Today, almost half-century after the introduction of the internet and thirty years after the invention of the World Wide Web, we can say that the world is obsessed with the internet and technology. Myriad of volunteers, activists, business people, companies, and governments have made the internet and the modern world possible. A surge of emerging technology, sensors embedded in digital products, machine learning, and next-generation networks allow us to collect, interact, process, and act on information in real-time on a global scale. Technology has the ability to change how we survive and thrive, how we fly, how we generate and consume products, and how we address environmental and growth challenges. Digitalization was considered to be the key to industry 4.0 and a path of growth for the companies.
The economic crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has moved us deeper into the digital world, and behavioral shifts are likely to have lasting effects as the economy starts to pick up. But not everyone can accept a more digitized life, while some entrepreneurs let the future slip from their grasp, others see it coming. Nevertheless, the question here is, was our “virtual world” immune to the global crisis?
Is The Virtual World Thriving?
In a move to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemics, the world watched companies and governments transferring their activities and services online to restrict physical encounters. Online networks are also flourishing as customers pursue entertainment, shopping options, and new ways to communicate during the crisis. Besides, digitalization facilitates the proliferation of telemedicine, telework, and online education. It also produces more data on the spread of the virus and helps to share knowledge for analysis.
However, this virtual world is not giving a fair number of opportunities to all the sectors. According to research, the changing digital landscape since the last major global calamity— 2008-09 financial crisis, is working for some, but not all equally. The data states that the transition towards the digital economy is happening rapidly due to the acceptance of digital solutions, tools, and services. But, there lies a large gap between the connected and the unconnected, revealing that many are still deprived of the virtual world.
Currently, the world is stuck in an adaption-or-die situation, with most companies facing an existential threat. Many of them have made a valiant attempt to transform, render a transition, and digitized over the last few weeks. Although, there is still a technical void in the vital areas of human lives that have made this transition to the digital world difficult. The way we teach, sell, train, eat, etc. has all been changed, which creates opportunities for innovators.
Translating curriculum and homework online
For the first time, there are more than 33 million public school students are taking classes virtually amid the coronavirus. Despite online education being practiced at many institutes, this transition has not been smooth for both—the teachers and students. Many of the schools struggled in finding the right video infrastructure, whereas others struggled in translating the curriculum and homework online. The video platform Zoom has been gaining popularity in this pandemic, but still, it is difficult for the teachers to replicate the classroom environment. Students are finding it difficult to engage in the virtual classroom, thus leading to distractions.
In this time of crisis, many schools came up with innovative solutions like in Silicon Valley; the school district provided laptops and internet to the student’s homes. Also, at San Francisco, high school art teacher has turned his students’ lack of laptops into an opportunity for them to design using a free app on their phones.
In-House Workout Trend
In the wake of pandemic or in the rise of pandemic, businesses shifted to digital platforms almost immediately. But the fitness companies are facing very adverse effects of the lockdown. Recently, a famous pilates studio in NYC faced a major lay-off of 98% workforce due to the coronavirus effects on sales. This is similar for many other major fitness studios, too, which are implementing pay reductions or layoffs of the employees. Local fitness centers are facing a more difficult situation.
In order to recover from the crisis, gyms are utilizing innovative techniques to reach audiences digitally. People are now slowly practicing fitness routines in their house. And as a response to the accelerated in-house workout trend, gyms trainers are becoming content creators, going virtual with online classes, Instagram stories, live streams, and conducting personal training sessions via Zoom. Now, these initiatives are influencing other gym trainers to create online content for the audiences.
Food Joints Not Sustainable Without Technology
Food businesses, and especially restaurants with no online revenue stream or presence over the internet, are facing different wrath of the pandemic. To tackle this situation, many food-joints have transformed into a cloud kitchen and do delivery only. While some of them are trying a more innovative approach, where the store delivers the ingredients to the customers and later hosts an online Zoom class on how to cook the dish. These all may be significant initiatives, but without technology can these businesses survive the crisis?
These businesses cannot be sustainable without technology as most of these restaurants are practicing the services on pen and paper viz., traditional methods. They don’t have accurate data; thus, they cannot predict demand or optimize delivery routes.
Fortunately, there were few early adopters of technology who better positioned themselves, knowing the customer base and maintain the reach despite the loss in foot traffic. For instance, an online pizza-ordering platform called Slice is helping 8,200 pizzerias in 2,200 cities, and these locally owned pizzerias are directly competing with well-established pizzerias like Domino’s.
Loss of Foot-Traffic affecting retail stores
The loss of foot-traffic has affected many stores from the convenience stores to coffee shops. According to the data, there was a 60% decline in foot traffic in the US, whereas, 90% of customers neglected to shop in-store due to the coronavirus. This has made it difficult for the convenience stores as they now compete directly with the already established e-commerce giants. Creating an online revenue stream is now essential for these stores.
As an initiative to fight the decline in customers, many companies are helping the stores to transform into e-commerce players. Offline stores have now realized that having an online presence is important to survive in this time of crisis.
Upgraded Business Models and Leadership
Throughout the years, businesses have witnessed the technological changes and the disruptive influence of emerging IT and communication technologies. However, for the companies of the future, it’s not the adaptation of technology that’s vital it is a business model that is future proof. Businesses need to focus on an overarching business model while leading towards the digital transformation. Execution of this new model will not be smooth thus, the business leaders play an important role in this transformation. These leaders need to have design talent, a flair for strategy, and the courage of the adventurer. But this is only the beginning, and the new era will demand new forms of leadership, a new organizational balance, and also a staff with upgraded skillset.
Building businesses have always been tough, but establishing a future-ready business will come with additional challenges. This makes the role of business leaders more important. An effective business leader will see the challenges as opportunities. The role of the leader will be to entail the reinventing business models so that the business of the present is also the company of the future. The future starts now, and we must make the most of the current situation to come up with a new and better business model.
Quarantine and Tech Trial Run
Humans have always fantasized about a futuristic life powered with tech. Also, we have been successful in creating some extraordinary tech like drones, self-driving cars, smartwatches and robots, and humanoids. The sudden turn of events forced us into a virtual world overnight. In the rise of coronavirus, the world is pushed into quarantine, thus making every platform operate digitally, even the businesses. It’s amazing to see that even if the crisis caught us off guard, people were fast to grasp the digital operations. Apart from this, this crisis also allowed seeing how an entirely virtual world would operate, thus giving an exposure to the gaps yet remaining to be filled.
Everyone is hoping that life will soon return to normal, and experts are speculating that people will just bounce back and resume their daily offline activities. But now that we’ve been able to sneak a peek into the virtual world and had an exposure on the gaps, we can concentrate on more technological advancements to perfect the forthcoming virtual world. A virtual world where the transition from offline to online will be fast and seamless for all sectors, as well be immune to any global crisis.