COVID-19 has accelerated what the Board of Innovation has labelled the low touch economy – and here’s what it’ll look like …
Everyone knows that what was once “normal” has now ended. But while the current lockdown window has left many businesses in limbo, now is the time to prepare for the new era of normality. Now is the time to prepare for the “low touch economy”.
So, what is the low touch economy? It’s a term coined by the Board of Innovation to predict and describe the world we will emerge into as lockdown measures are slowly lifted. Customers and workers will operate at distances, relying more on technology as opposed to human contact than ever before, and be far more concerned about hygiene. Put simply, we will not return to a society quite the same as the one we left in March 2020. Businesses that cannot or do not adapt to this will fail to recover.
Here are the top four reasons why the low touch economy is about to become the “new normal”.
Reason 1: A change to one sector affects another
Never before have industries and sectors been brought together quite like this. In the face of a global pandemic, ripples and repercussions have been felt along the supply chain. If one part struggled, that strain has been felt by everyone along the line.
The Board of Innovation offers the following example: restaurant visits have dropped due to lockdown measures. But this does not simply impact the hospitality sector. A drop in restaurant visits means less alcohol is being consumed. Less demand for alcohol means beer breweries fall under pressure. This trails all the way back to the start of the supply chain, with farmers losing revenue on crops.
The only way to protect businesses all along the supply chain is for each sector to embrace the “new normal”. The amount of transformation required will vary from sector to sector. For instance, tourism, manufacturing, and hospitality will need to make the most changes, given their reliance on large gatherings, close human contact, and dependence on travel. Meanwhile, so long as non-food retail can manage their need for large gatherings, they may find it easier to adapt to the low touch economy.
Reason 2: New behaviours will become habits
There isn’t a single person on the planet who hasn’t had to change their entire daily routine in 2020. And these changes are not short-term – the longer we are in lockdown and the longer the virus continues to pose a threat, the more we will repeat these new behaviours and the faster they will become habits.
One habit that many may choose to take into the low touch economy is home working. With many sectors finding that their employees can not only keep functioning in their job from home but flourish in terms of productivity, we will no doubt see a number of roles now ticked for a work-from-home capacity.
Reason 3: Hygiene hyperfocus is here to stay
For those who decide to return to the office or workplace, however, it still won’t be back to business as usual. Communal areas will be under scrutiny, close-quarters and open-plan office will need to be reviewed for hygiene concerns, and hot-desking may very well become a risk no one is comfortable to take anymore.
Offices may reduce their hired space as people continue to work from home, but a reduced area means an even greater needs to keep it clean; the closer the proximity of people in a small area, the more hygiene will be needed. Workplaces will need to do more than just rely on their evening cleaners to maintain cleanliness. Stocking up on disinfectant, gloves, and centrefeed roll will be essential to top-up clean throughout that day, as well as giving workers access to these items to keep their own work stations clean.
But it’s not just workers who will be expecting a certain level of hygiene in the workplace. Though customers are embracing home deliveries in the absence of being able to go to the shops, they will still be looking for safety in their deliveries. Contact-free deliveries are only the first step – a formal proof of hygiene may very well be on the cards, according to the low touch economy model.
Reason 4: It was happening anyway, and the lockdown just accelerated this trend
Before the pandemic, not every sector embraced technology to the same degree. For example, the construction sector was notorious for being slow to embrace new technology. However, for the vast majority of industries, we were already experiencing a shift towards the low touch economy – meetings held over the internet, virtual learning, and self-service options all meant that close-quarters human interaction was slowly phasing away from our lives.
This development means that certain jobs that were already teetering on the edge of redundancy in this new technological age may be swept away. For example, with the majority of banking services being available online, one news source suggests bank tellers may become a profession for the history books.
Don’t just prepare to endure the changes. Adapt to embrace the “new normal”, and grow. The low touch economy will be the norm after lockdown measures end, and some sectors will find it easier to embrace than others. Start preparing your business today.