In a time that is continually changing, it can be hard to distinguish trends from fads and identify which trends are here to stay. Today we will look at the coronavirus impact on business trends. We will look at current business trends and trends that are likely to stay after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The year 2020 looks very different from the year 2019. There has been a lot of change in the last year, and that change happened quickly. Many of us expected life to return to normal rather soon. Businesses and people were affected by the global pandemic in one way or another. Over the last several months cities and businesses have opened and closed. People have been wearing masks and social distancing from others. As a country, we have adjusted to a new norm. Keep reading to learn more about wide-scale and industry-specific business trends.
Many companies learned just how easy it is to work from home. In the past, there were concerns about working from home. Companies worried that the necessary infrastructure did not exist. Owners worried that employees would not stay motivated while working from home. During this time, many offices found that employee productivity stayed consistent. Many companies now see that having remote workers is possible.
Some companies are requiring their employees to return to the office; but most seem to have an open policy in place. They are letting employees choose where they want to work. If an employee wants to return to the office, they are welcome to return. If an employee wants to keep working from home, they are welcome to stay home. This strategy keeps everyone happy and decreases the number of people gathered in the building. Many employees currently expect to have the option to work from home.
One major business trend has been the switch to credit and debit cards. To cut down on the spread of germs, many stores ask customers to use cards instead of cash. ATM use has gone down during the pandemic. Credit card companies, like VISA, have customers saying they spend less cash now. Many stores have had to get a credit card machine, or credit card terminal. Many shoppers have had to switch to credit cards. Along with credit cards, more places are using contactless forms of payment. There are contactless, or touchless, payment options out there. Shoppers can simply hover their credit card, or mobile device, over the credit card machine to make a purchase. Shoppers do not have to touch the machine, and your team does not have to touch the card. Touchless payment primarily uses RIFD technology to read the card. Many credit cards have this feature, and some credit card terminals do too.
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More and more stores are also offering multiple ways to shop. We can go online, purchase our items, and have them delivered right to the house. If we want to forgo the delivery price, we can order our items for a curbside pickup. An employee will walk right up to our car and hand us our purchase. If we feel like going for a walk, we can just go to the store and walk in to shop. Customers like having multiple options because it makes shopping more convenient.
Curbside and delivery options have become so common. Customers expect most grocery stores and retail stores to have at least one of these options. Customers assume that most grocery stores offer delivery services or have at least partnered up with a delivery app like Instacart. Customers seem to prefer having 2-3 options for shopping. If your store does not offer curbside or delivery, customers may look into which options your competition has. This is one important business trend that has been picking up speed.
Once Walmart announced that it was requiring customers to wear facemasks, almost every other store made similar announcements. Many customers were already wearing masks, but more are wearing them today. At this point, customers expect stores to have some type of policy on masks. They expect stores to either require masks, or strongly encourage it. Some customers prefer that masks be required. Other customers are upset about the requirements to wear masks. Regardless of customers’ views, there has been an increase in the number of stores requiring facemasks.
Many stores have placed signs and stickers around their stores to help encourage social distancing. They might have signs to help with the flow of traffic down aisles. There might be stickers on the floor spaced six feet apart that lead to the cash register. Many businesses have some type of plexiglass at the front desk or register. At this point, people expect to see social distancing signage. Not everyone will follow the rules. However, having larger signs can make the process easier. Some people do not follow the rules because they do not see the signs. I am guilty of this myself. Using clear signs with easy-to-read text makes it easier for shoppers to see. Many stores are switching out their hand-written paper signs, for larger printed signs.
With all these changes, customers are feeling left in the dark. Almost everyone has had at least one unexpected experience with a business. They might have left their facemask at home and been denied entry to a store. They may have tried to walk into a building only to discover it was locked and all the employees were home. They may have found out a store’s hours changed or that they only offer curbside service. Almost every business responded differently. Customers cannot keep track of all the changes.
Many customers are doing research now before going shopping. They might call to ask questions about your mask policy or hours. If they are not calling, they are checking Google, social media, and even the business’ website for information. If customers cannot find that information, they might feel frustrated. They might decide to check out the competition to see if they list their changes. Be sure to check and update your business information online. Update your website, Google Business profile, and social media.
Humans are creatures of habit. Some of these trends are expected to stay, and others are expected to go. Just what trends are expected to stay? The next section looks to the future. It focuses on which business trends are expected to be the new norm, even after the global pandemic ends. We will start by looking at a few of the current trends that are expected to stay.
