As early as mid-March, we have been speculating on how our lives will change during what could be months of quarantine. As a digital marketer, I was particularly interested to see how companies would adapt (or wouldn’t) to this new world. Now, in our 7th week in, we are seeing the changes, the statistics, the fall out, and the successes of our time in lockdown. While it is true that many companies and industries have fully adopted digital transformation as expected, there have been some interesting digital shifts that we never expected. And some of these changes will impact the way we work, shop, learn, connect, and operate our business forever.
Rise of the eShopper
While online shopping has been on the rise for the last decade, we have seen some significant new online shopping behaviours during this pandemic, some of which was largely unexpected. In March, we saw a decline in commerce in non-essential and luxury goods, but surprisingly, April saw a huge increase. Given that shops are still closed and we are barrelling toward summer weather, we are all looking ahead to a summer of more freedom and less isolation. Given this, fashion eCommerce saw a significant uplift in April 2020. According to eConsultancy, new findings from Nosto suggest that revenue in April has bounced back and is on average 21% higher than it was in April 2019. Amazon has also seen an increase in sales of 26% in Q1 2020, although high cost of operations during Coronavirus has been impacting overall profit.
The shift to eCommerce is likely to remain throughout 2020 as, according to research, many shoppers will be reluctant to return to shops when they do reopen. GlobalWebIndex’s ninth release of its coronavirus research has revealed that nearly half of global consumers do not expect to resume shopping in brick-and-mortar shops for ‘some time’ or ‘a long time’ once lockdowns ease. And as time goes on, while we will return to the shops, eCommerce will continue to be a top channel for consumer shopping and we will see, even the smallest businesses among us, growing increasingly reliant on online trade.
The Remote Workforce
This pandemic has driven our global workforce (of non-key workers) into their “home office.” While certainly businesses have initially struggled with this new model, many have found success through increased efficiency and many employees have benefitted from a better work life balance. According to EConsultancy data, Significant numbers of respondents said they had also observed new ways of working which could be used post-outbreak.
In the UK in 2019, only 5% of workers worked from home according to the office of National Statistics. But, clearly, this number has increased significantly in the past few weeks. While businesses struggled to adapt to this new business format, many turned to digital platforms to ensure ongoing team collaboration.
Face to Face Time
It is crucial for any relationship, business or otherwise, that you are able to see each other in real time. While texting is expedient, many subtleties of communication are lost and can only be gained through voice intonation, facial expressions, and gestures. This is why tools such as Zoom became so important to businesses operating in a remote model. Platforms such as Zoom. In fact, Zoom users have jumped from 10 million to 200 million in the last quarter.
One of the key challenges for managers of a remote workforce is knowing what your staff is doing hour to hour and day to day. To allow for this insight, many businesses have adopted project management tools such as Basecamp or Monday so that their workers can log all projects, project status, assign next steps, and indicate review and completions within the online platform. This model not only cuts down on the admin of incessant emailing, but will keep the full team in the loop on the status of all projects and workstreams.
Real Time Discussions
I have worked in an office setting much of my life and have worked from home given extenuating circumstances. What I found most challenging in remote work was the feeling of being cut off from my work colleagues. When I had a question or needed to brainstorm an idea, I found it crucial to be able to have a real time chat to think it through. But, given the current climate, this has not been possible in the last few weeks. But through platforms such as WeChat Work, Slack, and Zinc, businesses have been able to ensure essential real time collaboration among internal staff.
Drive to Online Education
Clearly, given the global closures of schools and universities, students have been relegated to home learning in the past few weeks. Like with the remote workplace model, many educators have looked to online educational models to create an online classroom environment. One such platform that has grown in popularity over the last quarter is ByJu. According to Business Insider, Byju has seen a 60% increase in new students in 2020 thus far. Universities and higher education are also looking to adopt online learning and testing models. Oxford University, who ended their last term in Mid-March, has stated that they are using the break to “prepare to transition to online teaching and assessment.”
While the traditional school model has been significantly impacted by this pandemic, so has the already existing online model. The advent of online learning has been growing in popularity for some time now, and this pandemic as accelerated this trend. With many of us furloughed or facing potential layoffs, the drive to upskill has increased significantly. Learning platforms such as FutureLearn and Coursera have seen enormous increases in enrollment. Coursera has seen an eight-fold increase in enrollment in certain social science courses especially in their course for “the science of well being.” Popular online universities such as Udemy have also seen a rise in enrollment. In their blog released a few weeks ago, they have reported across key offering such as “Willingness and resilience to dealing with change” (241% increase), “Focus Mastery” (146% increase), “Creativity” (84% increase), and their machine learning and AI course (64% increase)
Public Event Go Virtual
As we know, during the pandemic, social gatherings have been made illegal. We have seen major concerts, weddings, religious worship, and business events cancelled and in some cases, with no intention to reschedule. In fact, companies like Microsoft are planning to make all of its internal and external events digital-only until July 2021. Major business and marketing events have gone ahead despite Coronavirus through digital platforms. The Adobe Summit went ahead in March with panel discussions and speakers streaming online. Apparently, major conferences such as Collision are looking to implement a similar model.
While it is clear that digital networking and virtual attendance of an event can never fully replace the real thing, in a time when we have no choice, digital is proving to be a very effective tool. According to Intrado Media, a webcast and live stream provider, participation in virtual events have shot up by 978%. According to their president, Ben Chodor, The amount of time people have spent in virtual meetings and events in February increased by 1,118% compared to January 2020, and was up 400% compared to the same time period last year. While the future of large scale events over the course of the coming year still remains to be seen, one thing is clear in-person events and human interaction is essential. While the future of conference and large group events remains to be seen, it is clear that all future events will look to supplement their in person activities with the opportunity for digital engagement.
Drive to Cloud Computing and Security
The shift from onsite to remote during Coronavirus does not only apply to the workforce. Many IT solutions such as on-site servers and PC-based security have shifted to the remote “cloud” space as well. According to MarketWatch, in a survey of 23 Information Officers, 68% expect to cut funding for PCs, while 48% expect to lower funding for AI, and 48% expect to lower funding for servers in a downturn. On the flip side, 86% said that security was now a higher budget priority and 68% said cloud services would become more of a priority.. According to that same research, CIOs expect to reduce their mix of on-prem workloads from 59% in 2019 to 35% in 2021. And in a study by Markets and Markets, the cloud solutions market size is expected to grow from USD 233 billion in 2019 to USD 295 billion by 2021.
Leading cloud-based management platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud have seen a significant increase in platform adoption since the advent of the pandemic and had to scale up in terms of overall capacity (although these platforms do not yet have usage statistics). These cloud-based solutions are also playing a key role in the healthcare industry, collecting, storing, and keeping key medical data secure for use in understanding and treating Coronavirus.
One global truth that the Coronavirus has brought to light is our overwhelming human need to build and maintain connections. This is not only true with our personal relationships, but in our professional ones as well. While relationships build most effectively in person, expanding your network can be done most efficiently online. Given the rise of the digital conference in the next coming months, we will certainly learn new ways of growing our professional networks and making business connections from our home computers. And as we slowly relax our lockdown restrictions, these new connections can be realised in more meaningful and select face to face encounters.