What’s On The Horizon
In March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic descended upon us in an event unlike anything in recent memory. As the nation rapidly adjusted to new health guidelines and mandates, business in every industry was affected, changing the ways that some would operate forever. As the pandemic persisted, new consumer behaviors and newly implemented business processes began to take hold, and some of them might be here to stay. Here, we discuss 19 industry changes that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, with commentary from experts on these shifts and trends.
By George Christian
Online car purchases will increase.
As the pandemic has kept everyone at home much more than usual, online purchases everywhere have skyrocketed, further reducing in-person shopping, and the auto industry isn’t exempt from this change. Even prior to the pandemic, online car buying had been increasing in popularity, and COVID-19 has prompted that shift to move even faster. The sale of new and used cars will take place more and more on digital platforms, and many manufacturers will need to revamp their digital retail strategies.
Remote learning is here to stay.
Though the rapid shift to all-remote learning at the start of the pandemic had its hiccups, remote education as an option won’t be going away anytime soon. Even as students return to in-person classrooms permanently, distance learning will remain an important option for education delivery in the future, as it provides students with a way to continue learning outside of their physical classrooms in case of illness, weather, or any other unforeseen hindrances that prevent them from attending school in person.
Digital literacy for teachers will be a priority.
As remote learning has become a more prominent, and perhaps a more permanent option for some students, professional development among faculty will increasingly focus on digital literacy in order to optimize the effectiveness of online learning tools and teaching methods. Teacher training and workshops will place a stronger emphasis on how to use learning management software and other online tools for both new and current faculty.
“COVID-19 hit hardest our economically disadvantaged communities and our communities of color. Thus, as we go forward, we all need to redouble our efforts to achieve greater equity in our schools and more economic opportunity in our communities. That’s why PEF will increase its focus on supporting students who want to be the first in their family to graduate from college, on adults who want to teach in economically challenged communities, and on schools that want to engage their students in problem-based learning and digital fabrication to prepare them for the careers of the future.” – Dan Challener, President, Public Education Foundation
AI (artificial intelligence) will be increasingly used to provide better healthcare.
AI (the collection and analyzation of large amounts of data to aid decision-making) might be increasingly relied on to predict and prevent illnesses, and by doing so, it could allow for better healthcare. COVID-19 further revealed how much value AI could provide to determine how, when, and where outbreaks or other illnesses might emerge. It also revealed how AI and the analysis of data have the potential to improve healthcare on a global scale.
The advent of the telemedicine era is here sooner than expected.
Thanks to the pandemic’s rapid prompting of virtual care, advancement of telemedicine has been accelerated “by a decade,” according to many experts. Aside from reducing the risk of spreading contagion, remote medicine has allowed medical professionals to care for more patients with already-busy schedules. It has offered those living in rural areas or not able to physically make it to a practice to receive care. Mental health counseling services have been more readily available for those preferring to schedule appointments without having to go to nearby offices or clinics. Thanks to COVID-19, physicians are providing care that, until now, was thought to only be feasible in person.
“As we look ahead to healthcare post-COVID-19, telehealth services that give our patients a way to visit their physician from the comfort of their homes will continue and expand into more service areas. Mobile medical apps that provide artificial intelligence-generated triage, crowd-sourced and trusted healthcare content, and vital sign and device monitoring will be the new norm and expected by people before talking to a doctor. Artificial intelligence will provide physicians with access to decision aids to speed diagnosis from wherever they are – at home, the hospital, or even while traveling. 3D printing will provide physicians with customizable implants for joint-replacement surgery, and innovative interventional techniques will reduce the need for invasive surgeries.” – Janelle Reilly, Market CEO, CHI Memorial
Logistics & Transport
Sourcing supply from closer to home will continue to increase.
As global supply chains were interrupted or even cut off and Americans vowed to do more to support their national economy, U.S. companies committed to forming stronger local and regional supplier relationships. Looking to the future, it is expected that there will be an increase in freight transport across North America in order to meet demand.
Consumers will demand more delivery options and that more products be available online.
More and more people prefer to shop online from the ease and comfort of their homes, and this trend was meteorically amplified by lockdowns and stay-at-home guidelines. Consumers will increasingly look to do business with companies that allow for products to be purchased as needed online and delivered to their homes quickly and at low cost. Logistics and delivery services will need to optimize what they offer based on consumer demand as well as a balance between speed and their costs.
Living where you want to live versus where you have to live.
As COVID-19 continues to change the normalcy of life and working remotely becomes more of the norm, Americans seem to be shifting their priorities to living where they really want to live instead of where they have to stay because of their job location. This change in values is causing families to choose less densely populated cities that are not only more affordable, but still offer good healthcare, a more favorable climate, quality schools, and easy access to the outdoors.
Remodeling will continue to be a focus of households.
In the wake of more time being spent at home thanks to working remotely and virtual education, Americans have had more opportunity than usual to consider and plan for remodeling. As a result, home remodeling has skyrocketed, and the expectations are that this will continue as homeowners look to add outdoor spaces, home offices, exercise rooms, kitchen upgrades, and other improvements.
