As photos of health care workers holding their Covid-19 vaccination cards began circulating on social media, many breathed a sigh of relief. The start of the new year with a vaccine has filled many with optimism, but the post-pandemic world won't be the same as it was before.
Even when vaccines become widely available, many people will want to continue working, shopping, and learning online. Zoom, Shipt, and Grubhub existed before the pandemic, but now that more people have experienced the benefits of these services, businesses are going to see a permanent shift in consumer behavior. This brave new world will create a host of new opportunities and challenges.
1. Fraudsters will capitalize on the shift to digital.
According to the FTC, a Covid-related scam that started on social media cost consumers $117 million in the first six months of 2020 alone. With so many businesses scrambling to bring their offerings online during the pandemic, it created a host of new vulnerabilities for criminals to exploit. The volume of scams is expected to increase in 2021, and fraudsters are getting more creative.
In its 2021 Future of Fraud Forecast, Experian predicted that this year's scams will run the gamut from standard fraud schemes to convincing deepfakes. "Frankenstein IDs" are a terrifying new method of bypassing facial recognition technology that allows scammers to piece together facial characteristics to create an entirely new identity.
In response, the company has rolled out a bevy of fraud-prevention solutions for businesses. Its tools saved clients $10 billion in fraud losses last year.
2. Many will opt to stay remote.
Along with the scramble to digitize everything, 2020 also forced the largest mass exodus from offices and schools the world has ever seen. While many have already returned to the workplace, companies such as Facebook, Google, and Zillow have announced that they are preparing for permanent remote work.
Much to parents' relief, virtual school won't be permanent -- at least not for young children. But many high schools and universities plan to keep students remote for the spring semester.
Even when the vaccine is widely available, the remote-learning trend could continue into 2022 and beyond. According to a recent report, more than 50 percent of college students now prefer online classes because of their flexibility. This could lead to a surge in students enrolling in hybrid or fully online programs.
3. Businesses built on digital will thrive.
Despite a bleak economic outlook, not every industry was down this year. Video games saw a huge surge in adoption and usage. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford predicts a massive surge in gaming, and the maker of Borderlands 3 has been hiring aggressively to expand its efforts.
While small yoga studios and gyms have shuttered their doors, the online fitness industry is booming. Fitness app Daily Burn saw a 268 percent year-over-year increase in membership. Peloton's stock soared more than 400 percent, and the company has plans to get 100 million subscribers to its fitness platform.
Gaming, interactive fitness, streaming TV, and telehealth are just a few of the digital-based businesses that will continue to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
4. Remote work will create new hub cities.
With so many people now working remotely, we're going to see companies relocating to midsize cities to take advantage of cost savings and financial incentives. Oracle recently announced that it's moving its headquarters from Silicon Valley to Austin. Cost-savings attracted IMB and Apple to Raleigh, North Carolina. And many financial service companies are relocating to cities like Charlotte and Miami.
Post-pandemic, people will be eager to take advantage of big-city amenities like nightlife and entertainment, but they also want to get more for their dollar. During the pandemic, there was an uptick in people buying larger homes to accommodate WFH life. And if remote work continues, workers will be able to live anywhere.
Tulsa and the entire state of Vermont have offered financial incentives for people to work remotely from there. Cities like Birmingham and Kansas City are well-positioned to become the newest midsize hubs. Nearby airports, large universities to draw new talent, and the low cost of living make them ideal for companies looking to move operations.
No one can say for sure what 2021 will bring, but it's likely to look a lot different than 2019. Some pandemic trends are here to stay, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It could mean more opportunity for businesses and more freedom for workers.