4 Post-Pandemic Business Trends that are Here to Stay
At this point, most people are sick of the term “new normal” but there doesn’t seem to be another term that captures what we are settling into as succinctly. The pandemic has not only impacted individuals’ daily lives, but it has also impacted how businesses run in nearly every way, from internal operations to customer interactions. Whether we like it or not, this impossible-to-predict event has accelerated many business trends. Here are four trends that are most likely here to stay even in a post-pandemic world:
1. Cashless/contactless payment
– As businesses move to more hygienic and socially-distanced practices, many are transitioning to cashless or contactless payment options. Many places are no longer accepting cash; instead, they are updating technology to accept tap pay from various types of cards and mobile phone payment platforms and becoming self-checkout only. Many food chains, like McDonald’s and Chik-fil-A, have already made it possible to place your order through their apps while in line or even prior to arriving, and are encouraging patrons to do so. Although we are far from a fully cashless or contactless-payment society, this trend has certainly been accelerated by recent events and is unlikely to end.
2. Focus on local supply chains
– Reliance on a global supply chain has provided advantages for businesses in a variety of ways. However, the pandemic revealed this reliance to be a critical weakness in the face of international disruption. This has caused many businesses to move to domestic or local suppliers and increased their willingness to pay higher prices for more reliable supply chains.
This is especially true in the food supply. According to a Goldbeck Recruiting study of North American industry professionals, 65% of Americans and 82% of Canadians were much more likely to purchase locally produced or sourced goods. A heavier reliance on local and domestic suppliers and more diverse supply chains will be the new norm for years to come.
3. Remote work and location independence
– Prior to the pandemic, a gradual shift to remote work was already underway. In many cases, companies had started responding to a societal shift of placing a stronger focus on work-life balance, which considers the amount of time employees spend at an office. Some companies had already begun exploring the option of not having a physical location at all.
As lockdowns and mandatory closures of physical spaces for non-essential businesses took hold, remote work was thrust upon companies capable of operating this way, whether they were ready or not. “One of the most prominent trends during the coronavirus era has been the shift of employees working from home instead of in offices,” says Sean Ludwig contributor for CO—, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s site for business owners. “Companies that have invested in employees’ work-from-home setups will also likely be more amenable to those employees working remotely some of the time even after the pandemic ends.” Other businesses will even eliminate their physical offices entirely.
4. Reliance on automation and AI
– The rise of automation and artificial intelligence has been a hot topic in recent years. However, the pandemic has caused businesses to consider it more strongly than ever before and tech companies are working in overdrive to deliver solutions now. In the face of the pandemic, businesses are acknowledging the impact of their employees’ health and safety, as well as their operation at the whim of state orders. Restrictions on human interactions as well as forced closures have increased interest in and reliance on automation and AI. This year has seen test drives of fully automated trucks, Walmart moving several stores to 100% self-checkout, and numerous companies replacing online customer service agents with AI. Automation is going to continue to greatly disturb the labor force in the coming years as more companies look to cash in on the reliability and cost-savings of automation and AI.
What the world will look like in the full aftermath of the pandemic is yet to be seen. There are many aspects of the business landscape that may return to normal. Many trends, however, such as the ones above, are unlikely to go anywhere and are apt to become part of the “new normal.”