Orange County Partnership - News

COVID Accelerating Business Trends Already in Place

Some trends in business and their impact on the national and local economies prior to the pandemic were sped up and, in some cases, intensified by the spread of the virus and the lockdowns and business closures that followed.


Manuel Vega, chairman of Wilmington, DE-based Renaissance Executive Forums, in a recent blog, offered a host of predictions on growth industries in 2021 and how businesses can adapt to the changing economy during the pandemic once the virus’ impact wanes.


Vega related that successful businesses should compare current operations with future goals and shed “antiquated thinking with more efficient, smarter technologies and strategies.” He added, “When layered atop an increasingly customer-centric, employee-centric philosophy, it seems apparent that we are moving towards a world where people are going to be more important than just making more money.”


Among some of the key trends and growth sectors outlined by Vega in the article entitled “Business and Economic Trends to Plan for 2021” included “the on-demand economy shift.”


He notes that the “on-demand (app) economy continues to intensify as more consumers want products and services delivered immediately.” COVID-19’s influence has caused 49% of adult consumers to avoid leaving their homes; 50% of them are now working from home; and 57% are observing social distancing.


Apps are providing solutions with a 27% increase in sales from non-perishable groceries; frozen foods, household and cleaning supplies enjoyed 24% higher sales, while perishable groceries registered a 12% sales hike in 2020. Other trends that point to changing behavior by the American consumer include frozen delivery being up 20%, while online spending for pick-ups are rising 7%.


The bottom line, according to Vega is: “People are spending much more time playing games, following the news, on social media, shopping online, and on their hobbies. 50% of consumers are trying out new products; 48% are acquiring health and fitness habits, and 28% are picking up new hobbies. Expect long-term effects in buying habits from these changes.”


Vega also pointed to the pandemic’s impact on the corporate office. While the concept of remote work is not new, the pandemic has fueled significant growth in this area. At present, approximately 50% of American employees are now working from home either full- or part-time.


“Studies are showing 67% of employees would leave their jobs if work flexibility was reduced or removed. Reports are rising of remote employees relocating to less expensive communities to improve their work/life balance,” Vega related. “Simultaneously, their employers are transitioning to smaller quarters with significantly less office furniture, equipment, rent, electricity, depreciation, etc.”


Another eye-opening data point is that companies adopting remote work strategies have increased 91% over the past 10 years. Vega, who added that this trend will likely be considered more permanent once COVID-induced lockdowns have ended, advised, “This points to an increased need for management training for day-to-day handling of operations, with greater reliance on online conference calls and planned discussions, but risks losing ideas derived organically from impromptu hallway discussions.”


Another area that business needs to be addressed in 2021 and post pandemic is employee morale. In fact, “employee happiness” is critical to a business retaining key employees.


“Traditional compensation packages (401(k), bonus, etc.) are no longer the most compelling factors, as employees want their daily work experience to include more effective motivators like telecommunication, flexible work hours, and paternity leave,” Vega wrote. “Team members also want to see greater diversity up and down the company ladder and are willing to vote with their feet when it’s not at their place of employment.”


Some of Vega’s other prognostications include: maximizing contactless payment options, growth in local and green retail, accelerated e-commerce and social commerce growth, increased collaboration with influencers, investments in retail technology, more smart offices, improved personalized Omnichannel experiences and the emergence of 5G, voice technology and Artificial Intelligence.


For the full Renaissance Executive Forums’ article, go to: