17 Apr 17 Accelerating Trends in a Post COVID-19 World
The COVID-19 virus is a truly global crisis. Reputation Leaders have identified 17 accelerating consumer trends we predict will shape our post-pandemic world of working, learning, socializing, buying, technology and accessing affordable healthcare.
Scroll down for a more detailed report on each trend.
17 accelerating trends in a post COVID-19 world
- Globally interconnected: COVID-19 is a truly global crisis. It is a reminder that our increasingly interconnected world brings many opportunities but also multiple risks and complex challenges than ever before across our health systems, economies, supply chains, travel, technology, communications and security. It has painfully reminded us that our interconnected global economy both helps spread new infectious diseases – and, with its long supply chains, is uniquely vulnerable to the disruption that they can cause. In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed our cities, our jobs and our economy, and is fundamentally transforming businesses – from the urgent need to address operational and financial challenges to turning broadly pronounced statements of purpose to precise examples about how companies are treating their stakeholders in a crisis. Despite the tragedy and global loss, the pandemic has brought with it: it has also been a catalyst in changing the ways businesses, governments, and individuals operate and communicate. It provides a ripe opportunity to build something better, and create a stronger, trustworthy, transparent, altruistic, sustainable and more interconnected world.
- New world of working: Working from home will become an increasing norm, along with flexible working, virtual meetings, coworking spaces, leading to a distributed & diverse workforce. It is unprecedented to have a large cohort of people all over the world start working remotely at the same moment. The only parallel is from World War II, when waves of women entered heavy manufacturing for the first time. The current move to remote working is even more remarkable because it is moving so quickly. Businesses need think quickly and become agile in responding and adapting to this new trend. Some companies have already started subsidizing home broadband costs, and others have started hosting online social evenings to keep employees well connected. Research from Prithwiraj Choudhury shows that productivity went up when people went to remote work settings, and others have suggested that the shift in workplace culture and increased flexibility may promote gender equality in the long run. However, businesses must be cognizant to the impact of this new trend on all workers, specifically in regard to employee mental health and work-life balance, and women and those with caring responsibilities.
- Protecting employee health and well-being is central – Looking after employee health and safety is a high focus for operations, reputation, and motivation. Protecting employee jobs, health insurance/benefits, and managing stress and anxiety become priorities. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cautioned that fear and anxiety about the virus can be overwhelming. The employer must play an enhanced role in protecting their workers, particularly those who are most vulnerable in this crisis. How businesses respond will have a lasting impact on employee behavior including, engagement, productivity and loyalty. Health and well-being, financial stability, and job security are top concerns for employees right now and employers can help address those fears in meaningful ways. A survey by Reputation Leaders found that two-thirds of US employees believe their employer is doing enough to help in the COVID-19 crisis but nearly a quarter (22%) of employees think employers are not doing enough. More, only 9% of Americans reported trusting their employer for COVID-19 advice, meaning there is room for employers to step up communications too with only 28% of employees answering that their employer was communicating openly and often. The actions of employers now will be those that are remembered and have a direct impact on employee engagement and retention post-pandemic. Employers who make protecting employee health and well-being central to their strategy will see results at the other end.
- Learn@Home for online learning and The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping education on a global level. Education has been interrupted for 363 million students worldwide, according to research by UNESCO. The pandemic is forcing educators, home-schooling parents, and students to think creatively, communicate, collaborate, and be agile. When the pandemic passes, schools and universities may be revolutionized by this experience – already, old ways of working seem distant and inexplicable. COVID-19 is drawing out the best from staff, their commitment to students’ education and well-being shining through the uncertainty. For universities, the pandemic is driving a mass experiment in the future of face-to-face learning. With no school-based exams this year, university admissions could finally be conducted in ways that allow fairer access and flexibility on visa arrangements. The move to online teaching could accelerate the decolonization of curriculums. The shift away from on-campus research could open doors for more collaborative research. However, moving the world’s students online has also starkly exposed deep inequities in the education system from primary education and beyond – from the number of children who rely on school for food and a safe environment, to a digital divide in which students without devices or reliable internet connections are cut off from learning completely. These divides will likely worsen, as staggering job losses and a recession devastate the most marginalized in every society. In a Post-COVID-19 world, educators will need to be cognizant of these inequalities and the other challenges learning online brings to students, particularly surrounding isolation, loneliness and mental health.
