It is not an overstatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the landscape of how we live. After all, people were forced to stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus. If this public health crisis had happened ten years ago, the dire straits would be even worse. Nowadays, we can thank technological advancements that allow us to live in a digital-first world – no-touch tech, for instance.
What is it? Well, it is any type of technology that can be used to let people interact with no physical contact at all. It is a broad definition, but this concept is not only helping people and businesses cope with the COVID situation – it will also help us recover from it. Keep reading to find out why.
How COVID has affected different tech companies differently
According to a survey by the McKinsey Global Institute, companies accelerated the digitalization of their operations by three to four years. In addition, their share of digital products experienced a rate increase equivalent to seven years.
The same study also pointed out that nearly all companies implemented solutions to the conjuncture more quickly than expected. They also believe that these changes are here to stay – and because of that, the funding for digital initiatives was increased more than any other costs.
Having said that, it would be a mistake to say that COVID’s effects were equal in every company. They weren’t. When we talk about tech companies, for instance, it is important to point out that the quarantine days demanded them in specific ways that varied according to their niches. Here are some examples:
Collaboration Tools and Project Management Tools have grown user bases exponentially
The pandemic forced people to stay home and they had to find ways to work away from their co-workers. Sure, many companies already used Collaboration Tools and even Project Management Tools before social distancing – but many did not.
So you can see where this is going, right? These services were in high demand and it had the bright side of their companies growing. However, some of them experienced a growth rate so fast that they hit a few obstacles.
Take Zoom as an example. Not only workers were using it, but also people getting in touch with their friends and family. Like many tech companies, Zoom was caught off guard by the COVID days and grew so fast that they were considered “the Pandemic’s Social Network”.
However, Zoom had a hard time keeping up with all of their needs – and it exposed many security breaches. They eventually fixed all of these problems and are back on track – and with a user base that keeps growing exponentially.
It is not known whether all of the companies that started will keep their employees working from home or not. Since COVID showed that shared workspaces and offices can be replaced by home offices and decrease costs, tools such as Zoom, Trello, Confluence, and Tanda will probably continue to thrive.
EdTech too: with schools out, Learning Management Systems had to accommodate the boom of distance learning overnight
School’s out forever? Probably not, Alice Cooper. When society was struck by a coronavirus, every educational institution had to cancel classes for the foreseeable future. Or should we say, presential classes?
Fortunately, technology allowed distance learning to be a viable solution for every level of education – from basic school to universities and even open schedule courses. Due to the pandemic, the number of students enrolled in online classes reached 400 million in the United States.
One example of how this increasing demand is Power School. COVID tripled their user base in only a few weeks. What makes this growth rate more impressive is the fact that they expected it to be reached only in a year and a half.
Will distance learning and Learning Management Systems continue to grow after the pandemic? The only thing we can be sure of is that they are an interesting solution for education and will still be a force to be reckoned with in this market.
Streaming services and other entertainment software as free time is all indoor now
Streaming services were increasingly popular before the pandemic. According to a study from Allied Market Research, its market size was valued at US$121,61 billion in 2019. COVID accelerated this growth and this type of content hub is projected to reach a market value of US$ 1,039.03 billion in 2027.
Why was it already a trend? With technology advances, people got better devices and internet connections to consume content on demand. Not only the audience increased, but the investments to have a streaming service decreased significantly – allowing more options on the market.
Since people started their quarantines to prevent COVID, their free time became exclusively indoors. As expected, this vastly increased the media consumption – video included. According to this article by Visual Capitalist, it grew 49% in the first month of social distancing.
Also, it is important to remember that video streaming is not only an entertainment thing. It can also be used for corporate training and digital marketing strategies. And, of course, with live content or not.
eCommerce and Marketplaces replace the brick-and-mortar stores
With social distance, people couldn’t go to traditional stores without risking themselves. This doesn’t mean that buying things was off-limits – they just would need to do it by distance. Marketplaces and eCommerce were the obvious solutions.
Before COVID, digital commerce represented 10% of the United States’ retail sales. According to a study by Geodis, the pandemic caused American companies to make 65% of their sales online – it also made 46% of them rely on marketplaces for selling on the internet.
Services like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay are traditional examples of marketplaces, but apps like Uber Eats and Postmates must also be remembered. They offer a wide range of products and offer convenience for the user – so they’ll be in high demand even after COVID becomes just a memory of difficult times.
Why no-touch technology has a never before seen opportunity to expand
We spoke about many ways companies had to adapt to a world that battles COVID and how it is shaping the economy and society as a whole for years to come. These facts and figures point out that our society won’t come out of this crisis the same way we entered it.
