May 24, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Social distancing. Telemedicine. Self-quarantine. These are all words that at the start of 2020 weren’t part of our vocabulary, but several months into the new decade we are all hearing and using them daily. There is no denying that the coronavirus outbreak has dramatically changed just about every facet of just about every person’s life around the world.
From a business perspective, the stock market saw its largest one day loss and largest one day gain in history. The U.S. saw the largest job-loss report ever. We are in uncharted waters, and how long we will remain in them remains uncertain. However, there is one thing that we all know, and that is that this outbreak will change the lives of everyone for years or decades to come. Nearly 20 years after 9/11, enhanced airport security, no-fly lists and counterterrorism efforts are still the norm. The same will be true of the COVID-19 aftermath. Is your business ready for the five largest macro trends we are about to see?
1. The rise of enhanced websites and digital tools
Many nonessential businesses — including things like retail stores, hair salons, warehouses, factories and offices — had their brick-and-mortar locations offices closed and did not have the technical tools to survive with their physical locations shut down.
Our agency has seen a tremendous increase in businesses reaching out to us ready to make the leap into digital. It’s critical for businesses to be able to not just survive but thrive through enhanced websites and digital tools to serve their customers. Things like e-commerce in industries that never utilized e-commerce before, advanced product configurations, chatbots and mobile applications are in greater demand than ever as small- and medium-size businesses join in the new decade’s technology revolution.
These new tools are helping businesses stay afloat during the virus outbreak and will be a macro-trend that becomes even more important as social distancing becomes commonplace practice — not just for this outbreak but for potential future outbreaks as well.
2. Cybersecurity concerns take center stage
Cybersecurity is already an important topic to large businesses, and with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, California‘s Consumer Privacy Act and other privacy laws, as well as countless news stories about the cost and impact of data breaches, it is something smaller businesses are being forced to confront head on. With the surge in employees working remotely during the virus outbreak, we have seen more and more data breaches and cyberattacks.
Employees using unsecured infrastructure and third-party tools are two of the leading causes of potential breaches. Combine this with data storage and access practices that violate privacy laws — for example, telemedicine on non-HIPAA-compliant platforms — and suddenly the need for secure solutions takes center stage.
Additionally, during this vulnerable time, we have seen an increase in overseas cyberattacks on many of our clients’ websites. Things like brute force attacks, denial of service attacks and other types of attempted hacks have increased, and the need for keeping website and web servers updated and secure is of utmost importance. More businesses will be forced to invest in technology that is secure, scalable, accessibly remotely and follows the onslaught of new data privacy and security regulations.
3. An increase in virtual meetings
The tremendous increase in virtual meetings is a trend we predict will be here to stay. Though there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting and handshake, for the next few years we anticipate the trend of virtual meetings to continue. And this won’t just apply to the traditional business world, it will apply to many other aspects of our lives — for example, virtually meeting with your doctor, therapist, banker and even hair stylist for a consultation. This will be a tremendous cost and time savings to all parties involved. This is a trend that already started prior to the virus outbreak and will only become more amplified as we continue in this new decade. Preparing for this trend goes far beyond having a virtual meeting space and software. Things like digital brochures, digital business cards, tutorial videos and enhanced website information will all follow in this trend and become necessities as businesses find it more difficult to physically hand materials to their customers.
4. Increased control in expenses
With the unprecedented business shutdown across America, businesses will be increasingly looking at ways to have a greater degree of control over their expenses. These will include businesses requesting shorter contract durations, emergency clauses and provisions in agreements, ways to have a more easily scalable workforce utilizing temporary workers and temporary agencies, and an overall desire to lower expenses, especially recurring expenses.
We have witnessed firsthand nearly every client of ours express the need to reduce expenses, not just as a result of the virus but also as a practice they want to continue into the near future. While this is a good business practice regardless, the pain felt during this economic downturn will create scars that will likely last years into the future.
Make sure your business has answers when your customers ask for ways they can be saving, reducing contract terms or protecting their business from future disasters and catastrophes.
5. Even more remote employees
Lastly, with the previous four trends is going to come the fifth — an even larger shift to remote employees. Many businesses that fought the trend of employees working remote are now realizing that in being forced to shut down their offices, remote employees are still efficient, effective, economical, and something millennials and Generation Z demand.
With more remote employees comes the increased need for all of the first four points mentioned. This trend is something that started over a decade ago, but it will continue to be amplified in this new decade and following the COVID-19 outbreak.
These trends will be relevant not just in 2020, but likely well beyond. Making decisions and positioning your company now for these changes in the business world will make sure your business is ready and at the forefront of the new remote, digital technology revolution.