As mentioned earlier, many employees are working from home. Companies have discovered it is possible to have a remote team. Many individuals have found that working from home is convenient. It is likely that more businesses will allow employees to work from home in the future. Companies can expect to have more remote employees. There will likely be an increase in the number of occasional remote employees too. These are employees who work remotely part of the week or month. Many businesses might downsize their offices with the change in remote workers. Instead of having a desk for every employee, they may keep enough desks for the individuals working in the office, and then a few more for remote workers. Remote workers can share these desks on the days they do have to work from the office.
When hiring, expect more people to ask if a position could be remote. If your company allows for remote work, be sure to include it in the job description. Speaking of interviews, there will be new trends there too. Expect future candidates to ask how your company responded to the pandemic. In return, you can ask candidates how they responded during the pandemic.
Credit cards and touchless payment options are convenient. Although the use of cash will likely increase again, it might not be as popular as it was previously. During this pandemic, many people switched up their wallet. They might have gotten a credit card or switched their cards to their phone. They are not likely to switch back so soon. Cash and electronic forms of currency will both be used. However, companies that do not have a credit card machine will be behind on the times. Companies that do not have a credit card terminal that accepts contactless payment will also feel outdated. They will likely see fewer customers than their competition that has a credit card terminal and touchless payment options.
Picking up orders and getting things to go is so convenient. When the pandemic is over, people will likely want to go out and explore. They will want to go out and do the things they missed. Expect to see people returning to stores and shopping. At the same time though, there will be plenty of consumers that found they preferred curbside and to-go services. For them, having their items dropped off at their car was much more convenient and time saving. They might have even saved money by finding more sales online.
Delivery is also incredibly convenient. People have been ordering things online and having them delivered for years. During the pandemic, delivery services have become more common. Many people tried delivery options for food and groceries. They loved it. Delivery services are not expected to go anywhere any time soon. If anything, delivery expectations have risen. We expect faster hassle-free deliveries. This change in the way we view delivery will not just be seen in food service. It will be seen across several industries. Having a faster delivery on a project might help you close a sale.
The market struggled in the 1970’s and many small businesses had a tough time. Some of the most successful companies, including Apple, FedEx, and Microsoft were just starting during that time. These entrepreneurships were successful because they had go-getter attitudes. They were led by individuals that kept pushing forward. The companies were flexible and could roll with the punches. These companies flourished when the market improved. It is expected that the same will happen again now.
The pandemic disrupted a lot of our global supply chain. Instead of getting our products and supplies from across the nation, or even across the globe, many companies had to turn to local suppliers. Local sourcing is likely here to stay. There tends to be a higher level of service and care when working with a local business. Many local providers are involved in their community. Over the last few months, local businesses have likely established a bond or good relationship with shoppers. They know their needs and expectations, and they care about their success. These customers are more likely to stay loyal customers. Once you have sourcing figured out, you are not likely to change it up unless necessary. The growth we have seen with local sourcing will likely stay.
We have proven that many events can be held virtually. We will likely see conventions and trade shows again. However, we may also see virtual trade shows and conventions too. Conventions impact many industries at the same time. It might seem like a small change, but it can have some big effects depending on the industry. Having virtual events can save companies a lot of money. They do not have to rent space, have catering, or even cover the cost of travel or housing. Having a virtual event makes it more convenient to attend. Attendance may be higher than usual. Viewers might not feel like they have to set aside a day or two for the event. Best of all, people expected to attend virtual events will have fewer reasons to cancel last minute.
Many teams and offices had to downsize. Unemployment is expected to improve after the pandemic. However, many offices will likely have fewer employees than before the pandemic. Many companies have found that they can run with fewer people. Instead of spending their money on new employees, they are buying technology. Their technology spending will have an emphasis on backend technology. They are expected to keep their smaller team and provide them with the resources to simplify and streamline their work process. Expect to see a lot more automation in the workplace. If there is a machine or software that can make things easier, they may buy it.
There are a lot of coronavirus related business trends out there. However, not all trends affect every business or industry. Individual industries will see their own lasting trends. Take a look below at the different trends expected to affect your industry.
