• Anand Rao

Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently in Some Ways. Here's How.

5 predictions industry leaders need to read if they want to stay ahead

As I look around at the impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the world today, it got me thinking about how these changes will play out in the long-term. Once the virus has been overcome, what will the new business landscape look like, and how will it have altered the way we work, learn, consume and seek healthcare?

Whether or not people and companies realize this yet, the Coronavirus pandemic has changed the world forever. Research by Imperial College London indicates the need for self-isolation will continue to reoccur for at least another 18 months, until a vaccine is released, but some of the impacts will last far longer.

As we navigate these difficult times, the term ‘digital nomad’ (minus the nomadic part) has now been forced on large parts of the global population. Those who previously only engaged with digital services for entertainment, or connecting with friends and family, now have almost no option but to use them for almost every aspect of their daily lives.

Reflecting on my experiences over the past 20 years, managing digital initiatives and adoption across a variety of industries, here are my 5 predictions for how this increased reliance on digital will engender major changes in education, healthcare, working, retail and consumption.

1. We will witness an acceleration in the adoption of eCommerce

In 2018 retail eCommerce sales accounted for 12 percent of all retail sales and annual growth estimates were between 10-20 percent. Quarantine and self-imposed isolation will act as a catalyst to accelerate the growth in retail eCommerce we’re already witnessing. Households that didn’t previously shop online now have more reason to do so.

This new learned behavior will not entirely revert back to how it was previously. Those who hadn’t before will realize that consumables such as toilet paper can be effortlessly (and more cost effectively) ordered online with doorstep delivery.

2. Worker’s new demand for flexible working will have a knock-on effect on real estate

When the pandemic subsides, team members, who have adapted to a new way of working, will question the need to go into the office every day. Didn’t they work just as effectively from home using teleconferencing, collaboration tools, and communication apps?

Progressive companies will be the first to leverage this as a recruiting tool. They will also reap the benefits of smaller office spaces and reduced overheads. Additional efficiencies will emerge from the scaling of agile ways of working and reduction in middle management. Consequently, commercial real estate could very well suffer, whilst residential may see a resurgence with families needing additional space for home offices.

3. Education will evolve into a healthy mix of in-class and online learning across schools and colleges

Tim Cook is the preeminent evangelist of tech-based learning in the education system. While Apple devices and operating systems have in-part shaped education in a meaningful way, there has always been a gap, with large swaths of schools and colleges ineffectively intertwining classroom teaching with online learning. But, as schools are compulsorily closed, it leaves no other option but to download and experiment with the ecosystem of apps available for online learning and collaboration.

With enough time, we will all get comfortable with this, and the archaic schools will discover that they are on an island. The winners here will be the institutions that figure out the magic mix between classroom based and online teaching, as well as the companies that can facilitate that.

4. Doctor office visits will drastically reduce with Telehealth gaining prominence

COVID-19 is a valid reason for distributing health related services digitally. Yet many health providers, and insurance payers especially, have not enabled Telehealth for their physicians and patients. Large insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield last week scrambled to modify their policy to cover the cost of over-the-phone consultations. Next will come digital apps and augmented reality add-ons that make it even easier – saving time for physicians and patients. Having been marginal before, this method of engagement for non-procedural consultations will become the norm, and healthcare providers and payers that embrace this early will win.

5. Tech companies will take the lead using AI in disease detection, prevention and treatment

Tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google correctly identified artificial intelligence as the next frontier for mankind, investing heavily in building out their capabilities. The cliché “with great power comes great responsibility” is probably apt here, as these companies will see it as their social responsibility to detect and mitigate pandemics such as COVID-19 before they spread. Their algorithms will be deployed to churn through test results, and the myriad of treatments and possible outcomes, to find the best preventative methods or right combination of treatment drugs.

These are just some of the ways I predict COVID-19 will change the world, based on my own experiences.

Interested to hear if you agree, and if you have any predictions of your own.