“COVID-19 taught us that you can work from home, and I think it’s changed the landscape for many businesses as they have seen how productive employees can be at home. This has fueled our market, with an influx of people moving to our area due to the lower cost of living, the fastest internet in the country, and the overall quality of living in such a beautiful city.” – Robert Backer, President, Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors
Mobile, hands-free options aren’t going anywhere.
In the hospitality industry, contactless options and automation have been on the rise for a while now, but the pandemic has likely cemented their popularity as a permanent option. This is a result not only of the pandemic necessitating more sanitary methods for booking, payments, entry, and more, but of a world in general that is trending toward digitization and automation. Looking to the future, don’t be surprised to find an app-based room key that guests can use to submit credit card information, upload their ID, and electronically sign the registration form from their phone.
A newfound appreciation for open-air spaces will have a lasting impact.
Many hotels will look to increase outdoor amenities – such as increasingly sought-after rooftop spaces like lounges and bars – as customers increase demand for open-air areas that provide room for social distancing and enjoying fresh air that might have previously been denied to them during COVID-19 lockdowns.
“The spread of COVID-19 affected the hospitality industry greatly, and throughout the pandemic, our primary focus has been, and continues to be, the safety of our associates and guests. We have adopted enhanced sanitization protocols and introduced new concepts, such as opting-in for daily housekeeping, more grab-n-go food and beverage offerings, and contactless check in/check out. All of these initiatives have been well received by guests, and we will need to see which ones will stay with us as we continue our progress through the recovery.” – Mitch Patel, CEO, Vision Hospitality Group
mRNA has changed the playing field.
The newly developed mRNA vaccines have revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry and paved the way for a new field of medicine, opening up an arena where mRNA-style immunizations might not only dominate, but create a defense against infections and diseases for which vaccines previously had not succeeded. Many top pharmaceutical research companies currently have mRNA therapies, vaccines, or research projects in progress that target genetic diseases, influenza, HIV, heart disease, and various cancers.
A new precedent for medical development timelines has been set.
The expedited timeline for COVID-19 vaccines has set a new precedent for pharmaceutical development. The timeline for vaccine development, production, and distribution has previously taken years, but now the medical community and society at large has seen what can be done. When the need is urgent enough, the world now knows a solution can be produced sooner than what has been accomplished in the past.
Travel & Tourism
Outdoor attractions are about to experience a visitor boom.
Outdoors-based attractions, such as visits to national parks and other landmarks, are likely to see an increase, as stay-at-home requirements and social distancing have created a greater appreciation for the serenity and beauty of outdoor spaces, along with the natural social distancing that they provide.
Travel insurance will be more prevalent than in the past.
It’s likely that travel insurance will see an increase in popularity as everyone has become wary of booking destinations over the past year. Uncertainty regarding safety, shifting travel restrictions, and unexpected closures have made postponed and cancelled travel plans more common than usual, and travel insurance provides peace of mind that travelers often hadn’t prioritized prior to the pandemic.
“We are cautiously hoping for a return to normalcy in early 2022. Our attendance is growing, and we are seeing an uptick in people traveling or making travel plans. A pent-up demand is out there. Chattanooga is well positioned as a convenient and safe drive to market with a lot of good things to do.” – Keith Sanford, CEO, Tennessee Aquarium
Expect digital options to increase.
Like most other industries, restaurants have experienced rapid digital acceleration for online or mobile ordering, digital loyalty programs, and even apps or tableside ordering. All signs point to customers staying digitally engaged after the pandemic, as their preferences seem to have shifted towards the control and convenience mobile ordering options provide them. Restaurants are expected to continue to move to frictionless ordering and payment with an increase in online and mobile orders for pickup and delivery.
Non-traditional restaurant offerings may experience continued popularity.
Non-traditional menu offerings such as meal kits and grocery items have been in high demand during the pandemic as restaurants got creative in order to stay afloat, and many consumers indicate they want those options to be permanent. For families who want a restaurant-quality meal without eating at a restaurant, options such as to-go meal kits have been a big hit and might just stay on some restaurant to-go menus.
In-person branch visits will primarily be only for major life events.
Though the trend has already been leaning in this direction, the pandemic’s safety guidelines have caused an even sharper uptick in online and mobile banking, and things are unlikely to return to how they were before. Customers will increasingly bank online and only visit branch lobbies in person for major financial moments such as opening accounts, buying homes, transferring generational wealth, and so on.
Physical spaces might change to fit shifting customer needs.
With the increased transition to digital for routine banking activities, it is likely that this will not change post-COVID-19. Consequently, visits to banks for smaller, day-to-day transactions will continue to decline. With this shift, branch layouts may begin to change in order to accommodate patrons visiting primarily for significant services and conversations about their finances. Rows of tellers may not be needed as much as daily transactions are completed via ATM or online. Instead, agents will be on hand in more of a service lounge setting to guide customers through more involved financial processes.
“COVID-19 has certainly expedited change for our industry. Offering the convenience with safety associated with mobile platforms plus online and drive-thru banking is now essential for meeting the needs and expectations of our customers. But the human touch required while offering support and solutions with people you know and trust will continue to be important. Banks like ours will continue to focus on both.” – Jim McKenzie, Market President, FirstBank