4 Expected Trends In 2021 Thanks To Covid-19 And Big Data

As we look back at 2020 a.k.a. the year Covid-19 took the world by storm, we can’t help but notice its major impact on our everyday lives, especially on work and travel. At the same time, the emergence of Big Data has found its place in many applications, from something as essential as water supply to something as complex as reading your customer’s mind. Surely, their effects would be carried forward to 2021 and perhaps beyond. So, here’s a brief look at what trends to expect from now onwards.

People walking on an empty street.
I guess some people seize this opportunity to walk on empty streets while they still can.
Image Source: Ramiz Dedaković

1st Trend: The changing role of the office for data-driven companies

2021 is said to be the year of the truly data-driven company. It might be safe to say that Covid-19 acted as a filter for companies that are fit for the new decade and companies that are not.

Data-driven companies have demonstrated more confidence and resilience during the pandemic because they could identify bottlenecks, growth opportunities and new ways to motivate teams. Meanwhile, other companies that did not move with the times were at risk of elimination because they missed out on the opportunities that data-driven companies gained.

At the same time, Covid-19 also catalysed the digital transformation of the workplace when companies had to rely on several work-related software to work from home. The normalisation of flexible work arrangements has led many to wonder what will become of offices in the Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 era.

Some people are warming up to the idea of starting their day without the time-consuming commute while some others are in favour of partial office use. Partial office use refers to how employees would work at the office for less than 5 days a week and work remotely for the rest of the workweek.

In fact, we’re starting to see a shift towards making the office a collaboration space rather than the actual working space. Therefore, transport is still relevant in today’s world but the pandemic and the changing working arrangements may have some impact on transport in the long run.

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The role of the office is shifting from being the daily working space to being a weekly or occasional collaboration space.
Image Source: Smartworks Coworking

2nd Trend: Increasing reliance on e-hailing and car-sharing

Several studies have come across an increasing interest in private car ownership since it promotes comfort, privacy and distance from infection risk. According to a BBC Worklife report, public transport use has gone down as many people are reluctant to go back to public transport in the Americas and Europe after the pandemic era.

“Of the 3,000 drivers surveyed, 68% say a car is essential for carrying items like shopping, up from 54% last year.

A further 59% of drivers say the car is essential for meeting up with friends and family who live elsewhere in the country, significantly up from 45% in 2019.”

A motoring services company RAC reported the shift towards private car preference in the UK.

However, not everyone can afford to buy a car, so public transport will remain valuable to many segments of society, especially the blue-collar and low-income white-collar segment.

At the same time, there are people who can’t buy a car but are also scared of using public transport. Hence, e-hailing and car-sharing have presented themselves as great data-driven and accessible transport options for these people, albeit with higher fares than trains and buses.

“A convergence of myriad factors such as the introduction of new technologies facilitating real-time ride-matching across the automotive sector along with changing attitudes of the people towards car ownership will help the ride-sharing activities gain prominence as a key commuting mode over the coming years.”

a quote from Business Wire.

3rd Trend: Incentive to improve public transport services

“Everyone loves driving, except when everyone else drives. When we take the bus, it’s because it’s a hell of an inconvenience to take a car because you can’t park, or it’s just too expensive or you can’t afford one in the first place.” 

Kate Laing, programme manager of mobility management at climate leadership group C40 Cities.

There’s also a big incentive to improve public transport services. As mentioned earlier, public transport still remains crucial to society, especially since certain segments are reliant on public transport and the increasing use of cars has been leading to more greenhouse gas emissions regardless of whether they’re privately-owned or shared.

Although studies in France, Japan and Austria have found little proof that public transport is linked to Covid-19 outbreaks, transport authorities still implemented measures such as capacity reduction, sanitation and technological application to promote safe ridership after experiencing reductions in ridership.

One example of a technological application for increasing ridership is the Transit Innovation Partnership by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the non-profit Partnership for New York City. This project released a live subway map to eliminate paper maps and notices and launched a Covid-19 Response Challenge last July to gather innovation ideas for improving public transport. These measures have helped New York’s subway ridership climb steadily.

New York subway during pandemic
If given a choice, I doubt anyone would want to ride the train or bus unless improvements are made.
Image Source: David Nieto

4th Trend: Increasing reliance on delivery services

Also part of the data-driven company revolution is the delivery services that the world has become comfortable depending on for almost everything thanks to Covid-19. Online stores are all the rage now since they help minimise the need to go out for shopping or dining.

Online sales accounted for 36% of the UK’s total retail sales in November 2020 compared to 21.6% in November 2019. A Boston Consulting Group publication reported that half of the consumers in the US said that they bought groceries online in March 2020 because of Covid-19 and approximately 1/5 of them did so for the first time.

“Existing customers are increasing the frequency of online purchases, and new customers are buying online for the first time… As more and more consumers discover the convenience of e-commerce, concerns about product quality and security will likely dissipate.”

a quote from Boston Consulting Group.

Adapt or disappear

If there was a phrase to sum up how 2020 was like to organisations, it would be “survival of the fittest”, the fit ones being the data-driven companies. Data-driven companies have been in the best position to survive and thrive during the pandemic while companies that weren’t data-driven risked losing.

The digital transformation of companies catalysed by Covid-19 has not only determined where people work but also given people a glimpse at an alternative working arrangement that could work best for many of them.

The digital transformation has also revolutionised the way companies do business with the help of e-commerce and delivery solutions, as well as datafying affordable shared transport services like e-hailing, car-sharing and, of course, public transport. At this point, it’s become increasingly hard to imagine a world without data-driven innovations easing our daily activities.

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