Article

Tim Frank Andersen

The positive digital impact of Corona - Part 2

The Coronavirus has turned our world upside down. And it happened extremely fast.

The restrictions worldwide have led to rapid changes in human behaviour, new digital initiatives and implementations which, under normal circumstances, would have taken years to implement.

We’re witnessing the largest live experiment ever, and digital technologies are playing a major role. This will have deep ramifications once we get to the other side of the crisis.

I started noting digital areas that I think will be irreversibly changed due to the ongoing crisis. There is a lot to talk about, so I have divided my article into two parts. If you haven´t read part one, then here is a link.

Here follows Part 2:

My tech predictions are becoming a reality — very fast!

For the last several years, I have released my predictions about the 10 most important tech trends for the coming year. I did the same in January 2020.

Little did I know that we would be hit by a gigantic black swan event within months…

But when I look at my predictions today, I can see that some of them are quickly becoming a reality, much faster than expected. Let me mention just a few:

A cashless future

Already in 2018, I predicted that we were entering a cashless society. That is exactly the situation we are experiencing right now, as nobody accepts cool cash these days. And maybe this will be the final blow to physical money, because, by the end of this crisis, we will have learned that we can easily live without it.

3D-print to the rescue

3D-printing has shown how technology can step in when existing supply chains are broken and local production is not in place. Once the crisis hit, the whole 3D-printing community got into gear. Within days, everything from 3D-printed valves and spare parts for ventilators to hands-free door openers and face shields were produced in large quantities.

This illustrates how this technology is already mature enough to be integrated into existing production value chains.

Face recognition is a no-touch tech

Also predicted to become huge in 2020 is the use of recognition technologies that don´t demand physical contact. And boy, is that important, now more than ever. Think about all the public spaces where you have to verify yourself. Being able to do that without touching anything will be of utmost importance.

The list goes on… Gene editing will be widely accepted in order to invent a corona vaccine as fast as possible. Drone delivery services will be quickly approved in order to get stuff to people in rural areas so they can stay at home, and wearable health tools in combination with home testing equipment, telemedicine solutions, and online medical consultation will finally become a viable reality.

Innovation unfolds

A lot of companies — big and small — have been forced to close down for the time being or to find new ways to create value for their customers. The quest for survival has forced business owners into innovation, and we are witnessing lots of great examples of Plan B execution or even wilder projects:

  • Empty luxury hotels offering 14-day quarantine packages including full room service, a Covid-19 test and transportation to the nearest hospital if needed.
  • Restaurants turning themselves into all kinds of takeaway businesses, like the Swiss restaurant Kanton27 delivering “Fondue it yourself” kits of swiss cheese fondue to the homes of regular customers.

  • Food companies delivering online cooking classes, like the vegetable delivery company Årstiderne, who quickly created ‘Carlas digitale planteskole’, a package with all the seeds, pots and signs needed plus a 10-week online course to create your own home nursery.
  • Alcohol distilleries changing their setup to enable a production of alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  • Prada and other fashion companies changing their production lines to serve the growing need for face masks
  • Flower stores becoming unmanned “Pick and Pay” stores, where customers create their own flower bouquets and pay based on an honesty model.

And small local companies need all the help they can get to survive. This has led to a host of different online support solutions that offer loyal customers the possibility of buying, for example, a voucher for the next 10 haircuts, a gift card to a nice dinner out, or just simply to show support by purchasing virtual product.

But creativity also shows up when people join each other on the balconies to sing together or to cheer and clap for the people struggling to keep the healthcare system running. This creates a strong feeling of togetherness, which hopefully will stay with us after the crisis has ended.

Everyone becomes a channel

When you ground all the world’s creative people for weeks, it doesn´t take long before a lot of them start to broadcast on the Internet themselves. Luckily for us, we now have the tools necessary to do so, whether on Instagram Live, YouTube, Facebook Live, TikTok, or even Zoom for more commercial messages like webinars.

Companies like us from Charlie Tango seize the opportunity to launch online seminars (webinars) with relevant topics for companies and employees to be inspired by.

And experts like John Maeda — when launching his 2020 CX report — are doing the same.

The technology is freely available to anybody, and there are lots of great examples of new content types being created and formats being tested:

Robbie Williams decided to live cast a 90-minutes karaoke session (he called it Corona-oke) from his self-chosen isolation at an Airbnb. More than 4 million people joined him in singing ‘Sweet Caroline’. 😄

John Krasinski from the TV series The Office launched his own news program, called SGN (Some Good News), focusing on positive stories. So far, more than 7 million viewers have watched his news program and 571.000 have decided to subscribe to his SGN channel on YouTube.

Miley Cyrus now runs a daily show on Instagram from her living room. Called Brightminded, it runs from 11:30am–12:30pm, with famous guests like Ellen DeGeneres, Paris Hilton and colleagues like Mark Ronson and Dua Lipa. The show is seen by more than half a million people.

Here in Denmark, Mads Langer gave a live online acoustic concert from his library room, which was streamed live to more than 10.000 homes.

Melvin Kakooza launched his live Corona Fitness program on Instagram, where he exercises together with a new friend every day. More than 50.000 people get their sweat on together with Melvin.

You can argue that YouTubers have been doing this for years with huge success, but now is the time for anybody with something on their mind to begin to stream it live — either as podcast or video. It has never been easier, and the audience is there — at home, tied to their computer and longing for inspirational and entertaining content.

This way of communicating with an audience is here to stay — also on the other side of the crisis.

