The future of business after lockdown

31 October 20205min read

Although lockdown regulations are gradually easing in Australia, the business landscape as we know it may not return to pre-COVID-19 levels of confidence quickly.

While Australian workplaces are considering the range of changes needed in order to meet COVIDSafe requirements, it's important to consider these in context with societal and organisational shifts experienced over the past few months.

We’ve identified 5 themes that will be key to adapting to the “new” marketplace. For businesses looking to gain competitive advantage, recognising these trends may be what sets them apart in the financial year ahead.

5 business trends to come out of COVID-19

1. Flexible working is here to stay

Lockdown restrictions have exposed the stress that many workers face in balancing professional demands with personal commitments and roles such as parenting, caregiving and all the niggling tasks we file away as “life admin.”

Coronavirus has triggered the world’s biggest working from home experiment, forcing even the most reluctant of workplaces to trust their team members to self-moderate their productivity. But just as we have discovered here at Thirst, many businesses are discovering that working from home can work to everyone's advantage.

Studies have shown that allowing employees more autonomy over their working day will translate to increased satisfaction, retention, loyalty and wellbeing when compared to their office bound counterparts. By providing employees with the flexibility to work remotely, we are finding that workers are much happier, more productive and are communicating much more - not less!

What happens next could amount to a radical change to the 8 hour/5 day work week. New Zealand is already considering a 4 day work week, tech giants have announced permanent WFH options for employees, and hybrid digital/physical working combinations will likely become much more commonplace.

2. Rapid reskilling

With unprecedented speed, many workers have had to quickly learn new skills to meet the rapidly changing conditions. Similarly, businesses have had to re-deploy their resources where they can best meet demand.

Rather than pulling back on professional development as the crisis calms, businesses owners will continue to build resilient teams that can achieve more in the face of new challenges. Similarly, many workers affected by cut-backs, may seek to retrain or pick up new roles in the gig economy as competition for jobs begins to tighten leading to an increased demand for online training courses.

The future for many workers may be a combination of casual and part-time roles and patchwork careers, as people discover that they can transform their side-hustles and hobbies into substantive, new income streams.

3. The rise of contactless commerce

A strong online presence has never been as important as it is today. Brick and mortar stores are pivoting to dark stores to fill online orders as consumers are forced online for their dose of retail therapy. Australia Post has been on the front line of this consumer trend and based on real-time data, claims there was an 80% increase in online shopping over April and May, when compared to last year.

Our new awareness and preference for contactless transactions may unlock a new wave of retail innovation that will revolutionise the way we sample products. In the most extreme of cases, retailers may choose not to renew expiring leases in favour of augmenting their digital retail experience to substitute or improve upon what happens in-store. Inversely, we might begin to see the mainstream adoption of cashierless convenience stores like Amazon Go, pushing branding, packaging, automation and other martech into greater prominence.

Contactless interactions will even extend to the office as everyone over-indexes on sanitisation - so at least for the moment, meetings will continue to end with creative ways to avoid handshakes.

4. Brands become kinder and more human

COVID-19 has replaced the "brand me’ messaging of our hyper connected world with ‘brand we,” drawing visible links as to how organisations are contributing to society as a whole.

As we re-light our marketing efforts in the current climate, our tone of voice and turn of phrase must be more delicate than ever. Brand’s can run the risk of appearing self-serving if they aren’t presenting with empathy.

Marketers will want to continue to regularly monitor consumption trends and social media to better prepare for the socio-cultural pivots to sentiment and look out for cues to better adapt their messaging for a post-COVID future.

5. Getting back to grassroots

The shop local movement has been a long time in the making, but with international borders closed, the pandemic has prompted a sense of de-globalisation. This in turn has led to a revival in consumers' appreciation for independent stores.

Australians have been opting for local products and experiences since the drought and bushfire season earlier in the year. But with the economic downturn brought by COVID-19, shoppers are increasingly looking to understand the supply chain footprint of their purchases, and preferencing ‘Locally Made’ labels. Consumers are investing in their communities, supporting the restaurants, bakeries, butchers and retail stores that bring colour to their neighbourhoods and strengthen their local economy.

In fact, Angela Harbinson, our Managing Director founded the Pledge Now, Play Later movement to help keep the heavily hit tourism, arts, hospitality and entertainment industries in our local community in the front of our minds. Her hope is that by pledging support for future events, services and products, local businesses will create a revenue stream that will ensure they come out on the other side.

Know of another trend that you’d like your business or brand to explore? We relish a creative challenge, so please get in touch!

Do you need help with your business recovery plan?

The Thirst Creative team has created accessible 'Pivot Packages’ to help struggling brands regain business continuity as they adapt to easing workplace restrictions. The purpose of these packages is to help businesses make the best use of small budgets and/or government grants to pivot their operations quickly and effectively for the ‘new normal’.