May 8, 2021 6 min read
The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur’s contributors are their own.
Covid changed almost everything it touches. And we haven’t yet managed to change the world. The end of the pandemic may be in sight, but the consequences of this will continue to be felt in the future.
Based on the 2020 experience, entrepreneurs are unlikely to require anyone to tell them about it. On the other hand, guidelines for navigating the changed business landscape are urgently needed. No two industries have been equally affected by the coronavirus epidemic, but some common issues emerge. As you think about your path to Covid, consider this advice from four forward-thinking industries that are leading the way:
1. Create the personal experience online
When the pandemic led to lockdowns, all kinds of previous personal experiences – seeing the doctor, eating out, and evenings at the multiplex – fell by the wayside. The resulting explosion in telemedicine, roadside pick-up and digital streaming seems completely predictable in retrospect.
Retail was another sector that was hit hard and fast. Stores had to close their stores, creating an e-commerce boom for those who could afford to move their stores online and brick and mortar bankruptcy for those who couldn’t. Time hasn’t made things that much easier either. Some states are still restricting retail capacity and many consumers simply don’t want to shop the way they used to.
The big solution is to bring the personal retail experience online. More and more retailers like Macy’s, Adidas, and Marshall’s are experimenting with virtual reality locker rooms that allow customers to see what clothes would look like on them before shopping online. While personal shopping keeps stalling, experiences like this will likely turn out to be the next best thing.
2. Use technical tools to deal with residues
The great shortage of toilet paper in 2020 gave American consumers greater awareness of the global supply chain than ever before. Backlogs and delays in procurement plagued industries that ranged from aerospace to meat packaging. Nowhere have these residues had more serious consequences than in health care.
In an editorial published in Science, the director of the National Cancer Institute, Norman Sharpless, predicted that delayed screenings and postponed treatments could lead to more than 10,000 cancer deaths in the US over the next decade. To meet the pent-up demand for medical testing, elective surgery, and other procedures, the industry is deploying tools that healthcare systems can use to more efficiently deal with this backlog.
Common medical tests like CT and PET scans are already being enhanced by machine learning technology, which enables improved diagnosis of a wide variety of disorders. To detect breast cancer earlier and more accurately while optimizing residues, CureMetrix uses an AI-driven mammography method that highlights suspicious cases for a 30% reduction in reading time and a 27% increase in cancer detection. In industries across the economy, AI-powered tools are critical to efficiently clearing up post-Covid residue. In healthcare, they will save lives too.
Related Topics: How Covid Affects Global Supply Chains and Opportunities in the Post-Covid World
3. Prepare for a hybrid future
When the pandemic broke out, offices across the country were emptied at a rate that made the heads of business leaders spin. Many employees enjoyed working from home while their employers saw a money-saving opportunity to revise their footprint down. Others found that digital whiteboards cannot forever replace face-to-face collaboration and that WFH’s life is detrimental to their mental health.
Related: Businesses can’t run from kitchen tables forever. Here’s why coworking is making a comeback.
These opposing assessments lead to one conclusion: The future of work will be a mixture of remote and on-premise work. With a large number of commercial office buildings remaining wholly or partially vacant, commercial real estate has realized that it must adapt if it is to survive. And customize it for sure.
While some businesses have been thoroughly seduced by the possibilities of remote working, the need for office space remains – albeit to a lesser extent. This offers serious opportunities for coworking spaces that allow businesses to have a physical outpost without the high buy-ins that come with full office rentals. These types of agreements will be the future of work, so it is up to the real estate companies to act quickly.
4. Focus on sustainability again
For the global sustainability movement, the Covid crisis was the best and the worst. Early closings resulted in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and the water in Venice’s canals ran clear for the first time in decades. It wasn’t long, however, before disposable face masks washed up on the beaches and a tsunami of take-out containers and e-commerce packaging found its way into the waste stream.
While many companies looked inward and simply tried to stay afloat, others realized that the threats the planet was facing required action, whether pandemic or not. In July, Apple announced its plans to achieve a carbon neutral supply chain by 2030, while ambitious, green investments by outdoor apparel giant The North Face showed that the playing field for sustainability is no longer ceded to industry competitor Patagonia.
The travel industry also realizes that a focus on sustainability offers a way forward. In 2020, Covid virtually eliminated travel from the schedule for most people. While the urge to explore the world will be greater than ever in 2021 and beyond, there is reason to believe that people will travel differently even then.
The lockdowns associated with Covid resulted in many people reconnecting with nature in new and meaningful ways, which opened up the possibility of developing a more sustainable form of travel. Organizations like the Center for Responsible Travel are transforming typical tourist excursions into ways to restore barrier reefs in Belize or promote natural resource management in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. More and more people want to get involved in such activities and it is up to the travel industry to organize them for them.
Related: Why Domestic Travel Looks More Promising in a Post-Pandemic World
The effects of Covid will be felt long after the social distancing guidelines and mask mandates expire. Even if a real world is still a long way off after the pandemic, there is much to be hoped for – and many ways businesses can adapt and thrive.