5 COVID-19 trends likely to stay and change the way we do business

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5 Covid 19 trends likely to stay and change the way we do business

COVID-19 has changed the way we live, work, shop, travel and interact. But it’s not all gloom. Trending consumer and business behaviours could improve the way we operate – sticking around for the long haul. In this article, we explore five trends we think we’ll see a lot more of.

Did you know ‘WFH’ is now officially part of the English language? Over the last few weeks, businesses have used the term ‘work-from-home’ so much that The Oxford English Dictionary made a special update to its records.Flexible hours and remote working have become the new normal in the wake of COVID-19 – and are arrangements likely to stay.

As many as 65% of employees in the UK believe WFH should be more of a norm, according to Citrix.

Adapting to COVID-19 has rewired so much of our business world. But it’s not all disruptive. An EConsultancy survey found over half of all large global organisations have identified new processes that they’ll be keeping post-pandemic, thanks to their benefits.

Here, we’ve rounded up five of the top trending business and consumer behaviours, and explore why they’re likely to stick around post-crisis.

1. More people are buying online

Convenient and quick, online shopping was already growing in popularity. Once physical doors shut, however, it became the only way for consumers to meet their needs – and online sales surged.

For tech-phobics or online sceptics, relying on mobile and ecommerce has been a demystifying experience. Familiarity is growing, as people see first-hand how quick, easy and safe shopping on their PC or smartphone can be. The result is two in five UK shoppers now say they’ll make more online purchases after lockdown, according to ChannelAdvisor and Dynata.

But this still won’t be the death of brick-and-mortar. While Google in May found that 19% of UK car buyers would have purchased a car sooner if there was an online option, the majority are still keen to return to showrooms once they reopen. That’s welcome news for car and automotive franchises.

Physical stores will remain (though possibly reduced), but COVID-19 has shown that not offering any online option can be damaging. Local value clothing chain, Primark, learnt quickly that having an omni-channel presence is the best defence against unexpected market forces. While having no online store, click-and-collect or home delivery service has historically meant they could keep prices down, Primark reported going from £650 million in monthly sales to zero once lockdown struck.

2. Ditching cash for contactless

Banknotes and coins have never had a good reputation for being clean. And once the World Health Organisation said coronavirus could live on the surface of notes, cash use halved within days. Fortunately, contactless options were already on the rise. One day after lockdown, UK Finance also increased the contactless limit from £30 to £45, increasing popularity.

According to Yahoo Finance UK, 69% of UK adults now use contactless payments. It’s not just a millennial thing either. Across all age groups and regions, use of contactless doesn’t fall below 58%.

Similarly, click-and-collect or order-ahead functions have become more commonplace as people avoid cash and crowds. When retail SaaS provider Qudini asked 2,000 UK consumers if they would use click-and-collect services at essential stores, 42% said ‘yes’. This is a trend unlikely to disappear soon, so franchises should ensure they have contactless capabilities.

3. Requests for home delivery

Despite early concerns around contaminated goods or parcels, home delivery of products – especially food – has soared. Statista reports that UK revenue in online food delivery has increased 11.5% in 2020, with some 22.5 million people now using the service.

As a result, businesses and food franchises have increased their capacity for deliveries and take-out. This trend hasn’t seemed to survive coronavirus lockdowns in China, so more time is needed to say if it will live on in the UK for sure. Around the world, paying extra for delivery has always been a bugbear. However, as people become more accustomed to getting more of their goods delivered this way, it’s likely this behaviour could stay for a while yet.

4. Opting for digital-first interactions

Zoom meetings. Phone consultations. Even online events like Really Awesome Coffee’s new virtual Discovery Days. Activities that once required physical presence have all figured out digital alternatives, thanks to social distancing measures.

Van based, sport, beauty, and estate agency and property franchises might all be dependent on online interactions for now. But it could be worth hanging on to them in future – at least in some measure.

The Rightmove property website, for example, recently introduced a new video tour feature, which allows interested buyers or tenants to view available properties online before applying. This digital-first interaction can save estate agents (and applicants) valuable time and resources. It limits the amount of physical viewings, prioritising only the most viable candidates.

5. Pressure for smarter and more nimble supply chains

COVID-19 exposed how fragile many modern supply chains are, as border closures and reduced workforces put a strain on operations. The Nintendo Switch is a famous example of an in-demand product that became notoriously hard to find during lockdown, as the export of production materials from China to Vietnam slowed.

To limit the risk of disruption in future, businesses and franchisors are likely to seek out more diversified supply chains, or even move supply chains closer to home.

Experts are also encouraging buyers to have greater visibility and coordination of their supply chains. This can include digitising the buyer-supplier relationship to find new suppliers or switch to alternatives more quickly and easily. It can include improving transparency through technology-based risk assessment and early-warning systems. Or it can include requiring each supplier to have and provide you with their disaster and crisis management plan.

Either way, trade experts say the current crisis is an opportunity to redesign a system that has relied on outdated processes for too long. Instead, it’s time to build a sturdier global trade network capable of weathering future storms.

Technology at the heart of future operations

It’s not surprising that technology and digital are helping facilitate all these behavioural and operational changes. The business world was already shifting towards a more technology-first approach. Industry 4.0, or the digital revolution, meant more organisations were integrating technology tools into their operations to better serve customers. COVID-19 just hit the fast-forward button, and fast-tracked many of these trends.

Monitoring these behaviours and future-proofing your franchise will be a valuable exercise. Think about the changing habits of your own customers, and other trends to add to this list. In the meantime, we’ve also put together some shorter-term tips on operating your franchise in a COVID-secure way. For those considering entering the franchise world as part of your “new normal”, you can also check out our UK Franchise Directory.

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