The year 2020 will be remembered as a significant turning point in our history.
The coronavirus pandemic not only changed our social and working lives but has affected every aspect of society worldwide. From socialising to the way we shop, nothing will ever be quite the same again. It is not all bad, many industries have grown and developed as a result of COVID-19.
Many service-based businesses and departments have realised that they don’t necessarily need an office to continue efficient operation; all they need are reliable communications and online access to their data.
Consumers have also started to fully embrace the wide scope of eCommerce offerings. Where most buyers physically shopped for things like food and fashion, the pandemic’s push towards using delivery services has shown them that online shopping is both practical and, in some cases, preferable.
Of course, several industries have suffered as a result of COVID-19, including travel and tourism, high street retail, and leisure and hospitality. However, several industries have been able to thrive and develop despite such uncertain times. These successful businesses are predominantly online shops and services with products with home-based benefits.
As employees were forced to work from home where possible, it became apparent that many businesses lacked the telecommunications vital for remote working. Hosted or cloud telecoms systems and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) lines allow calls to be routed via an established business number to employee phones anywhere, enabling entire businesses to function from home where they could not before.
These changes led to an increase in sales for telecoms services and providers, as well as for video conference software. 2020 saw a 500% increase in buyer activity around business web and video conference tools, allowing employees to continue having meetings safely.
Cybersecurity and data management
Many businesses switched to remote working during lockdown and some intend to continue beyond the pandemic. However, this raises the issue of protecting company data within the homes of potentially hundreds or thousands of employees. This is especially significant for the HR and legal sectors, where GDPR compliance can be more complex to enforce outside of the office.
In 2020, 70% of businesses found value in increasing their cybersecurity systems, with 36% of new inquiries to tech firms being cybersecurity-focused, and with a significant increase in costly cyberattacks this number is only likely to rise.
For obvious reasons, online shops have thrived during the pandemic. Although some retailers like Next had to temporarily cease operations until their warehouses were safe for staff to work in, the majority of digital stores have been bombarded with orders to make up for the lack of high street sales. Online sales spiked so rapidly that several eCommerce businesses struggled to keep up.
Specific areas of retail such as arts and crafts did exceedingly well as a result of COVID-19. Sewing materials saw a rise of 231% in some shops, as people decided to make their own face masks amid shortages.
Logistics and delivery services
Delivery drivers and vans have been in high demand thanks to the increase in online shoppers. Many delivery companies such as Deliveroo switched to a no-contact service, and DPD drivers were required to take photos of their packages being delivered.
As many as 11 million people in the UK have used online food delivery services in 2020, which is a lot of deliveries in half a year! Some eCommerce sites were so inundated with orders that they began to use unmarked vans for their deliveries.
Subscription services span a wide range of consumer goods, providing all manner of necessities, gift ideas and things to do. There’s a subscription box for absolutely everything, from coffee beans to razor blades.
Subscription recipe boxes like Hello Fresh and Mindful Chef have seen as much as a 450% increase in customer numbers since March, with some businesses stuck with a backlog of orders to fulfil.
Many online courses and workshops like Shaw Academy and Unity Learn took advantage of the fact that the entire world was sat in front of their computer screens, and offered discounts and free trials of their courses. You could try everything from learning guitar or a new language to website coding or arts and crafts. They gave the public something to do as a result of COVID-19, and in return got a fantastic amount of awareness and new signups from it.
Streaming and gaming services
As you can imagine, streaming services have done exceptionally well during the pandemic. Disney+ chose the right time to launch its service, claiming to have seen growth across all of its streaming platforms and doubling its 2019 subscriber base to over 50 million subscribers by April 2020.
Online games have also seen a surge in players, as they provide a great way to keep occupied whilst socialising with friends. Esports viewing ratings doubled, and there was a 75% increase in players at peak times on games like Call of Duty: Warzone and Fortnite.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the prime example of a perfectly timed product launch. The Nintendo Switch game allowed players to meet up with friends in real-time and get outdoors in a time when they couldn’t do it for real. The game has sold over 22 million copies since its release date in mid-March.
The gambling industry has seen a huge shift from physical to online casinos as they were forced to close during lockdown. Many players took up online poker as a way to socialise with friends and keep entertained, with search traffic for online poker growing by over 240% in Europe and the United States alone. Many of the offerings in physical casinos are available online, including slots, roulette, and blackjack, so users have been able to continue gambling whilst socialising safely with friends.
Health and home fitness
Finding ways to keep fit whilst gyms and leisure centres were closed has led to an increase in sales of home fitness equipment and course subscriptions. Bike sales increased by 63% as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, providing a way of getting that outdoor activity without other people getting close.
Keeping fit and healthy can greatly improve mental health, and at this uncertain time with everyone stuck at their desks, is needed more than ever.
Gardening and DIY
When forced to spend several months in your own personal space, you finally get round to all of the odd jobs on your to-do list. Many house-bound people turned to lockdown home and garden improvements to refresh their space and to pass the time.
Especially during the one-outing-per-day times, improving garden spaces suddenly became a high priority. For those garden centres and DIY stores with an online presence, COVID wasn’t as bad for business. Sales for home and garden tools increased by 50% in preparation for lockdown. Thanks to panic buying and food shortages, many consumers also turned to grow their own produce.
However, many garden centres struggled in the initial months of lockdown when millions of garden plants had to be binned. The gardening industry has been particularly unstable during 2020, but reached a high point when lockdown restrictions were lifted.
How do these industries fare post-COVID?
As the UK enters another recession, it’s unclear whether these industries will continue to do well. This is a volatile period with constantly shifting trends. Of course, sectors such as food and drink will always thrive, but we can expect dark days ahead for some businesses struggling to survive the aftermath of COVID-19. Now more than ever, marketing and word of mouth will make a huge difference. Future planning and retention strategy will be paramount.