Online retail ramps up
The challenges of social distancing in stores plus the numbers of people self-isolating means that online shopping for both groceries and domestic supplies has never been more popular. Food retailers are hiring thousands of additional delivery drivers, and an online retail giant is creating 100,000 new jobs in the US.
Autonomous logistics accelerates
While many autonomous vehicles have ceased testing self-driving passenger vehicles, COVID-19 is having the opposite effect in the logistics sector. Here the spike in demand for delivery services is prompting faster adoption of autonomous technology and drones. A Chinese company has deployed autonomous delivery vehicles on Beijing’s roads for the first time, while an e-commerce giant has been sending delivery robots to quarantine areas. In the US, the NHTSA recently exempted an autonomous delivery provider from federal safety standards to expedite the deployment of 5,000 robotic vehicles.
A traditionally cautious approach to remote technology among doctors and clinicians is evaporating thanks to COVID-19. Online consultation systems are rapidly rolling out in France and the UK, protecting medics from the infection risk of face-to-face meetings while also removing the risk for patients to sit in potentially infectious waiting rooms. As more patients are diagnosed and treated remotely, the need for the delivery and collection of medicines, test samples and monitoring equipment will increase.
Leisure and travel
Holidays on hold – for now
With international travel restrictions from outright bans to extensive quarantine arrangements in place to some extent on every continent, foreign holidays are over for the time being. The direct impact on airlines is obvious, but indirect effects on associated services such as car hires, train and coach operators, are emerging as the anticipated supply of tourism dries up in many countries.
Eating in is the new eating out
In the face of mandated or voluntary closures, many restaurants have transitioned to providing take-out or delivery instead, either directly or through “no contact” delivery services set up by popular food delivery apps. Ride-sharing firms are also pivoting to this new boom in food delivery in order to compensate for the collapse in demand for their core services – for example, in China, a company has recently launched delivery services in 21 cities across the country.
Store and showroom shutdown
Marketing for big-ticket items such as cars and houses must now be done increasingly online via virtual reality tours and demos, and video streaming. This presents a substantial challenge to brands for whom physical display has traditionally been the main route to market. These brands will be looking to third-party expertise and capacity to help them deliver quickly and to better integrate digital and offline in future.
The ongoing efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, protect the function of health services and save lives amount to an unprecedented experiment in which huge chunks of the global economy have been deliberately and rapidly put into cold storage. A great deal depends on how well they survive the process, whether the eventual thaw is fast or slow and which new behavioral norms will become established in the pandemic’s wake. We’ll continue to explore these changes of behavior in this series, as we navigate through this uncertain time together.