I’m sure we’re all familiar with World War 2, Hitler, Churchill, and all of those other historical tidbits. What you may not be familiar with is the huge technological leaps that we made during that period. Things like radar, atomic energy, advances in penicillin, and leaps forward in computing came out of a pressing need to innovate, to stay one step ahead of an ever advancing enemy.
It is not a once-off phenomenon. All throughout human history, techceleration has happened during times of duress. The black death plague kicked off our foray into medicine (and for some reason watches were also invented then); early wars kicked off our horse riding (the dressage you see today was how a soldier would demonstrate his horse-riding skills).
COVID-19, our techcelerator
COVID-19 is no different. It has placed us under immense duress, but at the same time it has encouraged a massive amount of innovation. Things like working from home, something which in the past was an activity filled with bureaucracy and pleading, has become the norm. Products like Zoom saw an increase in sales of 326% in 2020, and there are similar trends present in the food delivery service, medicine, and e-learning.
But what does that mean for you? Experts have postulated that COVID-19 has techcelerated us at least five years into the future. What you’re seeing in 2021 should only have happened in 2026. The question then becomes, how will you advance your business by five years?
While most innovation seems like it comes out of the blue, the reality is that it’s usually been part of a trend that was taking its time. For example, we’ve been talking about work-from-home for decades now. It’s been a trend that’s been in the works, COVID-19 just sped it up. We’ve noted similar trends in the online space. eCommerce was a trend that was being slowly adopted, but with the arrival of COVID-19, 96% of a sample of 2,000 people said they were planning to spend more online in the coming year.
Become your own futurist
Taking out your magnifying glass, what are the trends that you’ve been sitting on in your own business? There are many things that have changed. Thanks to flexible working hours, customers are now shopping at sporadic times of the day. The Saturday morning rush has begun to dissipate. Customers are starting to see shopping as a day out, a break from the house, and so dwell times are increasing. Overseas, retailers are partnering with coffee and fast food brands to leverage these longer dwell times by providing snacks and beverages instore.
Augmented reality has also resurfaced with a major deal between WPP and Snapchat having just been signed off. WPP clients will now have access to AR technology, opening up new platforms and tools for their customers.
If you have not been paying attention to the trends within your own business, now is as good a time as any to start. Trends will continue to accelerate and if you don’t meet them head on, the results could be costly.
*This article originally appeared on Retailing Africa
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