In an age where billions of people are staying home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing proving strong is our reliance on technology. Despite the circumstances, schools are still able to function at their most basic level, people are being asked to work from home and despite economic fears, thanks to the technology existing today, the market has not fully stagnated.
Many different types of businesses may still operate using online services to interact with customers. Supermarkets in some countries are now offering free delivery to the houses of their consumers so as to accommodate clients and their families during this global struggle.
While some businesses are expanding their business models to help their customers as much as possible while keeping income afloat, some are lucky and have had to change absolutely nothing. A common example of this is in online shopping e.g. ASOS have written a short informal message on their websites and mobile app informing all their customers about the current state of their business reading:
“FYI, we’re business as usual – plus, we’re working hard to make deliveries as safe as possible.”
The present is filled with opportunity. Market leaders can use their billion/million-dollar budgets in R&D and technology to negate as much economic downfall as possible and thus, gain an even larger advantage against their competitors. Smaller businesses can take this as a chance to grow in comparison to their rivals as they utilize different measures with the same goal in mind.
However, it is also important to have a long-run vision past the pandemic. Moreover, with societies becoming more reliant and connected by the internet, is the world’s largest network the most sustainable route toward profits?
With billions of people under lockdown inside their homes (voluntary & compulsory), current events provide a huge opportunity for firms to use this tool to their advantage for a number of reasons. The most notable one being the spike in online activity as a way to kill time until everything fades away back to how things used to be. But realistically, that is not happening any time soon. This virus is going to change the way we all live in different aspects of life. An example of this we have noted for the past 15 years is how many Asian people still refuse to go outside without wearing a mask as a result of the SARS outbreak back in 2003.
At the moment, most shops have been forced to adjust to the changing situation as best as they can. Most of which in Malta have decided to promote their online base to keep revenue coming in. What would happen if this transition continued beyond the pandemic? This possibility of a more online approach to sales (and shopping for consumers) has many positives when looking far ahead in the future.
For businesses, once this transition is fully completed, companies will no longer have to pay for land to run their shops. As a result, they will save significant amounts of money too by not needing to pay as many employees. While this would significantly decrease the size of workforces around the world, theoretically, in so many years down the line, there will exist a number of new sectors to join in the economy besides the one we are all used to nowadays – akin to the way technology boomed over the past two centuries.
On the downside, this would be extremely negative on firms who undertake CRM (customer relationship management) strategies. This is because it is tougher to develop a working relationship with your customers without human-to-human contact.
On the consumer’s side, this would mean that one could shop for their product of need from any place in the world at their own comfort. Negatively, this would remove the more enjoyable part of shopping experiences. This would mean that friends and family can no longer go shopping together for fun. Secondly, a very practical element of shopping would no longer be available – there is no way to try, touch or properly see the product before buying it.
A shift towards this approach would result in companies needing to significantly improve their delivery times to keep customers satisfied. Luckily, Amazon already shows that this idea is not as far-fetched as one may initially believe. This is evident through their subscription: Amazon Prime.
Through an Amazon Prime subscription, for $12.99/month (or $119 for a full year), any member who orders off of Amazon will receive their product within just 24 hours through their certified free fast shipping. The web retailers have ensured this service’s reliability by using their own transport systems, even dabbling with drones for safe air delivery for short-distance flights. These drones are part of their Amazon PrimeAir scheme.
If online shopping was to boom in popularity, it must be noted that physical shops will never cease to exist as this will also destroy all local start-ups…unless the global giants become so much more dominant over their respective market sectors.
All in all, with so many companies already existing just through an online presence, maybe this hypothesis is not as far-fetched as it may seem.
Written by: Kyle Patrick Camillieri