There is little doubt that 2020 has brought considerable changes to our world. Who could have predicted how dramatically COVID would have turned our world upside down at the start of 2020?
Hopefully, as 2021 begins, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel. The new vaccines are starting to roll out (not a moment too soon) and perhaps we might dare hope for a return to normality during the spring.
But what will that normality look like? Quite apart from the radical disruption to our social and working lives that COVID has wrought, it has quite likely accelerated and even inspired some long-term changes that will remain with us for years to come.
Remote working was forced on a large section of the working population for much of 2020. By and large it worked. Will office culture ever be the same again? Or will the future of office work point towards an inexorable march toward the remote/virtual office. The practical savings for office-based business are potentially huge – just think how much many businesses spend every year on prime location office space and business travel. Imagine if you could slash that by cost by half or, perhaps, by even more than half. Well, it turns out you probably can. Tools and technologies that support the virtual office will become increasingly critical. Who knows, in five or ten years from now we could all be holding international business meetings in VR simulated boardrooms. In fact, I predict we will.
Many businesses have had to adapt to a world where trading online has, at times really been the only option. Buying and selling at fixed locations and in-person has been hard hit. Post COVID it will surely bounce back to some extent but the long-term trend to online retail has surely been greatly accelerated. ONS figures showed that the % of UK retail business done online rose from around 16% in 2017 to 19% in 2019. Without COVID we might have expected it to climb to around 21% for 2020 maybe. However, the pandemic has meant the final 2020 figure is likely to end up closer to 26% or perhaps even a little higher.
I’m sure people will want to return to the bricks and mortar shops to some degree once the pandemic is over – but online commerce has undeniably come of age and will, without question, form an increasingly critical part of any future marketing. In future the look, feel and effectiveness of online sales and marketing will be just as important (and probably more so) than any in-person selling.