Pandemic opens up ‘new normal’ world of digital opportunities

MIKA RUOKONEN VICE PRESIDENT, FUTURICEThe winners  in the ‘new normal’ world that will eventual emerge from the current pandemic are likely to be those businesses who correctly identify and capitalise on the new digital business opportunities that willinevitably arise; and, if Futurice’s Business Director Mika Ruokonen has got it right, there are at least four areas where there is huge scope for growth.

1. Scalable digital business models

The pandemic has already put massive pressure on the global supply chains of a whole array of companies including  multinational retailers such as Best Buy and fashion giants such as Nike, not to mention domestic supermarkets struggling to meet demand for home deliveries. The experience will have been instructive, and, if any of them wants  to survive let alone  thrive in the ‘new normal’ environment, they will have to  start building resilience into their businesses by complementing product-focused models with scalable and stable digital alternatives. This might even involve diversifying from their core offer to the selling of data and AI assets to third parties. (Ruokonen points out that supermarkets such as Walmart already sell point-of-sales data to brands including P&G and Unilever who use it to ensure adequate stock of products in their warehouses and to promote real-time availability of their products in grocery stores.)
Due to self-isolation, consumers who normally visit physical stores are increasingly shopping online with the result that e-commerce is booming especially when it comes to tinned goods, pasta, health and sanitary products. This trend, he predicts,  could  well become permanent if people remain wary of mingling in real life, and increasingly replace shop visits with online purchases.
Logistics platforms, like Bringoz, are already revamping their concepts to match the new market circumstances by enabling retailers to scale home delivery fast, and in  the B2B arena Ruokonen anticipates  the digital-enabled sharing economy currently being pioneered by logistics -oriented companies including Combiworks  and Cargomatic  will be increasingly adopted by other businesses coming under pressure to find smart and quick ways to slash costs and monetise existing assets.

2. Data-enabled healthcare

home blood testsThe pandemic experience will almost certainly result in individuals paying much more attention to the state of their health and this in turn is likely lead to an increase in demand for the services of private companies offering at-home tests for a range of medical conditions. Provided the appropriate privacy limits can be put in place, the resulting massive increase in healthcare data represents an opportunity for various data and AI specialists to develop useful solutions that will help reduce risks of contagion, relieve consumer anxiety while also providing reassurance to help them cope with these difficult times.

3. Digital collaboration and entertainment tools

As companies rapidly  move towards remote working, the market for digital collaboration, tools such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom is likely to grow quickly; Zoom has already experienced a 50% increase in its share price since the start of the year. On the consumer side, lockdown has also seen a surge in the popularity of ‘virtual’ visits to concerts, museums and events as  consumers seek equivalent AR and VR experiences which can be enjoyed  from the safety of their own sofas There has already been a growth in demand for digital media and entertainment including social media, gaming, news, video streaming and books as people seek to relieve boredom and fill the time previously taken up with travelling and socialising face-to-face.