- Social experiences and events more online fueled by connected family/friends networks, but perhaps less trust in physical Across the globe government implementation of ‘social distancing’ or ‘stay-at-home’ orders has led to greater connectivity with loved ones. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advocated for the use of the term ‘physical distancing’ to better highlight the need to physically separate yourself from others, but still remain socially connected. The same technologies criticized for tearing us apart are now the ones bringing us closer together. Scheduling weekly Zoom catchups, pub quizzes or bingo, virtual coffee and cake, and online house-parties have acted as a lifeline for many during this uncertain time – bridging many generational digital divides. As ‘stay at home’ orders lift, it is likely online social networks will remain – perhaps with some choosing to spend an evening in participating in a virtual pub quiz with their family rather than heading to the pub with their friends. However, it is unlikely they will replace face-to-face interactions all together – two thirds (64%) of Americans says these tools will be useful, but will not be a replacement for face-to-face communications. The pandemic could also accelerate a culture of non-touch and have long-term implications on how we physically connect. As scientists have pointed out, the importance of touch is ingrained in our biology. It helps us share how we feel about others, enhancing our verbal communication. A touch on the arm when comforting someone, for example, is often what shows that we really care. Once the outbreak is over, a vital challenge will be to reset our thinking about touch, keeping in mind its importance.
- People consider moving once restrictions lift. After restrictions are lifted people consider moving away from city centers, leading to increased mobility toward economic opportunity but tighter restrictions on migration/asylum. From Wuhan to Milan to London to New York and beyond, cities continue to be the worst hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. City density, inter-generational households, constant flows of international tourists, and reliance on global supply chains determine cities vulnerability to the virus. Big cities have many economic benefits due to their size and their ability to bring people together. However, COVID-19 is also showing us that big cities are more hazardous than we may have thought, and given how viruses spread, it’s likely that cities will always be the places most susceptible to them. Post-pandemic, this could set in motion a great migration away from dense, populous urban centers, toward more rural settings, or even just the suburbs. In New York, for example, COVID-19 is hitting hardest not in uber-dense Manhattan but in the less-dense outer boroughs, like the Bronx, Queens, and even far less dense Staten Island. With more employees working from home, the “declining cost of difference” may be accelerated by the pandemic prompting millions of businesses to rethink their strategies and investments, and cause individuals to reassess where they work, live and raise their families. Proximity to jobs is still a major consideration for most workers, and the pandemic could also trigger increased mobility toward economic opportunity for those most badly hit financially by the crisis. COVID-19 has also led to the tightening or closure of borders and visa restrictions in the U.S and the suspension of significant parts of immigration enforcement in the UK. As of March 26, over 180 countries, territories and areas had passed travel restrictions due to COVID-19, including prohibitions of entry of nationals from other countries. Post-pandemic, this could lead to heightened hostility and restricted movement, and exacerbating existing vulnerabilities of the worlds refugees, and asylum seekers and internally displaced persons. However, the loss of control being felt across communities across the world – related to restrictions on freedom of movement, extreme panic buying and social isolation – provide insights into the daily struggles faced by displaced persons around the world every day. Rather than perpetrating an Us vs them narrative and scapegoating migrants, this could be an opportunity for governments, businesses, and individuals to display empathy and truly understand the plight of migrants.
