To say we live in interesting times is an understatement, especially when social distancing has become our new normal. The novel coronavirus is the first pandemic we’re going through in over 100 years, present in 185 countries and with over 5.5 million cases recorded (as of May 22, 2020).
The good news is that we’ve never been in a better shape to manage and come up with a medical solution. At the start of the year, we had no idea what COVID-19 was. Today, scientists have already mapped the virus causing it and are preparing for a Phase II trial for a vaccine.
The Tapp Squad has been working from home from the start of March, and we’ve gotten used to our new normal of a home office, daily calls, having our pets for supervisors, and winding off with reading a book, a Netflix movie, or an online round of gaming.
It’s hard to make predictions on how the world will look like 3 months from now, 6 months from now, or a year from now. Anyone who does that at this point is doing guesswork. What we wanted to share with you instead were our own observations of where interests and behaviours have been shifting and show you that there are still plenty of opportunities and needs tech can help solve.
It’s not business as usual, but humanity will do as humanity has always done, which is to take the learnings and our current context and learn to thrive within them.
The new normal: social distancing and an economic slowdown
If you’re living anywhere in the Northern hemisphere at the moment, your life looks something like this. You’re working from home, and your partner, your kids, and your pets are all around looking to work and learn and keep themselves busy. You maybe go out for a walk around the block daily and do your grocery shopping once a week. You might skip the shopping completely and choose to order everything through a delivery service. There’s no more going out for dinner or drinks, catching a movie, or hanging out in the park. Get-togethers happen on Skype calls and zooms, not in bars.
It can get lonely, and a bit boring, but it’s our part to do to flatten the curve and keep the spread of the virus at a minimum.
76 countries have social distancing in place right now
All over the world, 76 countries are in some form of social distancing right now. Whether it’s simple recommendations of avoiding large gatherings and maintaining physical distance from people in public spaces, or restrictive measures like closed schools, mandatory working from home or closed parks or markets, these measures are implemented to support people to stay at home and limit their contact with large crowds of people as much as possible. In many ways, we are responding to the situation as it develops, and some are doing it better than others.
But life goes on, and tech is shaping how our new normal looks
Does this mean we’re all staying put, doing very little? Of course not. Most of us are staying home and doing our work remotely, to the best of our abilities. We keep our kids occupied, we keep ourselves occupied, and take each day at a time.
Our lives have shifted and centred around our homes and our neighbourhoods. Let’s see what that means.
Living at home, working at home is at the core of social distancing
If the job you’re doing can be done from a computer with an internet connection, that means you’ve been probably not only staying at home but also working from home in the past month. Instead of your morning coffee chat and a long series of meetings and some work sprints in front of a screen, you’re probably stuck in zooms, google meets and trying to focus while your partner, your kids, your pets (or maybe all three of them) are also trying to do their own stuff somewhere in the house at the same time.
With going out options cut down to none, we’re all stuck looking for entertainment inside. That means media consumption has gone up, and people who love crafting have stocked up on their supplies. The good news is there are almost unlimited options, both if you want to stick to your comfort space or if you want to try out something new.
With gyms, swimming pools, and sports gatherings cancelled for the foreseeable future, people have had to find new ways to stay in shape. This has also been reflected in the interest in personal trainers and personal-use sports equipment, as well as their business performance. Brands, studios, and personal trainers who weathered the switch towards digital platforms better have been holding up better than gyms usually relying on subscriptions as their revenue stream.
As grown-ups get used to working from home, it’s a completely different story when it comes to education. And depending on the age group and level of education, the shift towards remote schooling has presented different challenges for parents and educators alike. Parents of small children have gotten an unwilling crash course in homeschooling, while primary to undergraduate students are getting used to Google Classroom or Zoom and are adopting new tools for learning, doing homework, and testing, all done remotely.
As social distancing has become the norm for everyone, e-commerce has been on the rise, trying to cover the rising demand.
In the US, retailers are hiring more warehouse and delivery employees. In Italy and France, Amazon is only shipping essential goods. These are baby products; health and household items; beauty and personal care; groceries; and industrial, scientific, and pet supplies as essential products.
Our new consumption habits have even coined new expressions.
And you know the world is changing when language is changing to reflect it.
If e-commerce had the backbone of logistics to make-do with the surge or orders brought on by fewer people going into stores, on-demand delivery had a more eventful ride. Existing food delivery platforms quickly adapted to support partner restaurants, recruited more couriers and in some places, expanded into doing grocery deliveries. They’ve also started to offer no contact deliveries, for clients that were in isolation. The third month into our new normal of social distancing, things seem to have stabilised, but questions remain whether a delivery-only business model is sustainable for many of the small businesses we’re used to visiting.
The coronavirus pandemic is a perfect storm that pushes people usually sceptical about trying digital solutions for health to do exactly that because it’s safer right now than going into a doctor’s office. And while going to the doctor’s office will become safe again, the trust built at this moment on digital health platforms may set the tone in how fast adoption will happen from now on. Sifted reports that healthtech startups focusing on online consultations have seen an uptick in usage, and the same can be said of electronic prescriptions and delivery, and mental health consultations.
Our new normal opens the door to a wealth of product opportunities
It’s true that making predictions right now about how our lives will look like in 6 months, a year, or three is as much of a guessing game as any other. But I hope this overview shows how the intersection of our shifting interests and technology is creating blank spaces of potential to be filled in. Our lives are changing, and with it, new spaces are created that need to respond to new needs. That means there’s room for new products to be built, and existing products can be pivoted if you only take the time and resources to figure out how.
Our Tapp Squad is here to guide all new and old clients on their journey of making a product that works and stays true to their users’ and business’ goals. And right now, when the products we’re going to build are going to help people get their groceries, or work better together, or learn more easily, or simply stay home and enjoy themselves, we will keep our commitment to building products people love to use. If you plan such a product now, we’d love to chat with you.
Because that is how we do our part in helping everyone stay safe.
Erika is a full-stack marketer passionate about the intersection between technology and social impact. She mixes research with content design and a human touch to help people and startups succeed in delivering value through their work. When not writing or talking to people, you’ll find her reading or quoting Hamilton for any life situation.