Curbside options will continue to be popular with restaurants and grocery stores. Customers are trying curbside options and realizing they are convenient. In addition, food delivery expectations will rise. Customers will expect faster deliveries. Along with more to-go and curbside orders, customers will want to eat outside occasionally. People have felt trapped indoors for several months now. The opportunity to enjoy dinner and the outdoors will be important. People are remembering how nice it is to go outdoors. Sometimes eating outside is nicer than sitting in a crowded restaurant.
For a few years, more people may consider getting an online degree. Plenty of people will continue to invest in higher education. However, more students will consider in-person university alternatives. They may consider trade schools, online degrees, or even associate degrees. Many young and soon-to-be adults are questioning their college choices. This generation is worried about their future. They have a grim view of adulthood as they approach it. They worry about future job prospects and higher education. Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree when there are more affordable options? Right now, local online schools make more financial sense than expensive colleges. Some students are taking a gap year. Others are transferring to smaller local schools. Expect to see more interest in other types of higher education.
More curbside services. I took my cat to the vet. Instead of going inside, they came to my car, picked her up, and told me she would be ready in 20 minutes. It gave me time to run a quick errand down the street. I did not have to wait in a waiting room for several minutes. I did not have to wait there while they did her checkup. It was nice. Along with animal health services, there were also plenty of drive-through testing. This might not be practical all year round. But during the cold and flu season, it might be good to have curbside testing. It could help speed up time for the patients and doctors.
The healthcare industry can expect to see more virtual appointments. If someone thought they had COVID symptoms, they were advised to call their doctor. Doctors did not want them to just walk into the office. Many doctors, and insurance companies were offering virtual services. Patients could meet with a doctor over video. They were able to conduct their appointment electronically. It saved time and money. It was safer too. Even after coronavirus ends, expect to have more virtual doctor appointments for small things.
Customers expect curbside service and delivery options. Customers expect fast delivery times. If you do not offer either of these services customers might turn to competition that does. Delivery has become such a common part of our lives. Many people use curbside service at least once a week. We use curbside for things as common as groceries and food. Why not have this same convenience for consumer items and other purchases? Curbside expectations have risen. Customers expect retail stores to continue to offer curbside services.
People are ready to get haircuts. People are ready to go to the spa again and get their nails done. People want to look and feel good, especially during difficult and stressful times. If they are currently unemployed, they want to look good for interviews. Even during the 2008 recession, beauty shops and salons flourished. The same can be seen now and is expected to stay consistent even after the pandemic ends.
There is an increase in backend technology that simplifies work processes. There is also an increase in automation. With smaller, more-remote teams, companies rely on technology to cover the difference. They might not have as many people as they did before COVID-19. However, the people they currently employ can accomplish more with the right tools. Instead of hiring a full-time position, they are investing in tech. They are purchasing lead management, contact management, and scheduling tools. With these services, smaller teams are capable of doing a lot more work. With all the additional workplace technology, many companies are looking for all-in-one services. Companies that produce services like these, might see an increase in sales. Do you offer several services like these? Consider an all-in-one pricing plan for your customers. In addition, delivery expectations have risen. You might be able to close more sales if you have a faster set-up or delivery time than your competition.
Many construction companies were hit hard during the pandemic. Construction sites had to shut down, and many supply chains were disrupted. Going forward, the 2008 recession might shed some light on the future of construction. The successful construction companies that did well were the ones that fought. They decreased costs and reallocated supplies to find the money necessary. They differentiated their options and invested in technology so they could offer their customers more.
Stir crazy people will be ready to get out of their house. They might want to travel to feel free, or they might want to travel to visit friends or family. On the other hand, a few more conferences and events may become virtual. You might see a decrease in event gatherings. However, many couples have had to postpone their wedding. They will be eager to book a venue. As for housing, many people have had to put their moving plans on hold out of fear of job security. More people may be looking to move.
There is an expectation for automotive companies to remain open. Almost everyone worried about their car at some point during the global pandemic. They quickly learned that repair shops and car sales are essential businesses. Experts also expect an increase in demand for smaller cars. They expect more people to want to buy single or double seaters. Expect to see an increase in mopeds, scooters, and two-seater coupes.
With all of the changes going on at the same time, things are uncertain. We are seeing new trends every day. Keep these emerging trends in mind as you move forward. It will take time, but things will get better. The market will improve, and we will slowly be able to return to a life that feels normal. Any time there is a large change in our daily lives, it is sure to have some lasting effects. The trends we are seeing now are becoming more common by the day. The trends we expect to see are slowly starting to take effect. As the pandemic continues, we will get through this together!