Coronavirus (aka COVID-19) is the most searched term on Google since it introduced Trends in 2004. Following terrorist attacks such as in 2001 in New York, 2004 in Madrid, 2005 in London and 2017 in Barcelona, the world population has been distracted from the idea of a global pandemic. But it has been in the back of our minds. With the emergence of coronavirus from the Hubei province in China and then the subsequent onslaught in Italy, we are currently in the middle of what we hoped would never happen. So how has the global population reacted to this? What trends have we seen coming out of these uncertain times? Here are a few:
1. Rapid Learning With Online Mentors
A lot of people who are housebound due to lockdowns, self-quarantines or social distancing will binge watch TV shows and do Netflix marathons. Others will want to stay productive and learn. There are dozens of platforms that can connect people to mentors, coaches and language teachers. One example of this is Duolingo which has partnered with Twitch to offer language learning gaming streams. The 12 multilingual streamers are part of Duolingo’s Global Ambassador program and offer streams on many different topics. Instead of obsessing over the news (remember, fear is the mind killer), become fluent in a foreign language.
The word caremongering did not exist pre-coronavirus outbreak. Canada took an existing word "scaremongering" and gave it a more positive spin. More than 35 online groups with more than 30,000 members are offering help to others within their communities in particular those with underlying health complications. The leader of the movement Valentina Harper said, "Anxiety, isolation and lack of hope affects you. In providing this virtual community which allows people to help each other, I think it is really showing people there is still hope for humanity. We haven't lost our hope." Caremongering has definitely kept Canada at the top of the kind list.
3. Social Distancing
Governments around the world are saying the fastest way to stop the spread of the virus is to practice social distancing. Events were the first thing to be cancelled and the the threshold was initially set at a 250 person limit. As soon as The World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus as a global pandemic, the limit was changed to gatherings of 10 people. The cancellations of these events help stop or slow down the spread of the disease allowing the health care system to more readily care for patients over time. As schools closed and offices made their employees work from home, it made it harder for people to avoid close contact with each other. So social distancing was introduced. It suggests we deliberately increase the physical space between people to avoid spreading illness. Staying at least six feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19. The biggest concern about practicing this long term is that especially in countries like the US, it causes emotional distancing. With the loneliness epidemic a major problem, a sudden emotional disconnection from human beings could be catastrophic for many with anxiety and other mental issues.
4. Remote Work
Following the actions of Google, Amazon and Apple, remote work is trending. These companies have sent their employees home to reduce the spread of the virus. They have access to the internet, social media, video streaming technology and collaborative platforms and so for many productivity will actually increase. If you add up commute times, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of hours saved. With the rapid rise of the digital nomad movement, a predicted 500 million people are already working remotely. The idea of the office is becoming an alien concept especially for web developers, graphic designers and writers. Will companies that have incorporated remote work into their companies realize they have suddenly become more efficient and allow this to remain in place after the coronavirus?
5. Virtual Experiences
With all of the concerts, sports events and conferences cancelled, a massive void has opened up for fans and attendees. Google Cardboard was an attempt to get a simple virtual reality device into the mainstreams' hands. You basically slid your phone into the cardboard housing and viewed the video through the glasses. Other brands followed with more expensive versions. You could suddenly go on tours of cities using VR and drone videos. If you wanted to visit The Metropolitan Museum of New York, you could do this virtually without leaving your sofa. With most of the flights grounded around the world and travel bans in place, there is a massive opportunity. With the English Premier League soccer season being postponed and the possibility of games being played in April behind closed doors, fans would miss out on the live experience. So companies should be thinking ahead to how they can include the loyal fans in the experience if they cannot be there physically. It is only a matter of time before the coronavirus causes musicians to live stream VR concerts and sports teams do the same for live matches to make the experience more immersive.
6. Virtual Status Symbols
Designer fashion labels like Gucci showed the rich how to dress and focus on physical status. Second Life showed that everyone else cared about virtual status. Younger consumers who have read about sweat shops in third world countries, care about sustainable consumption. They believe that virtual goods can be status symbols. Drest is a luxury fashion gaming app. It provides users with styling challenges to execute on realistic looking photos. They can then purchase the products either in-game or from online luxury retail platform Farfetch. Coronavirus is forcing the world to be inside and online. So expect to see a lot more business ideas like this being released as people favor virtual status over physical status.
Live stream shopping has been very popular in China generating $4.4 billion in 2018. Shopstreaming is the merging of e-commerce and live streaming. It combines an immersive, real time, interactive, experiential and engaging shopping experience. Chinese online shopping site Taobao is owned by Alibaba which already has 755 million users. The platform is now allowing farmers to promote hard to sell products through live streams. This approach in the East is much more engaging than Amazon's offering in the West - a very static, boring consumer experience which only focuses on price and volume of choice. Could shopstreaming become a hybrid of an offline mall, social media interaction and QVC?
