Even in countries where social isolation is over and cities begin to resume their activities, the practices adopted during the new coronavirus pandemic molded the relationships between brands, consumers, employees and employers. One of the strongest trends in this scenario is the expansion of Low Touch Economy, part of the new normal that is being established due to COVID-19.
The pillars of this phenomenon are less human contact and more digitalized processes, based on tighter hygiene restrictions and less travel and physical contact - as stated by recent study carried out by the Board of Innovation. Among the immediate effects of this movement are:
Increased remote working
COVID-19 triggered the use of digital tools that make remote working easier. A recent study reveals that application downloads in the Business category increased about 30% in the first quarter of 2020. This increase was stimulated by videoconference apps, like Zoom. In the third week of March, the number of downloads of this platform in the United States was fourteen times greater than during the same period in 2019.
Verizon’s acquisition of BlueJeans also represents a movement in that direction. The company acquired the videoconference platform in April, thus reinforcing its portfolio of immersive communication experiences.
These resources should gain more momentum with the arrival of 5G, which will expand and improve the potentials of home office - which should remain a trend. An Accenture study reveals that almost 30% of employees that began working from home as a cause of COVID-19 intend to do so more frequently after we beat the virus. And companies that adopted this working model during the pandemic have already announced that they plan to prolong it.
Hema, the online supermarket that belongs to the Alibaba group, registered a 220% increase in sales in China during the pandemic. According to Accenture, the upward trend of e-commerce, triggered by COVID-19, will persist in the post-virus phase.
In the United States, Panera Bread, the fast-food restaurant chain, is an interesting example of using digital channels during the pandemic. With restaurants closed during the social distancing period, the company diversified its operations and created a delivery service for food supplies called Panera Grocery, which includes vegetables, fruit, milk, yogurt, etc.
Another initiative launched during the pandemic was Shopify’s online shopping application. The Shop app stimulates consumers to shop at local businesses, making it easier to locate stores that are nearby consumers - which helps small and medium enterprises become more competitive.
Accelerated autonomous technologies
A McKinsey study predicts that almost 30% of jobs in the United States will be automated by 2030. This movement was suddenly accelerated by the adoption of autonomous technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the United States, UPS and the CVS pharmacy chain formed a partnership to use drones for medication delivery. The service began to be tested in May in a community in Florida. In Medellin, Colombia, Rappi has been experimenting with a mini robot for home deliveries without human contact.
The pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of digital payment methods and frictionless check-out in stores and supermarkets Mastercard registered a 40% increase in contactless payments in the first quarter of 2020.