- Telemedicine on demand rises with virtual doctors, AI diagnostics and DIY. The COVID-19 pandemic could be what pushes digital health into the mainstream, acting as a catalyst for the whole digital health industry and telemedicine industry. Self-isolating general practitioners have already turned to using apps such as Push Doctor and Babylon. There are now over 200,000 people in the UK registered on the NHS app, demonstrating patients’ new proactive involvement in their own care by using mobile apps to manage the everyday aspects of a range of health conditions. The European Commission in 2018 estimated that the global telemedicine market would reach 37 billion euros ($42 billion) by 2021, with an annual growth rate of 14%. Those numbers may now be surpassed as virus concerns boost demand, making such consultations more routine and widely accepted. The pandemic has led to a revolution in public and professional opinion on the need for digital healthcare. The shift to digital healthcare could pave the way for the long term improvements in healthcare efficiency, patient access and well-being. In the U.S., convincing the public that digital health works could result in flipping healthcare from scarcity to abundance through using AI Technology companies are building artificial intelligence (AI) systems to triage patients and collect their health information before even seeing a human doctor. Yet, it has never been so important to get it right – healthcare systems will remain attractive targets for cyber-criminals. Securing the ways in which healthcare data is recorded, communicated, and stored may require partnerships with private stakeholders, like Microsoft, Amazon Web Services and Google who have been be drafted in to help the NHS develop a COVID-19 tracking platform.
- Tech advancements accelerate. 5G/ Fiber goes mainstream to drive connected devices, cloud, and home internet use along. Mobile apps accelerate. The forced and sudden retreat from the office means millions are now working from home. With nearly all public gatherings called off, people are seeking out entertainment on streaming services like Netflix and YouTube and looking to connect with one another on social media outlets like Facebook, raising questions about the internet’s resilience. Slow and unreliable internet can make working (and now socializing) from home miserable and unproductive. Early fears that home broadband networks would collapse under the weight of usage were addressed by UK service providers, whose trade body, ISPA, pointed out that evening peak activity, when the nation sits down to stream Netflix and play online video games, is often 10 times the typical daytime demand. Despite warnings that 5G roll-out across Europe (though less impact in the UK) will be initially delayed due to the pandemic, in the UK, 5G broadband – EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 have all now switched on their 5G networks meaning the big four are ready to enable user to step up their internet connection with new speeds and latency. In the U.S., surging internet traffic is slowing the internet down and 93% of Americans say that a major interruption to their internet or cellphone service during the outbreak would be a problem in their daily life. However, this is only making the wireless industry’s case for building superfast internet connections and moving toward 5G, and they are well prepared to do so. A day before President Donald Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency, Verizon announced it was boosting its estimated capital investment for this year by $500 million, to as much as $18.5 billion, to accelerate its 5G efforts. AT&T, meanwhile, abandoned a planned $4 billion stock buyback March 20, telling regulators that in. Moving toward 5G/Fiber connections could create spill-over effects to a broader connected economy and accelerate businesses and employees in adapting to a new world of work.
- E-commerce is commerce: Online shopping will continue to dominate bricks and mortar in revenue, preference, and offerings. Stuck inside, more than ever before, consumers are turning to online shopping to meet their needs turning the heat up on high-street retailers who have been forced to close under local lockdown measures. The UK high street has already warned it is facing is facing a crisis that is “unprecedented in living memory.” As Rosabeth Moss Kanter describes: “If there were ever a time to “think outside the building” and be more aware of the wider system, it’s now.” Retailers, like Primark, who have been forced to cancel all supplier orders and are currently withholding up to £33m in rent for their stores across the UK, will need to think quickly to adapt to a world where e-commerce dominates. However, e-commerce retailers of all sizes are also under immense pressure: many are facing shipment delays, limited staff and even warehouse closures. Retailers need to find a way adapt to new consumer buying behavior, like, for example, repurposing stores as micro-fulfilment centers to meet online consumer demand.
