COVID-19 Will Further Cement the Road to a More Digital World

COVID-19 has been spreading like wildfire across most of the world. The virus is crippling economies and bringing industries like aviation, tourism, retail, and manufacturing to a more or less complete halt. Services are restricted to essentials and many people are on the verge of or already have lost their job. Consumers in most of the world are in lockdown, some for several weeks or even months. They are forced to be dependent on the digital space around them more than ever. This will trigger some habitual changes, the traces of which can have profound impacts on several industries in the longer run.

Work from home has now become a norm and CEOs and CTOs around the world will have to embrace more digitalization and implement robust remote working capabilities across their organizations to sustain through uncertain situations like these. COVID-19 will accelerate the digitalization of services across the Globe and adoption of products which will help stakeholders access those services seamlessly. Some of the products/industries which could gain more traction after the COVID-19 dust settles will include:

Smartphones and associated ecosystem:

  • As users are staying at home, the use of smartphones and their application ecosystem will see a sharp increase and potentially, some new users as well. With the closure of offline retail, smartphones are now crucial to access essential services like delivery of groceries, food, news, hyper-local retail, and mobile payments. Users of these services are likely to be more habituated to their use even after the lockdown ends. This will also make some feature phone users realize the important role a smartphone now plays and could drive them to make the switch. The global smartphone market already showed resilience in February, declining only 14% YoY, somewhat less than expected.

Mobile gaming and OTT platforms:

  • With entertainment options outside the home now closed, mobile gaming could also see accelerating popularity. Users are likely to download newer games or increase usage of existing games and could hook up to some of them for longer. Online game streaming services like Hatch will have a more viable business case now.
  • People are also heavily using OTT services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and Hotstar. The usage has been so high that some of these platforms have had to limit the viewing quality. These platforms have the opportunity to retain these users for the long term.
  • The increase in usage of these applications also means large amounts of data generated, which can be analyzed to recommend more curated games and streaming content to customers and increase their stickiness. With such high traffic, this is also a testing time for these platforms. Product managers can use this “usage peak” time to take consumer feedback, analyze data, reduce downtime and improve these platforms to enhance the overall user experience.

Digital transformation of Enterprise:  Cloud Computing, Collaborative tools, Remote working capabilities

  • Digital transformation is almost inevitable for enterprises that want to be resilient to uncertain situations like COVID 19. This is also crucial for public services, health care systems and even education. Governments around the globe will have to embrace digitalization for seamless access to these services with faster responses and more efficient resource management, especially in times of emergency. As companies will prepare for times like these, it will require more applications to be hosted online, which will drive additional business for cloud service providers. The reliability and scalability which cloud offers can help organizations deal with uncertainties like unplanned demand. Cloud will also be a viable option for small and medium enterprises as it is more cost-effective.
  • Remote working will also lead to an increase in usage of collaboration tools like Teams, Zoom, Skype and Asana. Since work from home is often the only way for office and clerical functions to work, companies will have to think about replacing their desktops with laptops to be prepared for such situations in the future. This will increase the demand for laptops. Small enterprises can also buy refurbished laptops to save costs. It will also underscore that some businesses can manage with less office space while supporting home and flexible working.

Robotics and Autonomy:

  • One of the worst-hit sectors during COVID 19 is manufacturing. The unavailability of the workforce has led to a complete shut down of the manufacturing facilities of some of the most advanced ODMs/OEMs of the world. Robotics, machine to machine communications, IoT and complete autonomy of assembly lines can help deal with a crisis like this more efficiently by reducing the human intervention to a minimum. COVID 19 can accelerate the path to Industry 4.0.

Telecom Operators:

  • All these services mentioned above require the base of good internet infrastructure in the background. The increased usage of mobile internet and broadband can help drive ARPU for telecom operators which are significant especially in fast-developing countries like India, where operators are facing high debts and competition. Bundling of some of these services can also help operators increase revenue.

COVID-19 came as a sudden disruption to organizations across the globe. While a shock to the system, this type of disruption will inevitably bring about changes; one of them will be an acceleration toward a more digital world.

Varun is a Senior Analyst at Counterpoint Research based out of Gurgaon. In Counterpoint, he closely tracks mobile devices and ecosystem with a focus on Emerging Markets. He also tracks Global Refurbished Smartphone market. He started his career as a Consultant with Infosys Limited where he was able to identify strategic avenues for business growth through deep research and analysis of markets and companies in various domains. He holds a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Institute of Management Technology, Ghaziabad and a bachelors degree from Coventry University, UK.

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