The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world in the area of just a few short weeks. From a Western perspective, those first news stories back in January of this virus taking hold in Wuhan, which a lot of people will have paid scant attention to, now feel like a lifetime ago.
In this blog post, I will attempt and make sense of what the pandemic, the lockdown, and the powerful shutting down of our market means for businesses across the UK and worldwide. Before I do this, however, I think it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge and attempt to understand the scale and gravity of this COVID-19 pandemic.
A Change World
The impact the pandemic is having on human lives can’t be understated. Whether your business is being severely affected or not, we have all felt the effect on our personal freedom from being locked down in our own homes. A lot of people will also know somebody that has been taken seriously ill or struck down with the virus and there are sadly a lot more deaths to come.
The bravery and the critical role of these on the frontline also can’t be understated; by the critical workers keeping the crucial elements of our society working to the countless NHS staff exposing themselves into coronavirus daily so as to save lives — such as, lately, our own Prime Minister.
Beyond the obvious economic implications, this is a catastrophe that will have deep and long-lasting consequences for politics, geopolitics, culture, society, and our collective mental health. What the world will look like after we’ve beaten coronavirus and if this is, is a topic of much debate. Make no mistake, the short to medium term effects will be seismic, with most major economies predicted to dive into the deepest recession in living memory. The consequent global economic downturn will probably eclipse the 2007/8 financial crash and hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, regardless of the language of some politicians misleadingly describes the virus. For business, the picture is uncertain and this uncertainty will remain for a while. What is likely is that there’ll be more of the latter, in the short to medium term at least.
Market Evolution in Fast Forward
Coronavirus isn’t simply uprooting and decimating long-established industries but it is changing the way we store and consume.
We are already seeing many smallish businesses adapting by adopting digital technologies to be able to bring their offline businesses online. Video conferencing and communication Programs like Zoom and Houseparty have seen a gigantic spike in new accounts and day to day use. With a 400% jump in traffic, Webinar Ninja CEO Omar Zenhom has said that he “always knew that this is where the future is heading, but the future only came early for all of us.”
This is food for thought, as it implies a need to distinguish between a change that’s being temporarily required by lockdown and economic downturn, an inevitable change that has been expedited by coronavirus and change that has been happening anyway.
We also need to question the connection between temporary change and permanent change.
There’s every chance that a few of the shifts we are seeing in online behavior and business action, necessitated by lockdown, may become the standard and might represent a paradigm shift. The more customers go online to discover the services and products they desire, the more businesses will shore up their digital assets and marketing strategies, thus creating feedback on consumer activity and business adaptation. How many of these changes in consumer behavior remain in place after some sense of normality is returned, is of course entirely determined by the nature of the sector in question but also the scale and length of the lockdowns.
Another element in this industry evolution is the way the crisis necessitates daring decision making and how this can break down based practice and clean away old assumptions. Many business owners might be encouraged by how relatively painless the transfer to a more remote workforce is or how beneficial their site can be in creating a new business, once they started investing in it. A number of these new business models and budgetary shifts may stick in a post coronavirus world.
The exact same is true of customers, many of whom might have been reluctant to search for certain products online but who now find themselves amazed by the simplicity of the experience and for that reason reluctant or less likely to go back to old offline consumer habits.
In how the internet started to alter the way we do marketing around twenty years back, so too could this pandemic see a noticeable shift to more digitally focused approaches strategies and offline media.