COVID-19 has radically altered the world we live in, with widespread digital transformation for businesses and the emergence of new trends. However, with the vaccine rollout almost complete in the UK, how many of these trends will stand the test of time? Here’s a quick rundown of the major changes we can expect to shape our future.
Shifting consumer demand
We have all experienced extensive changes to our lives over the last eighteen months. McKinsey & Company have analysed the ‘stickiness’ of some of these changes to estimate the future of consumer demand. According to the analysis, behavioural changes such as online grocery shopping, virtual healthcare visits and home nesting (demand for products such as home exercise, garden and gaming equipment) are likely to ‘stick’ after the pandemic. In contrast, demand for remote learning options, live entertainment and air travel are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. The UK Government have already put technology at the forefront of post-pandemic economic recovery, and these shifting consumer needs will only add further weight to this strategy.
Changes to supply chain management
85% of global supply chains experienced operational difficulties during the pandemic. The damage of this disruption caused businesses to re-evaluate their supply chains. They found that, before the pandemic, this kind of disturbance was more common than they had imagined, with most companies experiencing a shutdown lasting for approximately a month every 3.7 years. Many have turned to technology, investing in digital services and products such as the cloud, mobile platforms, the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics. This shift will help organisations to become more resilient to other disruptive events such as trade wars, regulatory changes, terrorism, labour disputes and more (including future global catastrophes such as pandemics and climate-related disasters). Therefore, supply chain vulnerability preparation will become an essential aspect of risk management, and further stimulate demand for technological solutions.
The healthcare industry has undergone intensive transformation during the pandemic. The development of the COVID-19 vaccines in record speed was only made possible by the collaboration between biology and technology — for example, using technology such as enhanced computing, data analytics, automation, machine learning and AI in new and innovative ways. This has established a new standard of development. The top 10 start-ups launched during the pandemic were all in COVID-19 related sectors — healthcare being one of the most important. Going forward, technology will continue to accelerate treatment development, improve accuracy and efficiency of treatment programmes and enable earlier technology-assisted diagnosis — adding further value to this already booming industry, and demand for talented tech professionals.
The pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on small businesses as they often lack the resources of bigger operations. However, digital transformation and disruption to industries such as healthcare has provided opportunities for entrepreneurially-minded individuals to break through. In 2020, a new tech start-up was launched every thirty minutes. Digital transformation has made the option of launching a small business more accessible — particularly for women and millennials — and so online start-ups have surged too. For example, online retailer, eBay, experienced a 237% increase in new small businesses joining the platform during the pandemic. In addition, the UK government is providing further support to stimulate digital business with the launch of the Future Fund Breakthrough, a £375 million fund to accelerate the deployment of breakthrough technologies.
Niclas Svenningsen, global climate action manager at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), referred to the pandemic as a ‘test case for climate change’ and that the crisis foreshadowed some of the extreme social and economic effects of climate change. Unlike the response to the 2008 financial crisis, governments around the world are incorporating environmental policy into their recovery plans. It’s clear that COVID-19 has re-ignited the focus on climate change, and therefore green technology companies will play a vital role in the coming decades.
Times of disruption often breed innovation. In response to the pandemic, we can expect to see further investment in technology infrastructure, the emergence of new tech-assisted industries, a surge of digital entrepreneurs and renewed focus on green technology. While the pandemic’s effects have been devastating, the tech industry promises hope for the future.