Something has changed in the world of technology innovation: the “people side”. Traditionally, the hardest part of getting innovation to scale hasn’t been the technology. It’s been getting people to use it. Consider how long it took for the personal computer, invented (complete with graphical user interface) in the early 1970s, or the internet, up and running in 1983, to truly scale. But the COVID-19 pandemic led to billions of people quickly adopting mobile cloud applications to work, play, learn and shop. That has set the stage for innovation at a speed the world has never seen.
02 December 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, billions of people — no matter their age, country or profession — remade their lives to take place online. Today, even as people go back to the world of in-person dining, meetings and school, they’re keeping many of the technology behaviors that the pandemic taught them. We’re experiencing work, family and entertainment in a virtual world far more than before the COVID-19 pandemic — and over 92% of the globe’s 4.7 billion internet users access this world through their phones.1
Consider work. Since the pandemic began, many employees have conducted their daily tasks from home, through cloud-based collaboration tools and video calls. They’re also picking up skills for their next opportunities through online courses, hunting for that next job and being virtually recruited and onboarded — often through their phones.
Online shopping has spread beyond consumer packaged goods to include food, cars, financial services, even homes. People are using online tools to make payments, keep up on investments, or shop for a mortgage on that new home. For a time, children went to school online. Even as in-person school has resumed, they’re still doing their homework or watching educational videos online.
Many of us now schedule virtual appointments with doctors, who rely on diagnostics obtained remotely, through phones, or testing devices mailed to our homes. Concerns over COVID-19 made older people — often the most resistant to new technology — especially eager to adopt virtual tools for healthcare.2 Even religious institutions moved online when the pandemic began and many intend to stay there.3
Have you heard the phrase “back to the office”? The truth is, we’re not going back, or at least not the same as before. If all goes well, people will soon be meeting more and more often in person, but they’re also going to keep on using their phones more and more.
Gen Z and millennials will still live online more than their parents and grandparents. Many times, they’re the ones creating the new markets and opportunities that fuel the digital economy. But the rest of society is following fast, entering these new markets too. If you’re a business leader, you should prepare to seize these new opportunities, which are multiplying. The innovation that digital platforms are leading, backed by unprecedented venture capital funding, are driving a wave of new technologies which billions of users are ready to adopt.
You don’t have to be a digitally native company to benefit from the world’s migration to a digital economy. But you do need a strategy, which these three ideas can help guide:
Unprecedented growth is occurring throughout the world. That’s resulting in a startling number of new opportunities — some of which are relatively unknown. To understand these trends and who is driving them, stay tuned for a detailed study of current and future unicorns, coming out soon.
1. “Global digital population as of January 2021,” Statista, accessed 7 October 2021, https://www.statista.com/statistics/617136/digital-population-worldwide/.
2. “Survey shows seniors are embracing technology and telehealth during pandemic,” Mobile Health News, 30 August 2020, https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/survey-shows-seniors-are-embracing-technology-and-telehealth-during-pandemic.
3. “No pew? No problem. Online church is revitalizing congregations,” Christian Science Monitor, 9 February 2021, https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2021/0209/No-pew-No-problem.-Online-church-is-revitalizing-congregations