COVID-19 is one of the greatest challenges the world has faced in centuries. It has transformed the lives of millions of people all across the globe, severely impacting industries across multiple sectors. In a survey of 700 IT buyers in the US and Europe conducted in 2020 , 78% of the companies are experiencing a decline in revenues and 46% furloughing or laying off employees These companies have drastically reduced capital expenditures on IT, in a desperate attempt to control costs- 60% of the companies pausing deployment of new technology not currently in their IT stack, and 54% of the companies delaying upgradation. But despite these challenges, this period is seeing wider adoption of technology- something that will remain a trend in the future as well. Such technologies can contribute to the alleviation of economic upheaval. The global challenge of COVID-19 has prompted an enormous innovation initiative from companies, governments, universities and individuals. Robots are disinfecting cities, cooking hospital food and delivering goods. Smart devices are monitoring patients and collecting valuable health data. While much of the world is shut, locked down or closed, innovation is accelerating.
But we should always talk about technology carefully, since it is enormously critical that companies do not over accelerate, but instead focus on the long term consequences of this change. Are the business values of enterprises- fueled with technological innovations, rationally aligned with the people values there? Are these values trustable and ethical? This imbalance- when business values do not align with the people’s values during a transformation, is called a Tech-Clash. Businesses that shall encounter such issues while transformation, shall find it extremely hard to adopt, align and act.
We shall now look at the technological and business level transformations due to COVID across various sectors and discuss what lies in the future for these industries.
Restaurant Industry: Post COVID, there has been an enormous shift in consumer preferences globally, when it comes to dining out. With social isolation in place, online food delivery applications are leveraging the use of Artificial Intelligence to optimize delivery routes, cut costs, improve personalization and ensure maintenance of health protocols. Tasting Collective, a subscription dining club in the US has pivoted from in-person diners, led by chefs in their own restaurants to live streamed virtual cooking classes for guests. Throughout the pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in digital and delivery penetration through the use of mobile- resulting in higher margins, frictionless transactions and better customer retention.
Retail Industry: COVID has posed one of the major threats to physical retail, gone are the times when one used to look forward to visiting the nearest supermarket or the apparel store to try a new dress. Shopping behaviors are changing, quickly moving to the online channels and prompting retailers to think differently. L’Oréal overcame this challenge by investing in an app, Makeup Genius, which demonstrates various looks on a customer’s face in real time. Another challenge for online sales is the time and effort customers require in picking from an endless aisle of seemingly limitless options. Cladwell, a startup in the clothing space, catalogs its users’ wardrobes and helps evaluate the incremental value of new items. The removal of further barriers will continue to raise the penetration of online shopping, so that it could comprise between 20 percent and 25 percent of the US market within five years.
Healthcare Industry: The use of Artificial Intelligence in the Healthcare Industry, throughout COVID has resulted in drastic automation and improvement in efficiency. From virtual healthcare assistants to AI powered thermal cameras for fever detection, there has been a massive transformation in the use of high-end technology in the healthcare industry.
Education: COVID brought the largest disruption of the educational sector in history. Closure of schools affected 1.66 billion learners worldwide (94% of world’s student population) but these closures have stimulated innovation within the educational sector. Once students return to schools and campuses, they may find the physical environment has changed to better accommodate the technologies needed for digital transformation in education post-COVID-19. For instance, Nick Shea, sales director at AdEPT Education, says his company is working with schools and colleges to install cameras that will facilitate lesson-steaming.
According to a new McKinsey Global Survey of Executives, companies have accelerated the digitalization of their customer interactions by 3-4 years and have increased the share of digitally enabled products in their portfolio by 7 years. It would not be wrong to say that COVID-19 has fueled and accelerated the adoption of digital technology by several years, pushing companies over the tech tipping point- and transforming businesses forever.