8. Assisted Development And Interactive Training
As coronavirus means offices and restaurants are closed, we have to rely on online tools to learn. Doctors in China have already proven that surgical robots can be managed remotely and used to perform operations. Remote surgery (also known as telesurgery) shows how even the most delicate of activities can be done from anywhere in the world. As restaurants close, we are transported back to our college days when we left home. We had relied on our parents to feed us then suddenly had to learn how to cook. Equal Parts is a cookery equipment brand that offers customers access to pro tips through Text a Chef. The tips are a gateway to buy their products. This is making consumers more independent and less reliant on restaurants. Imagine if Gordon Ramsey live streamed a cooking class where you could use instant messaging to ask a question or even get a visit from him in a competition where the prize would be a 1-on-1 cooking class.
9. Virtual Companions
There has always been the fear in humans of biological warfare. In crude terms, the coronavirus is spread using humans. We are torn because the face of the enemy is...us. Companies that will capitalize on this paranoia will be ones that have created virtual beings. As humans, we are always looking for ways to be entertained. If avatars can add to that emotion and intelligence, we have exactly what we currently have...minus the threat of a virus. Samsung has launched Neon - digital personalities that look and behave like humans. They can be used to encourage, teach and give companionship to people. Unlike dogs and cats, they have no fur and don't give you allergic symptoms. If you've seen any Black Mirror or Twilight Zone episodes, this might put you off. But in an age where emotional intelligence is almost non-existent and people have put all of their love and energy into pets, avatar companions could be exactly what we need as humans.
10. Open Source Solutions
In a connected age and with a global pandemic, open source software is being used to tackle the coronavirus. CHIME enables hospitals to enter information about their facility and population and then modify assumptions around COVID-19's spread and behavior. Once it has this information, hospital administrators can run modeling scenarios to project the number of new hospital admissions each day, along with the daily hospital census. They can also create best and worst-case scenarios to assist with capacity planning. Investors will always tell you to protect your intellectual property and never give it away. Open source is the complete opposite and invites the world to tackle its toughest problems collaboratively.
Another example is SharedStreets - a public-private data platform designed to help reduce urban transportation issues. Uber, Lyft and Ford joined the platform which was funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, will operate in over 30 global cities, including Paris, Melbourne, and Washington, D.C. SharedStreets aims to create shared, machine-readable standards for data such as curb usage and traffic speeds, enabling cities to make better investment and management decisions.
11. Retail Wellness
Retail was offline. It sucked. It went online. Amazon's shopping experience is mind numbing and who really wants to make Dr. Evil, sorry, Jeff Bezos richer? It has become overly virtual and we still want to try clothes on to know they fit us. In the current climate, coronavirus has made us realize that our personal hygiene is far from optimal. As hand sanitizers sell out, people have even resorted to selling squirts of sanitizers at school! So it is not unfair to assume that once COVID-19 has passed, people will have a new appreciation for their health and hygiene. Stores like Stella McCartney in London have an air filtration system which removes 95% of all airborne pollutants and traffic fumes. The clean air flagship store is designed to raise awareness of the problem of air pollution. If retail spaces can become safe havens and work in a similar way to oxygen bars, people will seek them out.
12. Mental Wellness
Pre-coronavirus outbreak: the US was angst ridden as their President tweeted himself into infamy. The UK couldn't decide whether to Brexit or not. Climate change was on everyone's mind.
Post-coronavirus outbreak: panic, kids off school, jobs disappearing, looming global recession and basically a 2008-on-steroids forecast.
It is exhausting to be alive in 2020.
Meditation, binaural beats and calming music apps have allowed the wellness movement to gather momentum. Businesses that are in this space will succeed after the coronavirus chaos subsides. The Moxy NYC Chelsea, owned by Marriott gives guests access to ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) videos in their rooms. The videos, which are part of the hotel’s Bedtime Stories program, were co-created with ASMR experience providers Whisperlodge and feature performers using and interacting with a variety of different props to provide guests with a so-called "mental massage” after a long day.
13. AI Commerce
As humans, we got tired of shopping and going to restaurants. So we called restaurants to deliver our food to us. This was aggregated with apps like DoorDash which empowered workers in the gig economy. With coronavirus making us want to reduce the need for physical contact and stoner delivery guys who throw your food over the gate, AI (artificial intelligence) commerce will grow rapidly. Robotics companies like Nuro are trying to automate this service. At the moment, food is packed into the autonomous vehicle and then driven without a human driver to its destination. It can use GPS and remote technology to navigate the roads. Services that can offer AI to sell their products may be the winners in a post-coronavirus world.
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