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The Covid-19 pandemic brought drastic changes to the way that we live and work. Businesses across the board had to find new ways to adapt, which inevitably meant increasing digital interactions. Below are a few of the changes to the business world that are here to stay.
The Digitization Push
The pandemic forced companies to rely on technology and digital interactions more than ever. This reliance led to reshaping strategies and adopting an entirely new way to conduct day-to-day business. As businesses adopted these innovations, competitors were forced to mimic increasingly digital operations to stay competitive. As time wore on, some of these digital reconfigurations yielded greater benefits than initially expected for both business and their consumers. As a result, methods that were adopted as a reactive way to stay afloat turned into the new norm.
Even as we are beginning to see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, our perceptions of hygiene standards are forever altered. In 2018 most of us wouldn’t have thought twice about picking up a menu, shaking someone’s hand, or opening a door. Now, in 2021, these daily actions may cause us to hesitate or break out the hand sanitizer. Technology took up the role of the fifth sense as touch fell out of favor.
QR codes have been around a lot longer than you may think. They have been around since the 90s but were largely unpopular for a variety of reasons from poor technology to user unfamiliarity. But thanks to the pandemic, QR codes finally had their time to shine. According to data analytics platform Blue Bite, there was a 26% increase in QR code interactions from 2018-2019 followed by a 35% increase in 2020. QR codes have been seen in most industries and are being used in new and creative ways!
- Menus: If you have been out to eat in the past year, you have likely scanned a QR code to view the menu. This yields benefits not only from a hygiene standpoint but also from a waste and convenience standpoint.
- Websites: QR codes are being used more than ever to drive website traffic. Artists at shows or galleries have a QR code for their work, print media uses QR codes to share interactive videos, even snacks include QR codes to take you to their website.
- Check-ins: From concerts and events to the DMV, QR codes are being more commonplace as a quick and easy means for checking in.
- Extra Content: When you order something online and your package arrives was there a QR Code somewhere in or on the packaging? More and more brands are including QR codes with an offer to unlock extra content in their customers’ packages. Buying a new yoga mat may come with a code to unlock free virtual workouts, tutorials for makeup, recipes with new cookware, etc.
- Receipts: QR codes are popping up more and more on receipts for goods and services. This is often in the form of satisfaction surveys, coupons, and loyalty programs.
According to Mastercard, more than half of Americans are using some form of contactless payment. This has manifested in the expected ways such as Apple Pay, touch to pay credit cards, services like Venmo, as well as in more innovative ways. Sams Club lets you scan your products as you go and pay through an app, avoiding any lines. Similarly, more and more gas stations are letting you pay through apps as well as QR codes being used as a payment. This digitization of payment has contributed to our increasingly cash-free world, while also limiting the public surfaces we have to touch.
Curbside and Contactless Pick-Ups & Deliveries
Food delivery services like Doordash and Uber eats are being utilized more than ever before. More and more people are getting groceries delivered or ordering online for pick-up. From food to consumer goods, additional businesses are offering the ability to order online and pick up at the store. Deliveries and options to pick up your purchases curbside make it even easier for us to get what we need without leaving our homes or cars.
As both workers and consumers, business is being conducted virtually on an unprecedented scale. Many employees have come to see the benefits of working from home, and employers’ worries about productivity have been overcome. Even as schools and offices open back up, virtual and in-person hybrid schedules don’t seem to be going anywhere.
From school to work, the idea of working virtually from home has become less of a novelty to more of a reality. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other video conferencing tools are now commonplace in both schools and businesses. Video lectures for classes can help students who missed class tune in from home. Virtual meetings are now the new norm as we have become accustomed to not having to travel or coordinate meeting spaces. Interviewing applicants is easier and more efficient through virtual meeting software, eliminating the location barrier.
Virtual Health & Wellness
We’ve seen the success of companies, such as Peloton, taking advantage of virtual exercise classes. That’s not to say that going to the gym is a thing of the past, but the rising trend of home workouts will not be short-lived. Many gyms now offer recordings or live broadcasts of group exercise classes for members to follow along at home. Many people have gotten used to the convenience of home workouts. They enjoy doing them on their time, avoiding going out in the cold, and not having to use public exercise equipment. The same mindset exists when it comes to going to the doctor. Telehealth isn’t a brand new concept, but as more people have gotten accustomed to using it, clinics are likely to keep the option.
With movie theaters being closed, we’ve seen the advent of major blockbusters going directly to streaming. Movies that would have taken months, if not years, to be available on streaming are now on services, such as HBO Max, as soon as they are released. We’ve also seen the rise of virtual events. Crafting classes, educational seminars, watch parties, and so much more now offer options for virtual attendance. This again removes barriers to engagement such as location, event space, and inconvenience.
Our Digital Future
Just as the pandemic was unexpected, as were the innovations and trends that resulted from it. Creativity and technology carved their way through the pandemic, creating new trends and giving new attention to past ideas. If one thing is for sure, it’s that the pandemic expedited digital and technological trends that we otherwise may not have seen these past few years. In our already increasingly digital world, the virtual timetable has moved up.
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