When computers entered our lives in the 1980s, many anticipated that printed books are a thing of the past; digital books will replace them, and major libraries will change function to museums; however - and to many people’s amazement - printed books remained! Fast-forward 40 years later, right in the middle of a global pandemic, people are exercising social distancing; schools, restaurants, and even government offices are forced to shut down. There is a new rush among businesses to go online. The question is, will traditional methods of doing business stubbornly remain the same, or the online rush will transform our lives forever?
See more: Typewriters Are Out, Computers Are In
Before COVID-19 started its reign in December 2019, the world was going online slowly but not confidently. We could still see both traditional and online forms together. Universities offered on-campus courses, but at the same time the online alternatives were available on websites like Open University. You could go to a bank branch to send or receive money, but we had digital cards and intermediary financial services like Xoom and PayPal. We could sit down at a pizzeria and order our pepperoni, but again we could download an app and order our pizza online from the nearest pizzeria. What was the reason stopping us from choosing online education, doing bank transfers online, and getting into the habit of ordering our pepperoni pizzas online? There are two sides to this story: the business side and the consumer side.
On the business side, many business owners are not fully knowledgeable about online marketing and branding tools. They don’t know, for instance, how to use Facebook ad manager, or what to put on their LinkedIn, or how to put up a website and link it to their bank account. Such business owners are not very tech-literate. For them, it is an alien world with fear of the unknown lurking on every corner. Every time you bring the topic of going online, they might say that a face-to-face interaction is the guarantee of closing deals.
Tertiary education was already expensive. For example, if you wish to continue your Master’s degree in a reputable university in Canada, you need to pay around 15,000 CAD for each academic semester. Whereas you can get the equivalent from an online institution for no more than a few hundred dollars. You could stay at home and learn to be a web developer, or hone your cooking skills, or take a crash-course in an MBA online. The education business tends to boom during and even after the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an important point to note here: young learners have a totally different story. The nature of children demands an active environment, learning basic human interactions, and tasting what society is going to be like once they fully grow up. This renders any homeschooling for young and very young learners ineffective. Even during the pandemic, many parents had no choice but to find some unofficial, temporary kindergartens, which is mostly a teacher’s own home, to make sure their children are taken care of and are learning how to interact with other children in a small society. Once the pandemic is under control, kindergartens and schools are inevitably going to open and continue giving their services to families.
See more: 5 Ways COVID-19 Is Changing Our Lives
People didn’t go to restaurants only for the food. Yes, the food quality matters the most, but it is clear that the interior design, the quality of service, the comfort, and the general ambience are as important as the food quality. It means that people enjoy the service, the company, and the overall experience of going to a restaurant. This is now, sadly, banned due to the pandemic. The restaurant business is bound to remain unchanged as people still want places where they can have everything a restaurant has to offer with their family and friends AND eat their favorite dish.
On the consumer side, people tend to form a social bond with the seller. That’s why they still tend to shop locally. For many, shopping is also fun, an experience you would like to enjoy in the company of your loved ones. Online shopping just does not give you that experience. There is also an element of security. There are many scammers online, so people tend to be skeptical. Ordinary people feel more confident doing business with an individual who they can see, know where they live, and if something goes wrong, know where to file a complaint or which government body to call.
See more: Life After the Pandemic
The short answer is a definite yes but not for all and certainly not as quickly as we thought. The digital world is a whole new realm. This pandemic only precipitated the already existing trend. Many local businesses were shut down and gave way to online giants. Customers and business owners are now aware of the importance of the digital world. Thanks to the infrastructure and efforts many put on promoting businesses online, we can say that more and more businesses will go online and more and more customers will feel comfortable doing their daily tasks online. One thing is clear: we are adaptive creatures.