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After reading Mary Meeker’s 2020 Coronavirus Trends Report, I have focused on the key future changes brought about by the coronavirus to pay attention to in the near future.
1. Data-Driven Forward Planning: The biggest American “market cap growers” (Microsoft MSFT , Amazon AMZN , Apple AAPL , Alphabet / Google and Facebook) all possess short and long- term business plans centered around data, execution, iteration, engineering and science. Amidst the current pandemic, expect these business plans to be more widely focused with more scientists, engineers, and domain experts serving as board members with stronger and more relevant voices.
2. Continuation of Remote Work Environments: With the coronavirus forcing companies to adapt to remote work environments to much greater degrees than they are used to, many of the companies may find that for certain positions remote work is just as, if not more, efficient for them. CEOs and boardrooms will need to reflect on their companies’ employees and ask management to recommend their evaluation of what teams work best together in-person and what teams work best remotely to ensure maximum efficiency.
3. Written Communication & Documentation: Meeker’s findings from an informal survey asking companies about remote work found that those who focus on effective written communication and documentation, based off of the “Amazon Way,” had the best and most efficient transitions to remote work. This form of collaboration can result in more discerning and productive input and decision making.
4. Accelerating Digital Transformation: The businesses that are doing the best and will make it through this pandemic with less difficulties and problems will be the companies who had already began the offline-to-online transition. The current pandemic has accelerated these trends which will place more emphasis and focus on a company’s technological presence with its worker consumers. As mentioned by Meeker, this includes the integration of cloud-based business functions, persistently demanded products, accessible and maneuverable online presence, efficient delivery methods with limited contact, digitally efficient products, and a social media presence.
5. On-Demand Business Model Growth: While certain on-demand companies such as Uber UBER and Airbnb are struggling due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders, other on- demand services such as Instacart and DoorDash that offer to-the-door delivery have experienced large spikes in demand and are eagerly hiring new labor. The on-demand economy has been growing in the US for the past few years. In 2018, there were 56 million estimated on-demand consumers compared to 25 million in 2016. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also concluded the on-demand services has around 156 million workers as of March 2020. Meeker believes “on-demand and to-the-door delivery services may be gaining permanent market share in these unusual times” due to the clear benefits to consumers and the opportunity for displaced workers to receive work, income, and schedule flexibility around their personal schedules. Intacart is reportedly hiring 250 thousand workers now, which is more than Walmart WMT and A3 combines.
6. Increase in Demand for Labor: As coronavirus places many Americans out of work, a rapid short-term reallocation of labor can be observed as the demand for labor in transportation, supply chains, groceries, and healthcare surges. ZipRecruiter job postings in March 2020 soared with CDL flatbed truck drivers’ postings increasing by 999%, warehouse handlers increasing by 699%, and geriatric nursing assistants increased by 189%.
7. Enhancement of Government’s Technology: The government’s day-to-day operating systems and technologies are outdated, and the coronavirus has only exposed this inefficiency in our system. Around the world, countries such as Singapore and Korea have used technology to keep their citizens informed and safe. We are optimistic for this change and acceptance of technology in our government as they have moved away from paper checks for their stimulus payments and transitioned to companies such as PayPal PYPL , Inuit, and Square to move forward with the CARES Act.
8. Increase in Shared and Accessible Information: The coronavirus response has been unquestionably the fastest scientific response in history due most entirely to our real-time global connectedness. As of April 17th, around three thousand public coronavirus research papers have been published, which is twenty times more than any other infectious disease. The technology-assisted global connectedness suggests greater transparency and accessibility to information across the globe.
9. Advances in the Healthcare System: Our healthcare system has seen little change since the rise of the Spanish Flu in 1918, and, much like the government, coronavirus has shined a light on these flaws. Annually, the US has around 500 million primary care visits. Advances in technology such as Telehealth, connected monitoring devices, and rapid point-of-care diagnostics could slow the spread of contagious viruses and diseases by reducing face-to-face appointments. Automation and artificial intelligence will also allow for greater opportunity to analyze and build connections and insights on electronic health records (EHR). I believe Telehealth is a significant trend going forward.
10. Emergence of Live Streaming – With traditional sports being stopped during the pandemic, eSports and gaming have emerged in its place. In March, the live streaming video game platform, Twitch, hit an all-time high of daily active users at 4.3 million. Other examples can be seen with professional soccer and basketball players live streaming their video game competitions. Meeker believes the successful transition from traditional sports to live streaming is an example for other types of businesses to follow to engage the online consumer engagement model.
Many of the trends directly impact businesses where the Board of Directors has the opportunity to ask management to something, how some of these trends are going to impact which ones and compound where they serve. As Public and Private company directors, part of our responsibility it to anticipate risks for our shareholders and stakeholders. This is a “call to action” to consider if some of these trends impact your companies’ business. Future proofing the company and asking management to see around the corner is as important now as ever.