To stay competitive during the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses turned to digital technology, adopting and adapting in ways that changed the landscape and will influence the future of the digital industry as we know it.
Industry experts say that the main pandemic-driven changes in the digital industry are due to people’s yearning for safety. Those who fear getting infected remain indoors and count more and more on digital tools and apps for information, entertainment, learning, shopping, and even working remotely.
According to PEW Research, there will be more people working from home, more virtual social and entertainment interactions in 2025 than ever before. Moreover, people will adopt “new education and learning platforms, rearrange work patterns and workplaces, change family life, and upend living arrangements and community structures.”
Extensive Adoption of Digital Communications Channels
The most evident changes are in communications: almost everything now happens online. During the pandemic, consumers were forced to maintain low out-of-home engagements because of lockdowns and restrictions imposed by authorities. So the communication shifted to digital channels, and the trend is here to stay, experts say.
A McKinsey Global Survey of executives found that at least 80 % of customer interactions were digital for most companies during the pandemic. In addition, the survey found that the acceleration of digital or digitally enhanced offers from businesses to consumers increased by seven years on average.
Video conferencing is one of the main communication channels that grew due to the pandemic and will remain a powerful communication tool. Video conferencing saw a 535% rise in daily traffic in 2020, and its global value in 2021 would most likely be somewhere around $6.03 billion - a -23.35% decline compared to 2020 when it was $7.87 billion. Nevertheless, Reportlinker predicts that the market will continue to grow to $8.67 billion by 2025, proof-positive that this pandemic-driving adoption of digital technology is here to stay.
There are several advantages to video conferencing:
- Unlike in-person meetings, which may require travel, video conferencing can happen anywhere: at work in an office, at home when working remotely, in co-working spaces, in a hotel in case of emergency during a holiday, in a park, and so on.
- Video conferencing is time-saving. There’s no need to spend hours on the road to meet your peers, business partners, employers, or employees. Besides, video conferences are shorter than in-person meetings, which can get lengthy when attendees are late, come unprepared, or end with time-consuming Q&A sessions.
- Saving money is another advantage of video conferencing. The travel costs inherent to in-person meetings are eliminated, and so are other ancillary costs for audio-visual rentals and refreshments.
- Video conferencing is productive and collaborative: attendees can share screens and electronic files with ease, fast, and without carrying around paper files, USB drives, or other materials for public presentations.
- Attendees can record video conferences to revisit when they need to remember the theme and ideas discussed. This reduces ambiguity and keeps all the parties involved on the same page.
Besides video conferencing, consumers turn to chatbots and messaging apps like Skype, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to communicate, not only for businesses but also privately, with family and friends. All these tools have similar advantages as video conferencing.
Remote Working Is Here to Stay
Remote working is another trend that boomed during the COVID-19, and experts generally agree that it is here to stay, despite a predicted decline post-pandemic.
88% of organizations worldwide encouraged or required employees to work remotely, a Gartner study found. Of these, 40% set up virtual check-ins for employees, and 32% introduced new tools for virtual meetings.
The trend is likely here to stay. For example, Upwork found that 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% % increase from pre-pandemic levels.
Owl Labs found that one in two employees globally won’t return to their former jobs if they are not offered remote work options. The Owl Labs report further revealed:
- 54% of the global employees will stay with their current employers post-COVID-19, and 44% of these employees expect a pay increase to make up for the additional costs.
- 46% of the global employees are ready to look for another job with remote work options.
The key takeaway from Owl Labs is that “Companies seeking to recruit top candidates and retain top performers will need to start to offer home office setups or consider factoring the costs of working from an office into their compensation packages.”
Source Owl Labs
Remote work comes with several key benefits:
- cutting costs for office space rentals and office maintenance;
- lower travel costs for employees and managers alike;
- saving time otherwise spent to go to and back from work;
- fewer distractions lead to better productivity for remote workers;
- working from home leads to job satisfaction (at least for 70% of the global employees, according to Owl Labs);
- remote working builds trust: remote workers feel trusted by their managers;
- working remotely means less stress and more comfort;
- remote workers are happier because they spend more time with family and friends.
Source: Owl Labs
Rise of eCommerce
COVID-19 forced people indoors, and their shopping patterns shifted to digital. As a result, many retailers rushed to offer online shopping with home delivery options.
This trend is likely to continue as convenience and time saving are its main benefits. Besides, people have a more relaxed atmosphere at home and enjoy browsing for what they like without the stress of the in-shop crowds. Therefore, businesses will keep on offering online shopping for their clients after the pandemic while keeping the physical stores’ doors open.
49% of consumers expect to shop online more frequently, even after the pandemic, the Consumer Trends in 2021 report by GWI revealed.
Although generally believed that consumers value in-person shopping experiences, the pandemic showed that online personalized shopping experiences could be equally enticing.
Oberlo estimates the number of global shoppers online in 2021 to be about 2.14 billion - meaning 27.6 % of the 7.74 billion people in the world. Moreover, in 2021 eCommerce sales will account for 18.1 % of retail sales worldwide and will probably grow to 22.0 % by 2023.
Digital Content Consumption
The digital content market will grow by $ 519.83 billion during 2020-2024, according to the Global Digital Content Market 2020-2024.
Users spend time online to read the news, blogs, and ebooks, watch live streaming, YouTube, or TV and movies, see content from brands, and play games.
According to Statista, global statistics in March 2020 revealed changed patterns in digital content consumption worldwide. Among other things, people use the Internet to:
- watch news coverage 67%;
- watch shows/films on streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, etc.) 51%;
- watch TV on broadcast channels 45%;
- communicate on messaging services (WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) 45%;
- spend time on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) 44%;
- play computer/video games 36%;
- read books or listen to audiobooks 35%;
- read magazines 16% and newspapers 14%;
- create and upload video content 14%.
The coronavirus outbreak changed the way people consume digital content, and the current trends are likely to maintain their momentum even in a post-pandemic world. However, some of them may change as people return to work and their daily offline routines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the digital sector. Moreover, the pandemic-driven changes in the digital industry are here to stay and shape the global economy in years to come.