All of us hope the new vaccines we have read about in the news will rid the world of the COVID-19 curse. It will be a welcome relief. Nevertheless, many of the changes caused by the virus in the ways we work and live are not going away. From widespread adoption of remote work practices, to an expanded reliance on ecommerce and digital business—the global economy has been reshaped and redesigned by the events of 2020.
Consider, for example, the record holiday ecommerce sales generated this year on Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving. U.S. online shoppers spent close to $11 billion, the largest shopping day in the history of U.S. ecommerce. COVID-19 has prompted many more shoppers to go online.
Changes in work and consumer behavior have also accelerated the transition to digital documents and the so-called paperless office. After all, with no physical office to go to, the exchange of paper documents has become as infeasible as it is unnecessary.
Industry information for this eWEEK Data Points article comes from Fox-it Software, which makes PDF (portable digital file) software. Below are some of the mega-changes the company believes will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data Point No. 1: Employees have moved from big cities.
Most companies have offices in or near larger cities. The lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that many jobs associated with those businesses can be done remotely. To achieve a better quality of life, many workers have moved out of urban environments and are not planning to come back. According to MyMove, an internet-based service that helps people plan and execute location moves, U.S. Postal records show nearly 16 million people moved between February and July 2020.
The impact on large city apartment rental rates has been dramatic. In San Francisco, for example, which is one of the most expensive rental markets in the United States, remote work life has prompted many to move out of the city, causing precipitous declines in rents. Studio rents declined by 31 percent, one-bedrooms by 24.2 percent and two-bedrooms by 21.3 percent, according to Realtor.com.
Data Point No. 2: Customers aren’t visiting your brick and mortar storefronts.
Employees of one company are customers of many other businesses. Since they have moved, you’ll need to serve them in their remote locations. Instead of expanding their offices and storefronts, businesses will need to increase their digitization of the information they require to do business and have it available on websites. This includes both data collection and data retrieval and viewing.
The acceleration in the move to digital business channels during the pandemic has been dramatic in retail. U.S. online spending increased more than 30 percent to $347.26 billion in the first six months of 2020, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data. Ecommerce sales during the first half of 2019 grew only 12.7% year over year.
Data Point No. 3: E-sign has changed the paradigm.
In other areas of the economy, the move toward digital business has been as dramatic. According to a recent global executive survey by McKinsey, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies by several years—a change that can be expected to outlive the pandemic.
E-signing is one technology that is transformative to the way business gets done. It has become too easy and improves productivity too much to be dismissed. As a result, the already large market for e-signing is expected to soar. E-signing is recognized as legally enforceable and provides an integrated workflow that hands-down beats pen-to-paper. When people are far away from each other, it’s the best and only option out there–and you don’t need to visit a notary.
Data Point No. 4: Employees have already adapted to digital collaboration.
Due to the suddenness of the lockdowns, employees working from home had to rapidly adapt to the change, often independently of formal corporate edicts and platforms. They adopted their own set of collaboration tools (such as video conferencing, chat, file sharing, etc.) and mastered their use. Now, there is no turning back; digital collaboration requires digital documents and electronic access to data. If you’re not there yet, your employees will start screaming if they have not already.
Indeed, the McKinsey survey found that executives believe employee collaboration is the most accelerated shift toward digital business within their companies.
Data Point No. 5: Document AI is coming.
The rapid transformation toward digital business will drive new innovations in digital documents. Document Artificial Intelligence, which uses machine learning and other AI technologies to improve document use and handling, is moving forward every day. In addition to having a remote workforce, the productivity gains from document AI are too significant to ignore. Document AI can automatically extract data from documents to feed into systems, identify documents and route them to the correct people, utilize smarter search to find and summarize documents quickly, get the right information fast and easy, assist in creating new documents, and more.
Every economic and social upheaval creates long-lasting changes in human and business behavior. As one of the most dramatic and sustained global disruptions in decades, Covid-19 has created major shifts in the way we work and live that will outlast the current pandemic. The sudden acceleration in digital work and lifestyles represent a change that is both profound and enduring.
If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email [email protected].