Crises kick us out of our complacency and force rapid innovation. Adoption of new technologies, creative business practices, and a willingness to be the first to do something new will define the next great success stories that rise out of the COVID-19 era.
So with that in mind, let’s explore some of the major themes to expect and therefore prepare to leverage in your own life and business to be ahead of the curve.
1. Restricted travel places emphasis on digital strategy
There’s great uncertainty about the future of mass transit. From reports of Amazon and other Fortune 100 companies effectively cancelling all nonessential air travel to widespread fears about riding in subway cars, the news indicates it is safe to assume that the mass transit methods that we’ve come to rely on will be largely restricted. The International Air Transport Association even estimates that passenger traffic won’t rebound to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023.
So expect to see a psychological shift towards travel only when absolutely essential, rather than for pleasure or casual purposes for the next few years. Anything that can possibly be done remotely, will be.
The chart above really sums up the change to business life during the COVID-19 era: Zoom is now larger than 7 of the world’s largest airlines combined.
For business leaders, that means that your digital communication skills need to be honed to perfection. For the foreseeable future, you’ll be networking through social media and Zoom. You’ll be leading training sessions and meetings via video chat. And the impression that your clients and customers get of your brand will be based entirely on how your team and your content appears online. As we say at Sheep Don’t Bark, Brand is a Verb, and you have to be branding yourself actively every single day.
2. Ecommerce and contactless payments everywhere
Just as with email, instant messaging, and social media, adoption can take time, but new digital behaviors form deep, lasting behavioral changes in our routines and culture. Ecommerce had already been growing at about 1% per year. In April it grew 5%. Many are trying restaurant take-out and grocery delivery for the first time, using new apps and services, all while paying digitally. This is a huge shift from past behaviors, particularly for older consumers who are now left with no other choice… and they’re learning fast.
Fintech is running circles around traditional financial institutions
Since the market bottomed on March 23rd, Paypal and Square are soaring while traditional banks and financial institutions are recovering much more slowly.
“Paypal has a $165 billion market cap, which is twice the size of Citigroup’s market cap. But PayPal doesn’t have a branch next to the hardware store where you live and Citi might. So it’s jarring. But it’s the truth.”Josh Brown
Paypal’s Venmo and Square’s Cash App are hugely popular among young people and have long been near the top of app-store download charts. Now thanks to a new focus on health and safety and a concern about the cleanliness of cash, contactless payments are a priority worldwide. The United States has lagged behind the rest of the world in implementing modern contactless payment methods which are far more common in China and Europe already, but as that rollout continues, we should expect to see rapid adoption of these apps along with offerings from Apple (Apple Pay) among others.
For businesses, there should be an urgency to meet consumer expectations and install point-of-sale systems for contactless payment in brick and mortar locations and to ramp up online marketing efforts that connect shoppers with simple 1-click checkouts through their portal of choice. Frictionless checkouts lead to higher conversion rates and fewer abandoned carts.
Integrations like Square’s point-of-sale units also lead to opportunities such as the ability to collect customer contact information during physical checkouts for use in future email marketing campaigns. Blending the physical world and digital data is a step that many are not yet taking but will become mainstream over the next few years.
Ecommerce is better for both consumers and businesses. There are many layers of efficiencies that save time and money for both parties. For businesses, the data collected throughout the sales process can be put to good use in building long-lasting relationships with customers that would never be possible in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. Those who are able to make the transition smoothly and scale their customer-base will see huge opportunities over the coming years.
3. The virtual is real… more so than ever
- Virtual conversations and interactions are real experiences.
- Remote work is real work.
- “Online friends” are real friends.
These are all things that we should have known and agreed to be true before COVID-19. Thankfully, more people than ever are getting a chance to have enriching online experiences now. They are realizing that even though they perhaps dismissed the value of remote delivery or online spaces in the past, the reality is that our society would be falling apart now without them. Business continuity as we have it is thanks entirely to the likes of video chat, webinars, social media, and a long list of products from big tech.
Going forward, plan to leverage virtual spaces with clients and customers to create experiences that differentiate you from your competitors and make your products and services stand out.
Look beyond conventional videos and find ways to draw in your customers and clients with highly engaging 2-way, conversational programing. Throw out the old PowerPoint webinar templates and look for ways to put a friendly face to your content. Give your thought leaders a place to shine, and develop content that you as a viewer would get excited to watch.
Live streaming is a huge growth area and viewers expect to be able to chat with presenters, have their voice heard, and feel that engagement. There’s more pressure than ever on content creators to deliver enriching experiences that are worth the audience’s time—which is ultimately everyone’s most valued asset and what we have to really fight to earn. When you keep that in mind and put the audience first, you’ll build great content that helps you scale to wherever you want to go.
It’s never been a better time to have great ideas
The world has no choice but to embrace a whole lot of change all at once. So we have this potentially once-in-a-generation opportunity to take huge risks, put ourselves out there, and try to make our wildest ideas come to fruition.
As a business leader, you have all of the tools right at your fingertips to make it all happen:
- Self-publishing tools to blog, podcast, record, and create anything that you can imagine quickly and inexpensively.
- Social media and email marketing to blast out everything that you create to the world and help you grow a dedicated audience of followers.
- Ecommerce and Remote Delivery functions to sell your products and services digitally and reach your clients and customers anywhere in the world.
When you’re ready to make a different sound and truly stand out from anyone else out there, get in touch with us. We’d love to get to know you.