- Cybersecurity vigilance and fraud rise at home, office, in cloud networks, online payments, and healthcare systems. With millions now working and socializing more online, often with outdated or non-existent security systems, cyber-criminals are preying on the opportunity to take advantage of this surreal situation and focus even more on cyber-criminal activities. Security experts say a spike in email scams linked to COVID-19 is the worst they have seen in years. Interpol has also warned that ransomware attacks have started targeting hospitals and other institutions who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. In U.S., scams have varied from Other text messages claim to link you to free masks from the Red Cross or a $1,000 bank deposit by the federal government to help you during this crisis. Businesses and governments need to clearly communicate to their employees that how to follow correct procedures when it comes to potential phishing emails and suspicious emails. A higher demand and increase in the use of online banking and cashless transactions could increase the risk of cyber-attacks and fraud, and banks have been urged to prepare as criminals seek to take advantage of chaos caused by COVID-19. In countries like the UK more stores began adopting contactless payment preferences earlier this year as a hygienic alternative to cash, increasing concerns of bankcard fraud. However, UK Finance said contactless fraud represents just 3.3% of overall card fraud losses; equating to only 2.5p in every £100 spent via contactless. Consumers and businesses do need to be more careful, however, as payment fraud set to grow through e-commerce, with more people shopping online for everything from groceries to high-end entertainment products to cure their boredom of being stuck at home.
- Supply chains go local: The pandemic has revealed the shortcomings of existing supply chains, with products, components, and materials shipped around the world on a just-in-time basis. Shutdowns due to COVID-19 in key manufacturing hubs, such as China or South Korea, have exposed just how vulnerable global supply chains ar Decentralized local manufacturing could replace global supply chains as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already seen supply moving closer to home – predominantly in the healthcare industry. A situation in which so many of the world’s essential medical supplies originate in China – or any other single country – will no longer be tolerated. However, governments will need to act quickly to mitigate local supply chain vulnerabilities and ensure that local supply chains are sustainable, and produce, for example, is not being wasted due to labor shortages.
- Changes in consumer behavior. Consumer purchase changes include more bulk-buying, buying cheaper produce, less luxury purchases but more online and home entertainment and fitness. People across the world first felt the impact of COVID-19, not from the direct health consequences, but from the panic bulk-buying in supermarkets leaving millions without access to necessities like toilet roll and food stuffs. Despite reassurance from governments that there are no issues with the supply line, people’s behavior persisted. In the UK, Britons made 80 million extra grocery shops in March, resulting in an extra £1.9bn in supermarket food sales in one month. Post-pandemic, it is likely such behaviors will persist, hopefully with less panic. Consumers may become accustomed to committing to weekly grocery shops instead of popping in for an item or two and continue to bulk-buy necessary products like toilet paper and pasta. There will also likely be stronger imperatives to buy cheaper alternatives given the financial impact of the pandemic on households, resulting in less luxury food shopping. A major challenge will be reversing the comeback of single-use, disposable plastic bags which many consumers perceive to be more hygienic than the reusable alternatives. Several U.S. states and cities have rolled roll back plastic bag bans, citing the COVID-19 virus. Engaging in self-improvement is driving people to spend more on wellness and With the gyms being closed for the indefinite amount on time, exercising at home is surging in popularity, with brands such as Pelton or Nike capitalizing on it. In the beauty sector, we can once more observe the so-called lipstick effect – a surge in sales of beauty products that coincides with economic crisis. More particularly, skincare and face masks are in demand, ramping up stock prices of major online beauty retailers, such as Ulta.