Going places — while staying at home

‘Staycation’ is a term that we all have to get used to — not just because we will be travelling much less in the foreseeable future, but also because we have to figure out new ways to entertain our kids while being indoors.

Luckily, there are a lot of digital opportunities that allow you to experience cultural activities or to go places without leaving your couch. And right now, these solutions are experiencing a huge traffic boost.

One of the largest documentary film festivals in the world, CPH:DOX, was supposed to take place from March 18–April 9. When it was cancelled, it quickly moved online, and now you can create your own small festival from home by renting the films for €6 each. And there is a lot of great stuff.

For the tech-oriented, I have curated this list of five films from CPH:DOX worth watching:

The last one extended into a live debate about the topic of an AI algorithm competing with the world’s best professional debater. It also had to happen online, but you can still watch it here.

As an adventurer, I love the Banff Mountain Film Festival and their screenings around the world. All this has either been cancelled or postponed this year, but as a service to adventure-hungry fans, they have decided to create a festival-at-home experience, free for all. So, if you miss the mountains, here´s your chance to dive in

For culture lovers there is also a lot to offer:

Like theatres across the world, the Royal Theatre (Det kongelige teater) in Denmark has closed down, but they now allow you to watch a selection of their theatrical performances and ballets directly from your couch. One of them, Højskolesangbogen, is almost too relevant because it takes place in a time where only nine people have survived an epidemic catastrophe…

Now might also be the time to take a virtual tour to some of the world’s finest museums, while staying at home. Through their Arts and Culture platform, Google has been mapping museums for quite a while now, and they have curated a list of 10 top museums to visit with their street map technology.

But the complete list of available online museums is much longer: 1,200 museums are waiting for you to explore with your kids.

Have you ever wanted to see the ruins of Pompeii? Or the Duomo in Milan? While Italy is among the countries hardest hit by coronavirus, you can still pay a virtual visit to the most iconic cultural sites and wander around with the click of your finger. Try it out here.

Virtual Reality gaining mainstream popularity

The above-mentioned experiences will be even more astounding and immersive if you put on a set of VR glasses. Unfortunately, such a set can be quite hard to get your hands on these days, because right now VR glasses get sold faster than anyone can produce them. The most popular headset, Oculus Quest from Facebook, has been sold out for months now.

And it makes sense, because never has there been a better time to dive into this new technology.

But if you are — as I am — the lucky owner of an Oculus Quest set, there are ample opportunities to travel to new and exciting places and immerse yourself in great VR experiences. Like National Geographic Explore VR that takes you to Antarctica and Machu Picchu.

Or the incredible Half-Life: Alyx game (that demands the most powerful setup available to run). Just take a look at this video to see what I mean:

But even simple solutions like Tabletop simulator, where two persons can play chess, backgammon or other games together in 3D while talking to each other, are among the most popular titles right now.

Soon, Facebook will release their multiplayer Universe: Horizon, which will allow us to meet in full person while being far away. And this will probably also be a great way to hold large virtual conferences in the future. It will be Facebook’s big attempt to create a real version of Oasis from the movie Ready Player One

The Coronavirus crisis has created the perfect situation for VR to get the breakthrough that we have been waiting for.

And if all this is too overwhelming for you, then the meditation app Calm lets you stare out on a beautiful mountain lake while getting control over your breathing.

The final breakthrough for online commerce

Even though e-commerce has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, it still only accounts for 3–13 % of total revenue, depending on the sector. And some areas like online grocery shopping in Denmark have been especially slow to take off. As recently as 27 February, Danish business newspaper Børsen reported that growth in online grocery shopping was stagnating at 2.6% of total domestic revenue.

But the times have changed since then. Around the world, e-commerce is booming. While companies are laying off employees, Amazon are reportedly hiring for 100,000 new jobs.

And the on-demand grocery shopping start-up, Instacart, says they will be hiring 300,000 due to enormous demand.

We have seen the same here in Denmark, where the online queue to get into stores like nemlig.com occasionally grew to more than 75,000 people!

For the last several years, we have been touting the importance of having an omnichannel strategy and delivery model. The companies that listened and responded by transforming their business into a multi-channel model will be the big winners in this crisis.

The remaining traditional retailers are busy figuring out how they can sell their products online and deliver them directly to people’s homes. And they are in a hurry, because for each day they are not able to sell online, they will be losing ground to the ones that can.

Be sure that e-commerce will continue to grow even faster than before the crisis, because this period has taught us all the convenience and ease of use of these solutions. Once we have become used to them, we won´t go back.

My conclusion

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is quoted for saying:

‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.’

The same goes for our world: we will not return to the world as we knew it. Nobody knows how serious the changes will be, but our behaviour and the business environment have changed forever. It will be catastrophic for several industries, but — as I have tried to show in this two-part article — it will also provide lots of new opportunities.

  • We will see areas where working remotely will lead to increased productivity, less time wasted in commuting and unnecessarily long meetings.
  • Video-based counseling and consulting services will grow.
  • Even creative processes like workshops and brainstorms will increasingly be done remotely supported by collaboration tools like Miro and Mural.
  • We will see innovative concepts for online-based micro-learning of new skills.
  • We will see a lot of digital automation projects being moved forward.
  • We will witness new and better online customer support solutions — either aided by digital sentiment software, or completely taken over by AI

Most importantly, if you haven´t started your company’s digital transformation, now is your final chance. This crisis will drive the change coming from digitization into hyperspeed.

And if you don´t know exactly how to cope digitally with this new situation, we’re here to help. Just give me a buzz 😉👍

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