It’s been a long slog, but as lockdown restrictions are lifted, things seem to be looking up as the world attempts to navigate a “new normal” of living and working following the COVID-19 pandemic.
As recovery from this global pandemic takes shape, several important shifts in the UK’s economic landscape have already become apparent. The Coronavirus has pushed forward existing trends as well as welcoming new ones. In this article, we take a look at five trends that have taken off as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
#1 Digital transformation
Both consumers and businesses in the UK have accelerated their use of digital technologies because of COVID-19. In response to lockdown restrictions, the realisation of having to adapt in order to survive hit many business owners from all industries. Businesses that once mapped a digital strategy in a five-year-plan now had to scale their initiatives in a matter of days or weeks.
Physical meetings have turned to online video calls, eating in has turned to home delivery, automation technologies have helped to bridge the gap between production and demand, and online workouts became the new personal trainer.
While some of these trends will slow down, with many of us likely to revert back to the old ways of living and working, a lot of these trends around consumer behaviour are here to stay.
Let’s take a look at the rising trend of digital payments, for instance. The UK has been on a journey towards a cashless society for some years now, but this has been majorly accelerated by COVID-19 and shows no signs of reverting back. The marriage between advanced digital payment solutions, the rise of online shopping, and the preference for consumers to pay via contactless, is set to ensure this trend only rises.
Since those trends are not going anywhere, make sure that your business is adapted to online trading and has a contactless payment options in-store. If either of these have not yet been implemented in your business, now is the time to get high-quality payment solutions, such as those supplied by UTP Group, who are payment experts, specialising in delivering range of card machines and eCommerce virtual terminals to businesses.
#2 The virtual experience trade
With sell-out tours being cancelled, sport leagues called off, and tourist destinations forced to close doors throughout lockdown, the entertainment industry has had to adapt – and adapt fast.
We very quickly saw innovation across industries, with the rise of virtual concerts performed by our favourite artists, online exhibitions from some of the country’s much-loved cultural institutions, and so much more, ushering in a golden age of virtual media.
While the planet has never felt more physically isolated, the online world has offered an exciting new way to experience entertainment during these uncertain times. And, due to the success of many of these virtual and immersive experiences, many businesses are looking to accelerate and expand such offerings to a new digital-first audience.
#3 Remote working
Remote working is a trend that has grown exponentially in recent years, with developments in technology allowing the adoption of this to be much more accessible and efficient. Despite its advantages, before the Coronavirus pandemic hit, remote working was a novel phenomenon for many British workers. In fact, according to recent research, only eight percent of UK workers were working from home full-time before the crisis struck.
Lockdown restrictions forced most UK businesses to deploy “work from home” operations; many of which would be the first time working in this environment. The transition for many businesses has been smoother than expected, even in the more traditional sectors. After discovering the benefits of this new way of working, many businesses are adopting this trend long-term.
According to research from networking systems, services and software company Ciena, just over two-thirds of British adults who are currently working from home fully expect to carry on doing so.
The problem many packaged goods businesses are facing during this time, is the ability to maintain productivity to keep up with consumer demand. This is made increasingly difficult due to labour shortages and social distancing restrictions. In an attempt to address this growing issue, we should expect to see a growth in automation solutions alongside human employees.
It is likely that retailers will also be quick to adopt more automated processes in an attempt to deal with the backlash of Coronavirus. In-store robotics and cashier-less store vendors expect significant demand for their technology in coming months. Bossa Nova Robotics says it is “inevitable” the sector will be seeking greater automation in the aisles this year.
#5 Accelerated growth in e-commerce
As the world looks to reduce social contact, it is perhaps not surprising then that we are witnessing a spike in online trading (e-commerce). While this is certainly no new trend, the physical closure of businesses resulted in many businesses continuing their offerings via online channels.
Consumers who were once hesitant to adopt online shopping have now dipped their toes in the waters and have realised the many benefits to this digital retail environment. As a result, it is expected that companies will be continuing to adapt to meet these new demands both for now and in the future.
There is no doubt that many companies have been negatively impacted by the global pandemic. But those who can see through the negative and remain optimistic, will capitalise on emerging trends, identify golden opportunities, and come out stronger than ever before.