During the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak, the technology and ecommerce industries were thriving as people moved their businesses and day-to-day lives online. Now, though, most restrictions are long gone, with many countries close to viewing the virus as a non-issue. So now that most key things are back to normal, how have the pandemic trends fared? Let’s consider which ones have stuck around and which haven’t.
Flexible delivery options
With most physical stores shut during lockdowns, there was a dramatic increase in online shopping. Even though some couriers and delivery networks struggled during the heart of the pandemic, consumers (for the most part) were able to get their items quickly and safely.
Notably, they were able to take advantage of wider ranges of delivery options, allowing them to have their items delivered when and where it was convenient for them. Businesses became more flexible, adding overnight courier services to their postal delivery options and deploying click-and-collect schemes.
Even now, many consumers are wary of going into shops and business premises, and plenty prefer to avoid having substantial interactions with people outside of their homes. Due to this, the ecommerce businesses that have maintained their flexible delivery options are faring better than their more stubborn rivals.
With brick-and-mortar retail once again being an option, we can expect to see more of a hybrid approach, with sellers setting up physical retail locations so their customers can pick up orders with minimum contact or make appointments to safely view products.
When faced with complete lockdown or quarantine measures, most tech and ecommerce businesses discovered they could operate just as well working remotely. With video calls, VPNs, cloud-based storage, and collaboration tools readily available, most businesses were able to be just as productive at home as they’d ever been in their offices.
Many ecommerce businesses are going to require at least a few members of staff to pack and dispatch orders from a warehouse. But all other aspects such as managing stock, updating websites, marketing, and customer service can be done remotely.
The rise of employer of record services — like the one offered by Remote — is even enabling some businesses to go a step further and hire remotely from overseas without the legal hassles that once would’ve presented. Providing you can nail asynchronous work, hiring in such a geographically-agnostic way can widen the talent pool while introducing significant cost savings.
Those businesses that have successfully overcome some of the downsides of remote working such as collaboration, staff motivation, time tracking, and general wellbeing, are unlikely to return to the office full time any time soon (if ever).
Digital payment systems
Around the beginning of the outbreak, approaches to payment changed hugely. Due to legitimate concerns about spreading the virus through cash transactions, people were broadly encouraged to pay with cards and contactless payment methods instead of cash.
Pre-COVID, the world was already using more card payments than cash transactions, but things accelerated massively after early 2020. People became more comfortable with paying for things online and using cards or mobile payments in stores, and it seems unlikely this will be reversed. We’re moving towards cashless operations across the board.
This has also forced many businesses to upgrade their digital payments systems, and during the recovery period (as places started to open up), many bars and restaurants developed new apps and online systems for ordering and paying without any contact.
This trend is certainly not going anywhere. Digital payment systems, online banking, and mobile payments are going to keep growing as more people continue to move away from cash. Businesses that are slow to adopt digital systems are going to be left behind.
During the worst of the pandemic, 3D printing was used to help with the production of essential things such as ventilator parts for personal protective equipment. The same printer can be used to produce a huge range of different products from design files and suitable materials. The flexibility in what they can produce has been invaluable in reacting to disruption to supply chains and difficulty in procuring parts needed for normal production.
There are some issues with 3D printing that do need to be tackled, such as intellectual property rights and patents, as well as regulatory requirements for certain products. Additionally, some of the bloom is off the rose at this point, meaning it isn’t the hot trend that it was. Even so, 3D printing remains a useful tool that’s far more adaptable than some traditional manufacturing processes, and it’s still a field to watch closely.
Lessons for today’s tech and ecommerce businesses
Be flexible and adapt
One of the most important lessons for any business to remember in the post-COVID world is that everything can change overnight. Businesses need to learn how to adapt their plans and strategies to changing demands and requirements. Those that stuck to doing what they’d always done during the pandemic and made no attempt to adapt the way they operated struggled and failed, after all.
Stores that were quick off the mark with improving and optimizing their ecommerce stores were able to take advantage of the new wave of new online shoppers. We’ve seen a corresponding increase in demand for technology and software that will support ecommerce businesses, too: everything from payment systems to inventory management and customer service platforms.
Build trust with consumers
Consumers now have an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to online shopping and services. Along with enduring concerns about safety, this means that businesses need to be focused on building trust with their potential (and existing) customers.
Tech and ecommerce businesses in particular need to be focused on offering the best possible services, demonstrating thorough consistent quality and communication that they’re worthy of ongoing support. The wariness that COVID-19 engendered isn’t going to fade away for a long time, and it can sink companies that don’t keep it in mind.
Beyond their services, they need to provide excellent working conditions for their staff members, knowing that any mistreatment will make it to social media and irrevocably damage their reputations. If you want to make your business an established brand, show that you deserve to be in such a lofty position.
It’s crucial that all tech and ecommerce businesses continue to be flexible and react to the changes in consumer demand and the economy. As we’ve established here, many of the major trends that emerged during the pandemic are unlikely to go away in the foreseeable future — and you must act accordingly.