Since it first emerged in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the novel coronavirus has gone on to affect almost all aspects of society and left a trail of death and illness across all four corners of the globe. However, while the health impacts and fatalities caused as a result of the virus have undoubtedly been tragic, it’s likely in years to come that we’ll all look back on the last year and a half as being fundamentally transformative for the growth of e-commerce and the increasing digitalization of businesses.
COVID-19 has changed how – and, perhaps more importantly, where – businesses have operated over the last 18 months. With the lockdowns and isolation enforced through fear of the spread of the virus, companies have been forced to start looking at new and innovative ways to continue functioning. Indeed, almost without exception, the firms that have made it through the virus best have been those that had already adopted online tech and integrated it into their working practices.
Will e-commerce boom sound the high street’s death knell?
It’s no secret that traditional retail has been under increasing pressure for many years trying to compete with firms operating online. The reduced commercial overhead and agility offered by running an online store have made it almost impossible for brick-and-mortar stores to keep pace and offer competitive pricing compared to their digital counterparts.
Moreover, the trend for web design companies to start offering more adaptable development solutions that allow e-com retailers to think about agile UX design (User Experience), which incorporates more streamlined User Interfaces (UIs) and improved download speeds, makes the concept of online retailing massively more attractive to prospective start-ups looking to enter the sector.
Through a combination of improved connection speeds, smarter devices and considerably more sophisticated programming methodology – coupled with the omnipresent threat of the spread of the virus – many industry analysts suggest coronavirus may have accelerated the take-up of online shopping by as much as four to six years.
E-com isn’t the only aspect of work that’s been transformed
While lockdowns have undoubtedly encouraged more shoppers online, perhaps the biggest change that came from COVID-19 has been the widespread adoption of work-from-home policies. Where once it was almost unthinkable for firms to allow their employees to work remotely, through the pandemic it has become almost an accepted norm.
As businesses struggled to keep functioning through the pandemic and still provide a useful service to their clients, more and more firms moved to cloud computing providers to keep their staff connected and able to work remotely.
Intriguingly, many industry analysts now suggest these supposed short-term measures may well become long-lasting – evidenced by the fact an increasing number of larger companies like Twitter have since confirmed they will no longer require their employees to attend the traditional workplace.
Much like other pandemics in the past, it would be fair to say we’re merely at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring how the long-term effects of COVID-19 will change our previously established working practices. One thing seems clear, however – online agility, cloud networking, remote working and an increased reliance on tech are most definitely here to stay.