No-touch technology was an essential tool that we could use to survive the pandemic and fulfill our daily needs. And this is a never before seen opportunity for expansion – after all, every tech company was in high demand and had to expand their services.
This growth is not only when the invisible bogeyman is keeping people in quarantine. Every company will need a good digital product team with the right mindset and culture to sustain it. But yes, it is here to stay and companies who invest in no-touch technologies will thrive. Here’s why:
How the public became better-acquainted with technology
We were already getting used to having technology in our daily routines. Our lives were connected to the internet for a few decades now – and with social media, this connection increased even further.
It is strange to say this, but using tech was kinda avoidable for some. But that was then. When COVID hit our world, everyone had to use technology to survive. After all, how would someone work, buy groceries, and do other essential activities without it?
This context brought one important thing for the no-touch approach: it showed people that it is viable. It also allowed the public to be better-acquainted with no-touch tech. So not only do they know the benefits, but they also know how to use it.
Furthermore, it is something that will not benefit the existing no-touch techs. It will also make people more susceptible to use new ones – after all, they saw how it adds convenience and improves their lives.
Practical examples of how no-touch tech can be applied
We all know that coronavirus contagion can be avoided by social distancing. Also, we have already seen businesses reopen when the infection rates dipped in a few countries. Of course, they needed safety protocols to do it – and no-touch can be applied to help them.
There are a few practical examples that show that. For instance, movie theaters can use automated services instead of having human employees. In South Korea, a major chain used robots and contactless technology to sell tickets, serve food, and even scan audience IDs. Oh, and drive-in theaters even made a comeback like this one in Germany.
Restaurants also decided to go full no-touch to reopen. The most common uses are digital menus and even using apps to take orders instead of waiters. There are examples in the fast-food industry, with McDonald’s trying meal trolleys for the table service in the Netherlands and Burger King using a table-booking system in Italy.
And how about using cash as the payment method? To avoid it, many stores are using contactless payment options. For instance, Modern Retail and Kohl are using apps so their customers don’t need to worry about possible infections – this was already used in a few supermarkets before the pandemic.
These are a few practical examples of how no-touch can be used in our everyday life. We can brainstorm even more ideas of how to use it – there are many ways that tech can improve businesses and we are living in a time that it is encouraged.
Product teams have more resources to draw from for building no-touch tech
Since technology has a central role in our lives, we can’t forget about how the online world is linked to the real one. This concept is called the Internet of Things (IoT) and basically connects every device to the internet and other devices.
There is a wide range of smart devices to try out. For instance, Apple Watch connects to the user’s iPhone so it can offer health data. Or even home devices such as Amazon’s Echo Dot and its assistant Alexa and its smart home-related functionalities.
And this huge list is very interesting for product teams. This happens because they will have more resources to draw from and this can inspire even better products. Also, it can offer more options for devices that can connect to their products, which can improve its value even further.
Key trends in no-touch tech from here onwards
You’ve read about all of the benefits of no-touch tech and probably are thinking about investing in it. But how can you find the perfect idea so your product team can develop it? We made a list of B2C no-touch tech trends that you should consider adding to your portfolio:
This one is one that took some time to get traction. IBM researchers created Shoebox in 1962 and this machine understood only 16 words. With a few decades of slow advance, in 2010 it finally reached a point where it could be used on a large scale.
With cloud computing, new approaches to software, and monumental amounts of voice data to be analyzed, speech recognition is easier to be used. Popular examples are iPhone’s assistant Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Voice Search.
Looking forward, there are a few Voice Recognition Trends that you should look out for. For instance, it can be used for translation applications, voice identification for security, and even mobile payments.
This was already mentioned before, but it is important to remind how digital money is one of the most important B2C trends when we talk about contactless tech. There are mobile wallets that can be used in a similar way as a credit card – for instance, embedded in a marketplace.
Other options that are quite interesting are money-transferring apps that are tied to a credit or a bank account. They are also a way of paying using only our mobile devices and can be done quickly.
This idea was created in 2008, but it took some time to gain popularity – and nowadays it is widespread. There are 1,3 billion people using mobile wallets, which is a 14% increase when compared to 2019.
Did you know that the first efforts to teach techniques of facial recognition were made by an inventor called Woody Bledsoe in the 60s? With the tech limitations of that time, he couldn’t do it.
It was only in the 90s that this kind of technology started to evolve. Helped by the huge amount of pictures posted online from the 2000s, facial recognition finally became a thing – and it can be very accurate!
There are many facial recognition trends you should look out for. It can be used for security and law enforcement, make payments, and even check on the user’s health by pointing the device’s camera. Plenty of opportunities are just around the corner!
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