The big economic macro trends that will come post COVID-19
Trends are usually generated due to different economic stimulus. They are sometimes adopted slowly and take place along with cultural changes, while other times happen fast and are caused by external factors. Nowadays, our world is led by institutions that were formed with old rules and a shock such as COVID-19 could imply strong changes in the way the economic world works.
People often make choices based on family opinions and on their normal routine. These choices are often secure and simplify decision-making processes, which are even made “automatically”. But the instability generated by COVID-19 has created environments out of the ordinary and with no possibility to predict normal behaviors. This is the new context that companies will face, and they will need to adapt to survive. History has proven that even in the worst crisis, innovative companies are able to prosper.
Shocks in consumer behavior
More than three months have gone since China reported its first case of COVID-19 and the pandemic spread to virtually the entire world. During this period, several companies around the world have suffered partial or total paralysis, hindering their incomes and the income of individuals. With companies not producing and citizens not spending, the negative economic impact is undeniable, and it would last a long time as COVID-19 spreads and the health emergency increases across the globe.
During this time, the normal reaction of consumers is to increase their supplies of different products, including food products (mainly non-perishable) and cleaning products. This is a clear change in normal consumption habits: an increasing concern on cleaning and trying to reduce activities out of home. As news about the virus increase, consumers increase the amount spent each time they go to supermarkets, due to higher concerns over the need to stay at home.
This so-called “bunker effect”, as stated by Kantar, is not sustainable in the long term. After satisfying their needs of food and cleaning products, consumers purchase items out of the “essential”, even purchasing products that would give them pleasure during the home lockdown period.
These changes in habits are developing to what will later be new consumption trends. Among those that have been already identified, we can mention the following:
• E-commerce purchases on people of all ages: younger generations are fully aware of electronic purchases. But, as people are spending more time at home, older generations have been more in touch with e-commerce and companies can increase demand for e-commerce purchases among these groups. After the emergency, people of all ages will value e-commerce as a more practical tool for shopping.
• Delivery: In many countries, restaurants and retail shops have closed on-site operations as part of the actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As an alternative, most of them are offering delivery options to continue selling to their customers. As well, small and medium enterprises that did not offer delivery services have started to use it as it is currently their only channel to sell.
• A-Commerce: To avoid possible contagions of COVID-19, people are currently trying to avoid human-to-human interactions as much as possible. Therefore, non-human interactions such as machines and robots are starting to grow. Companies that can offer such interactions would have stronger possibilities with clients.
• Virtual experiences: At the moment, events involving large gatherings, including concerts, sports events and fine arts, are suspended. As such, there is an opportunity to use new technologies to allow people to live these experiences without needing to be physically there. Augmented-reality and virtual-reality devices can allow people to have digital experiences on almost any type of entertainment event. Companies such as Disney anticipated to this and are currently focused more on offering digital experiences rather than physical experiences. World-class museums such as Louvre, MET or El Prado offer guided tours and 360-degrees experiences. As well, government institutions are joining these trends, offering streaming entertainment services.
• Wellness environments: Nowadays everyone is obsessed with cleaning and disinfecting as part of the daily activities. But as the “panic” fades in, the trend to keep hygienic habits and keeping environments clean and healthy will stay. This opens opportunities for companies to offer products to satisfy these needs and allow consumers to keep environments clean.
Added to the trends mentioned above, we also need to point out that there will be new trends on working environments and production facilities.
The confinements currently in place in many countries around the world due to the pandemic have allowed many companies to recognize new ways to continue operating even with the current restrictions:
• Teleworking: Companies have appealed to teleworking as an alternative to continue operations. In countries like Panama and El Salvador, regulations on teleworking have been recently approved. Furthermore, this alternative is gaining more popularity on companies across Latin America.
• Cybersecurity: In most cases, companies have robust data-protection systems on their on-site networks. Nevertheless, with workers now operating from their homes, companies must implement stronger security measures for remote work.
• Online education: Primary and high schools are currently closed in most countries to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, teachers and students are currently using online platforms to resume classes. Universities have also joined this trend mainly using MOOC platforms joined to their own digital infrastructure.
All these changes that we are experiencing in 2020 will be a turning point in modern history. This will be remembered as the year where the COVID-19 pandemic forced a strong transformation not only in the economy but also in the way we work, our consumption habits and companies’ behaviors. Also, changes in our lives, our health and our priorities.