Forrester: 5 COVID-related trends shaping the next decade

Research firm says key trends brought on by the pandemic will alter business and technology irrevocably

Five trends will permanently change business and tech as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from Forrester.

The New, Unstable Normal describes how, despite healthcare and management procedures, COVID-19 will profoundly impact the next decade.

Forrester VP and group director, Stephanie Balaouras, said the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we do business and forced businesses and policymakers to do things which were previously considered impossible.

“As a result, business leaders are quickly embracing new, iterative ways to engage with customers, adapting to new ways of working, investing in technology innovation, and revisiting their business resiliency plans for long-term success,” she said.

The coronavirus-related changes to technology and business will continue to surface and have short-term and long-term impacts, with five key shifts predicted. 

Customer expectations will shift on the spectrum of safety and convenience

The pandemic has affected global consumers in different ways, with their risk sensitivity and desire for convenience varying across region, age, and culture. In the short term, there is a wide contrast in how countries and consumers rely on digital solutions. For example, 60 per cent of metropolitan Chinese online adults are buying more online, while more than 35 per cent of US and UK online adults still prefer in-store purchases.

In the medium term, financial strain and lack of in-person group interaction will cause consumers to feel a lack of meaning and purpose. This, in turn, will influence spending on trusted brands that connect them to a greater cause. Longer term, consumers will opt for brands that offer the most control over buying experiences, Forrester found.

Businesses will ride the digital engagement wave to create hybrid experiences

In the near term, as values-based consumers question the ethics of brands and as all experiences become digital in some way, new design practices will emerge that blend emotion and insights. But in the medium term, good design and user experience practices will become even more critical, and journeys will focus on outcomes, not products.

Longer term, Forrester said development of online and offline experiences means businesses looking to convince consumers to buy into sharing more personal data, such as biometric or behavioural data, will deliver anticipatory experiences that predict their shopping, financial and entertainment needs.

Firms and governments will invest in the once-impossible to drive the future of work

The pandemic has revealed the ability to do things that once seemed infeasible, including shifting entire workforces to remote working. In the short term, businesses with the biggest competitive edge will unite humans and technology, through artificial intelligence or automation, to build engaged workforces.

In the medium term, remote working will boost regions around global economic hubs as firms shed more than a quarter of their city-centre office space. Looking down the track, Forrester predicted the redistribution of work will result in the further global emptying and repurposing of offices.

Smart firms will retire technical debt fast and then ride the tech disruption wave

What this means in the short term is that technology and business leaders will accelerate digital outputs - by retiring technical debt - and replatform systems will acquire a robust digital operating platform and the needed flexibility to overhaul business models.

Looking ahead, businesses will work to develop more transparent and flexible supply chains while restructuring processes such as procurement and logistics with blockchain/distributed ledger technology. Longer term, technological innovations like electrification and automation will further change how we get around, where we live and how we produce and use energy.

Business resiliency will become a competitive advantage

Finally, regardless of any crises, business resiliency allows organisations to deliver on their vision and brand promises, finds Forrester. This will see businesses invest in continuity capabilities such as crisis management, while increasing business continuity testing for future pandemics and the most common risk scenarios in the short-term. 

In the medium term, corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and climate risk will become part of the overall business supply chain agenda and strategy. Longer term, Forrester said leaders will invest in enterprise risk management capabilities to better evaluate and respond to risk in real time.

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