We’re closing 2 months of our new lives under COVID-19. After overcoming the initial shock, companies are only now settling into a new normal and starting to think of the future that lies ahead, specifically the future for the consumer. As most people in the US (definitely in New York and California) are still at home, it’s hard to know exactly what the future holds, but there are early indications of how the consumer life will change and what specific innovation opportunities will emerge out of this.
At Viola we are spending a lot of time analyzing, reading and thinking about these innovation opportunities and at this point we have outlined four important consumer areas that will create substantial opportunities in the upcoming 12-36 months:
- Next-gen e-commerce
- Future of Work
- Future of Entertainment
As we dig into these 4 areas, it is important to highlight that those are not the only areas that are being disrupted post-COVID-19.
E-commerce is one of the clear winners of the current crisis. People were stuck at home and if they purchased anything, they did so only online. Suddenly all brands needed to upgrade their online offerings. However, as we all moved to do 100% of our shopping online, the limitations of the format emerged. Overall, we can look at 3 levels of commerce.
Including all groceries, but also well-defined products: Electronics, books, kitchenware, etc. This segment is almost 100% solved. It is easy to understand what you want, and the buying experience seamless. Issues in this category are mostly around the supply chain (guaranteed delivery of the exact products, specifically in groceries).
Try before you buy
This is related mostly to fashion, clothing and other products that require physical interaction. As the majority of these products are bought in a self-service mode, the solution of easy purchase and easy returns has mostly solved the problem. Overall, there are still opportunities around the increased conversion from try to buy (to reduce costs) and related opportunities in the supply chain (fast and cheap returns).
This is probably the most complex area in e-commerce, and where there are increased opportunities, especially when people want to buy products that are expensive and that have a strong human interaction. This category can overlap with the previous category, and different consumers behave differently in this category. For some, it’s hard to imagine buying furniture, or a car, or a grill, or cosmetics, without touching, feeling, smelling. In a world where EVERYTHING will move online, there will be a need for massive innovation in translating physical attributes that can be easily presented in an online experience.
This will probably be the most complicated and most interesting area in the next decade. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of a healthy lifestyle, which will lead to changes in the way we uphold a healthy lifestyle.
An example of an important trend in this area relates to personalized health and physical care. At this point, we all understand the importance of exercising, eating healthy and staying clean. But none of these solutions can be generic. The future is about personalized nutrition and personalized exercise programs. What specific lifestyle each individual should maintain for best possible long-term results.
Hygiene is the new USP
Beyond nutrition and exercise, health will expand to the products we use. The requirements from our skin care, cleaning products, kitchen tools, clothing and many others will increase as more and more people will demand a high standard of hygiene from our everyday products. This will require changes from the leading consumer brands, but will also enable the rise of new brands.
The doctor-patient dynamic has also changed, in my opinion irrevocably, due to COVID-19. Patients have gotten used to the new levels of remote healthcare brought on by new restrictions surrounding visiting the local clinic, and they will expect similar remote availability in the future. They will be used to more immediate health care, and the system as a whole will benefit from the increased productivity of the medical professionals. The days of waiting in long lines to see your doctor might be numbered, and in their place a new and improved digital connection.
One final world on health. The healthcare world is large and complex. There is a wide range of opportunities around medical care, way beyond personalized health. The US system is broken, and a surge of unemployment will require a massive and urgent change in US healthcare. In the future years we are planning to invest more around the health vertical, ranging from computation biology, through Healthcare IT and consumer healthcare products and services.
Future of Work
While we are all at home, we are experiencing the benefits of online meetings, saving commute and becoming very productive in our ability to manage our schedules. At the same time, the complex blurriness that emerged around work and home, and the difficulties in putting boundaries as we do home work and work at home, all at the same time.
What is clearly emerging out of this is that work will not be the same. Until COVID-19, the winning work environment was dictated by Google and Facebook: Spend long hours at work because at work you will get perks, perks, and more perks. But the future is different: The office will not be our 1st home, but rather a place that will take a much smaller portion of our working time.
Rethinking the workplace
This will require massive innovation for the workplace and for the consumer. On the workplace side: The setup of the future office will be different (no more personalized seating), the need for new collaboration tools (not just Zoom and Google docs) and investment of the workspace in the home setup of their employees.
On the consumer side, the new environment will require changes in the home setup and in the tools we use: Dedicated work locations at home, time management and planning tools, improved data and internet infrastructure (how do we give data priority to Zoom over Netflix, as they all compete for bandwidth?)
Digital meeting experience
There will also be opportunities for companies to innovate to augment the digital meeting experience. In a recent Viola survey of Israel’s tech ecosystem, we found that 29% of companies are considering allowing some kind of WFH policy even after the immediate COVID-19 crisis is over, and a Gartner poll found that the WFH shift could outlast COVID in the US as well. Companies will be able to capitalize on this trend, whether it be through AR/VR, providing a 3D experience, or anything else that might increase the efficiency of online work meetings.
Future of entertainment
In all this volatility and uncertainty, we still need to entertain ourselves. Entertainment is not going away; it’s just changing. The obvious impact is the increase of media consumption at home. The trend is clear – Bigger TVs, more streaming services, and a lot of amazing content. But all this is already here. What is still ahead of us? A surge in gaming and interactive content, and maybe some new business models around premium content. Is there a way to monetize movies and games in ways that will overcome the loss of box office sales?
It really feels like the world will never be the same, even after we get past the health crisis caused by COVID-19. The companies that can innovate, especially in the areas I outlined, will find themselves in a position to have major global success in the post-COVID world. If that’s you and your company, ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.