children. I think people will start gravitating toward big open spaces such as parks and beaches and start to get back to nature, and I think there will be an increase in care and attention for the elderly community as adult children spend more time catering to the needs of family elders. I also think that, because this is now a global issue impacting people all over the world, that this will allow for a shared global consciousness that will help us to see past cultural, religious, and racial divides and become more of a global community, at least in spirit.