As the coronavirus pandemic begins to lift in 2021, several factors are going to speed up:
- There will be more tech — a lot more. More digital experiences; more virtual experiences; more social networks; more apps. From now on, tech will pervade our schools, our social lives, our family lives, our civic lives, and, of course, our business lives. Forty percent of large US companies will increase tech spending in 2021, with only 20% decreasing spending.
- Changed buyers. Three years of consumer behavior change has been squeezed into one year. Consumers are now: demanding online experiences; happily virtual; wanting digital financial services; wanting digital healthcare; wanting seamless easy retail; wanting everything at the click of a button. What about B2B buyers? Same goes. The delta between B2C buyers and B2B buyers has collapsed during the pandemic. It’s all about speed, convenience, and remote, whether the buyer is acquiring a Peloton or a rail car of paint.
- Changed sellers. I have a simple definition of digital: “If a customer can do significant work with you without talking to a human being, you are digital.” Have you ever talked to someone from Amazon? How about Tripadvisor? It’s “digital or die” time for companies.
- Changed leaders. The pandemic forced CEOs into a “digital woke” posture — and the smart ones have moved tech projects from back to front burner. The chief information officer ranks still hold many security/cost/control-centered executives who think internal and not about the ultimate customer. The pandemic will usher a number of them into retirement, to be replaced by tech executives who talk and walk customer obsession.
- Changed markets. The pandemic has made the tech ogres — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft — more powerful. But two factors threaten them post-pandemic. The first will be serious antitrust challenges coming from a Biden Justice Department that will focus on market structure (preventing the squashing and acquisition of competitors), not price, as the primary monopoly gauge. The second challenge will come from companies that want to sell direct to their customers (bypassing Amazon), take back control of their advertising budgets (bypassing Google and Facebook), and become digital ogres unto themselves. So new players approach.
- Rerouted trust. The conventional wisdom says that customer trust is dropping. Not true — it’s not dissipating; it is being rechanneled away from big, traditional institutions toward smaller companies, startups, peers, and friends. Check out this blog post and Forrester report on trust for more (precis if you are not a client).
- A values reset. There will be a renewed focus on families, relationships, and community. This will have two impacts: 1) Employees will focus more on work/life balance and less on careers and 2) people will shift from buying things to buying experiences. The former will move companies to change how they find and build talent. The latter will stimulate the travel business and potentially suppress retail sales.
The Roaring ’20s followed the pandemic of 1918/1919. The Big Acceleration, shifting society to digital, virtual, and experiences, could usher in the Roaring 2020s, a period of fast growth and dynamism.