- Consumer-driven changes in advertising, marketing, entertainment consumption. Consumers look for brands that get the context and message right instead of only selling, along with changes in advertising, marketing, and entertainment channels. Even though 97% of consumers don’t expect brands to halt marketing activities, conveying the right message might be more complex than before. On one hand, consumers want to know what the brands are doing to alleviate the crisis and expect the brands to keep the public fully informed of changes to how they are now behaving and operating. 84% of respondents now expect firms to focus advertising on how products and services can help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges, and the vast majority expect brands to show they are aware of the crisis and its impact. On the other hand, they don’t want to see all of them “jumping on the COVID-19 bandwagon” as that makes their efforts and messages seem less authentic. More than a third of consumers want brands to stop mentioning the pandemic altogether. An even bigger number of consumers (57%) doesn’t want to see brands using humor in their advertising for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.
- Consumers reevaluate brand and employer reputations from COVID-19 actions. Consumers expect brands to help alleviate the effects of the pandemic and demonstrate their integrity. They primarily want them to lead by example and prioritize their employees’ well-being. The companies that continue to operate are expected to put effort into providing their staff with protective gear and organizing working from home arrangements when possible. In the case of companies which are unable to continue operating, they have zero tolerance toward laying off staff, regardless of the potential losses. 52% of respondents said brands ‘must’ do this to earn or keep their trust, while a further 38% said they ‘hoped’ brands would do this. Also, 92% of respondents across countries expect brands to collaborate with governments in strategic efforts to alleviate the effects of the pandemic. 89% want to see companies provide help through supporting health workers and manufacturing hospital equipment and protective gear if possible. How are these demands going to translate into purchasing habits? 61% of consumers in the USA say that how brands respond to the pandemic will have a ‘huge impact’ on their likelihood to buy their products. Similarly, 29% of the U.S. consumers and 37% globally have already tried a product from a brand they don’t normally use solely based on their response to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Voters and consumers reassess the role of (and trust in) governments, business, media, charities. As consumers are spending increasingly more time at home, their consumption of content through both traditional and social media is increasing. That, however, doesn’t mean they trust mainstream media. A Gallup % of Americans approve of the news media’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. It found 61% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters approve of the media, compared to 25% of Republicans, which is lower than the general media trust levels from previous studies. President Trump’s approval rating on this crisis stands at 60%, compared to his overall job rating of 49%. Social media has seen surge both in content creation and consumption. However, influencer marketing might once more suffer from the reduction in rates similar to those 10 years ago as major companies are reducing their digital marketing budgets. Despite that, influencers try to stay relevant and even support local business who are affected the most by the lockdown.
- Community altruism on the rise with local aid groups to support vulnerable and elderly, free meal provision for healthcare workers, and neighborly support for those unwell or isolated with symptoms. In the UK, over 250, 000 people registered to volunteer with the National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s publicly funded healthcare system to help those with underlying health conditions, and more than 720 mutual aid groups have been set up across the country since the beginning of March. A survey conducted by Reputation Leaders found that 37% American’s were also already helping or witnessing individuals buying groceries for others or having a greater sense of community. The rapid spread of COVID-19 reminds us how our well-being is also interconnected, and the heart-warming and altruistic responses people have exhibited in the face of this crisis reveals our tremendous willingness and ability to help one another on both an individual and community level.
- Climate change action and trade-offs intensifies between those who prioritize a quick economic recovery and those who favor reducing environmental impact, and we can expect public opinion to be divided. When images of dolphins and swans supposedly appearing in newly clear Venice canals popped up on social media, it was easy to believe (though it was not entirely true) that the virus had forced people indoors and “nature” had recovered in our absence. This is the wrong climate lesson to take from the pandemic: lockdowns and distancing won’t save the world from warming. But amid this crisis, we have a chance to build a better future. In China, measures to contain the virus in February alone caused a drop in carbon emissions of an estimated 25%. The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air estimates that this is equivalent to 200 million tons of carbon dioxide — more than half the annual emissions of Britain. The short-term positive effects on the climate as a result of global lockdown are a dramatic reminder that changing personal consumption habits will mean very little going forward without global cooperation, increased public understanding and buy-in from people, governments, and businesses. Post-COVID-19, global and local action will be burdened by constant trade-offs between climate change, public health, and recovering the economy.