Year 2021: Welcome to the 'New Normal'
Every year, the world witnessed new trends and shifts. With advancing technology, globalisation and an increasingly larger workforce, there is a constant exchange of ideas. This large scale communication has enabled the creation of large platforms for creativity, such that ideas come so rapidly one after another, thus fizzling out fast. However, most of these shifts are a reflection of the existing state of society, particularly the economy. Hence, it is possible to make predictions around what could be on the hotlist every year.
This year, things have been highly unpredictable. The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered people from all social and economic backgrounds restless and confused, some more so than the others. Nevertheless, most of our responses to the spread of the virus and consequent lockdown have a pattern. There has been a tremendous shift to digitalised life, with all spheres of life, including education and healthcare. Here are some of the trends that one can expect to boom in 2019:
1. Working from Home
While one hopes that a vaccine would be found soon, most firms are adapting to the work from home quite comfortably. Everyone is reassessing their business model mainly because there have been vital observations indicating an increase in productivity when working from home. A study conducted in 2020 concluded that productivity increases by 47% when working from home. Firms have even announced allowances and reimbursements for employees to buy necessary equipment and furniture at home. Companies like Hike have given the employees a budget of up to Rs.10000 to set up their workspace at home. In the future, we can expect companies to look into more effective mental health support for employees.
The pandemic has affected the economy severely, propelling many companies into stricter human resource management. In this process, many forms have explored automation to avoid the involvement of humans where there is no true value. There is a steep increase in the usage of chatbots for customer service and automation in warehouses and supply chains. Reports suggest that the worldwide sales of warehouse automation technology such as robotics and logistics management was around $1.9 billion in 2016 and is projected to reach $22.4 billion by the end of 2021.
3. Virtual Interface
With strict norms on movement, most purchases were restricted to a digital format. E-commerce has taken a giant leap towards virtual interfaces by going big on the “try it before you buy it” strategy. This practice has been prevalent in the fashion industry. Most buyers create virtual avatars to try on makeup and clothes before making the purchase.
4. Artificial Intelligence
Currently, even though 78% of the world’s workforce is willing to engage with data literacy, only 34% of the firms provide training for the same. However, today the world is in crucial need of accurate data to track infections and spread. In this scenario, there is an immediate need for more machine algorithms and systems to store and analyse this data. Artificial Intelligence has been a top tech trend over the past couple of years, but with this massive shift towards online engagement, one can expect AI to thrive more in 2021 quite well.
The lockdown was a glaring reminder of the environmental impact of all our activities. Most industries and services were suspended, and everything almost came to a standstill. However, the entire globe witnessed the ability of nature to recuperate itself. Today, most companies are striving to adopt more sustainable methods of production. In the first four months of 2020, companies across the globe invested $12.2 billion into ESG or Environmental Social and Governance Funds. Over the past year, this number has increased to around $250 million from Europe and the United States of America alone.
6. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality is an experience where glasses and headsets are used to superimpose computer-generated imagery into a person’s field of vision. If the device places the user into a completely new computer-generated environment, it is called virtual reality. Healthcare and education are two domains which can use this technology effectively. Since there are strict recommendations against gatherings, medical examinations and diagnosis can be conducted remotely. Similarly, learning can be facilitated effectively to avoid viral transmission.
7. 5G Connectivity
Every stage of mobile connectivity has enabled users to access faster and more reliable internet services. 5G connectivity opens doors to augmented reality and virtual reality, It also supports cloud-based gaming and automation. One such fascinating use of automation through 5G connectivity is the collaboration between Telenor Norway and the Norweigian fishery Salmar. They have piloted 5G to create an automated system for the care and feeding of fish.
8. Instagram Visibility
All firms are geared up to use the most effective form of marketing in 2021- Instagram. While the app has grown into becoming one of the most popular social media platforms, it is gaining immense popularity for e-commerce as well. Experts suggest a two-pronged marketing strategy on Instagram- SEO and Reels. In November 2020, it was announced that Instagram’s search does not require a hashtag. Now, it is much more straightforward as merely typing a keyword in the search bar shows you relevant posts and accounts. Similarly, reels have taken the internet by storm. Acting as a strong competitor to Tiktok, Reels have grown to be extremely popular by grabbing the viewer’s attention in 15-30 seconds.
9. Voice Commerce
It is estimated that 75% of US households will have smart speakers by 2025, and the voice commerce industry will reach $40 billion by 2022. Every day, more families opt for Alexa by Amazon Echo or Google Home with Google Assistant to buy products online. These firms are exploring the potential of using regional languages to ensure a comfortable consumer experience.
10. Mobile Commerce
Based on current trends, experts suggest that mobile devices will make up around 73% of total e-commerce sales globally by the end of 2021. The pandemic has increased the use of mobile for shopping tremendously. Hence, making websites mobile-friendly are essential as 30% of customers reported that they would abandon the cart when faced with a problem on the mobile site. While companies promote their apps, users also prefer to use mobile sites due to simple storage issues. Furthermore, there seems to be a shift towards progressive apps. A progressive web app is a mobile website that looks like a mobile app. Mobile applications are costly and complicated to develop, hence making progressive apps a cheaper and effective alternative.
With uncertainty continuing to loom ahead, one cannot be very sure about what to expect. However, these are a few trends that we can definitely look forward to in 2021.
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