Festivity is in the air, as people get together across the world to celebrate the end of a tumultuous decade. However, in the Chinese industrial city of Wuhan, the mood is sombre as doctors in several hospitals huddle together to discuss the treatment of more than two dozen patients suffering from high fever, displaying signs of pneumonia and not responding to antibiotics.
Coronavirus cases are increasing every day at an unprecedented rate. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is warned that the UK risks facing half a million deaths if urgent measures are not taken to break the transmission of the virus. He would announce a lockdown within a week. The world has entered a new era, confronting a disease that has left everyone baffled and forcing governments across the globe to implement extraordinary emergency policies, no one would have imagined only weeks before.
Whether it be small start-ups or large corporations, the pandemic seemed to spare no one. It should not come as a surprise as the majority of businesses were ill-equipped to deal with the worldwide crisis of such unprecedented scale and magnitude. Small businesses were most affected as they lacked the technology and the financial resources to deal with the strict new restrictions and near-complete shutdowns. A report by King’s Business School warned that over 6 million small businesses in the UK are on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of the pandemic. Small businesses contribute 52% of the £2.2tn turnover generated by the private sector and employ 60% of all private-sector workers.
And while the US passes the grim milestone of 500,000 coronavirus related deaths, a report by Bridgewater, the world’s biggest hedge fund, reveals that the pandemic will cost companies around $20 trillion globally.
It has always been the survival of the fittest. Lockdowns, social distancing measures and enforcement of other types of counter-virus measures compelled businesses to quickly adopt and evolve to new ways of doing business. Organizations that managed to keep their head above the water, or even thrive, were the ones that found ways to deal with the precarious situation with impressive agility. They expedited the use of technology to make it easier for their employees and customers to cope with the pressure of the pandemic.
Current e-commerce statistics state that 40 per cent of worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online. This amounts to more than 1 billion online buyers with experts suggesting that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Irrespective of the speed at which the e-commerce market is all set to thrive, it is quite shocking that over 40% of small businesses did not have a website.
But then the world was sent into a tizzy by the pandemic.
With increasing restrictions and stay at home orders, physical stores were forced to down their shutters. And amidst all the pandemonium, e-commerce, online entertainment, telemedicine and food delivery thrived like never before, being the biggest beneficiaries of a world spending time indoors.
Instead of shutting down or taking a break, businesses began to adapt to online commerce; setting up their websites, doing business through third-party platforms (Uber Eats, Etsy) or setting up stores on Shopify (cloud-based commerce platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses). Digitization went into-hyper-drive, as businesses started preparing for an increasingly digital future.
The COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered our lives and the way society functions. As the coronavirus lockdowns shuttered stores and widened the gap between brick-and-mortar and online commerce, pushing customers fully online, businesses, in order to survive, were forced to follow suit.
Financial analyst company, Gartner, Inc. reported that those that illustrated the most resilience during the pandemic were the ones that incorporated technology into their business and made relevant changes to adapt in response to the crisis. For example, instead of engaging in face-to-face sales, as was the norm before the pandemic, organizations started doing sales over the internet.
Likewise, business meetings were conducted over Zoom, online marketing campaigns became the norm and businesses increasingly started accepting digital contactless payments.
With promising vaccines for the pandemic already available, there’s hope that things will soon start returning to normal. But one thing is certain that online shopping is here is to stay. Businesses that strengthened their online presence and invested in fast, convenient, reliable and contactless services, emerged as big winners of the pandemic. In all certainty, the lead they established during the pandemic is likely to stay even if life returns to normal. People were mostly tied to their devices because of the pandemic, and this bond is only expected to grow stronger with the passage of time.