Following the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the global economy shifted significantly. Referred to by some as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the world has entered into a new frontier regarding how business owners operate and how people live their daily lives.
Among the many changes the world saw in 2021, none are bigger than those that occurred in virtual communications, digital marketing, and the eCommerce industries. These three industries changed forever in 2021 and changed the economy’s future trajectory.
1. Virtual Communication Technology
Prior to 2020, virtual communication tools like Zoom and Google Meet were used by schools and businesses only minimally. Before 2020, only about 19.5% of undergraduate students enrolled in an online class. In business, virtual tools were typically used to connect people for international conference calls or when meeting in person was not an option due to extenuating circumstances.
When the coronavirus pandemic shut down the economy, companies turned to virtual technology to continue operating despite the quarantine. Video conferencing tools, virtual group messaging platforms like Slack, and job assignment boards like Monday and Click Up allowed small businesses and large corporations to retain their employees and continue producing work.
These platforms also changed the way people attend classes for college and K-12 education. Without virtual communication tools, students would have received no education in 2020 and part of 2021; instead, virtual classrooms were used to keep students on track for graduation and certification.
After 2020, an estimated 98% of colleges have moved to online classes, and even in the business world, it is suggested that online courses will account for 98% of future corporate learning scenarios.
Although most quarantine restrictions were lifted in 2021, virtual communication is still thriving. Many businesses have turned to real time virtual communication to shift from in-office employment positions to fully remote job opportunities, opening up a wide range of options to people in other states and countries.
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Additionally, schools and universities have adopted hybrid and fully online classes to accommodate those who wish to continue socially distancing themselves from big groups of people.
Perhaps the best part about how the virtual communications industry has changed over the last year is how it has revolutionized what society considers legitimate work and instruction. No longer are these tools seen as extras that are only used in emergencies or there for the rare occasion that people cannot come into the office.
The advances in virtual tool capabilities and reliability, along with their now-ubiquitous use, have allowed people to save time and money while still meeting the needs of the company they work for.
2. Online Digital Marketing
Online digital marketing is another industry that fundamentally changed over the past two years. Online marketing changes in the 2021 pandemic were brought on by increased time spent on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram during quarantine and the advertising strategies that digital marketing companies use to reach consumers.
Online digital marketing has changed the way marketing teams reach consumers and boost their client’s online presence. Before the 2020 pandemic, many companies remained loyal to traditional marketing methods, such as printed ads and coupons and radio and T.V. spots.
While these methods are not obsolete, the push toward online retailing and eCommerce during the lockdowns forced many businesses to rethink their marketing strategies and shift to digitally-based marketing techniques.
Now more than ever, developing a robust online presence through online marketing is what companies need to thrive. They do this with content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), ad spending on social media, and hiring online marketing agencies that implement and track important engagement data throughout the customer journey.
One of the pillars of online marketing in 2021 is content marketing. Content marketing uses social media posts, videos, blogs, and other content to inform and engage a business’ target audience. This type of content existed before 2021; however, the pandemic increased the number of people who use social media and search for information online, making content marketing vital for both the consumer and the business or service provider.
SEO has also been around for several years, however with increased online activity, utilizing the best SEO optimization practices has become a vitally important element in the success of a business’s marketing content and website discoverability through search results pages, otherwise known as search engine results pages (SERP).
In the past, search engines would recognize and rank a page based on how many keywords were included for a topic. This led to useless content filled with robotic language and repeated keyword phrases.
Now, search engines penalize articles of this kind. Instead, they recommend the content that is most relevant to the search request. This encourages marketing companies to utilize current SEO practices such as backlinking to authoritative sites, including relevant keywords, and providing thoughtful, engaging content for their clients.
While the online marketing industry has changed over the last year, so have agencies’ marketing services. Many digital marketing companies have shifted to social media management, website development, content development, and the utilization of software programs or apps to track conversion rates and customer engagement.
These four services are by no means the totality of what online marketing companies offer their clients, but they are indicative of the economy’s shift toward online-based consumerism and business.
3. eCommerce and Online Retail
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce sales for the second quarter of 2021 were over $222.5 billion, a 9.1% increase from the same quarter of 2020. In 2012, eCommerce sales made up about 5% of the total U.S. retail sales. This number has steadily risen, with eCommerce sales making up over 15% of the country’s total retail sales.
Thanks to stay-at-home orders and increased reliance on online retailers for entertainment and home staple items, consumers have turned to online shopping and eCommerce retailers for a large portion of their spending.
Supply chain shortages at the local level forced people to order groceries and medical items from big online suppliers. People who were stuck at home during the pandemic ordered everything from books, to cleaning supplies, to clothes from big warehouse delivery companies to stay stocked and entertained while isolating in their house.
Although physical stores have reopened, this sudden shift toward eCommerce stores over their brick-and-mortar counterparts shows no signs of stopping. eCommerce has revolutionized consumer behavior to digitally focused consumerism.
eCommerce stores and online retailers are booming due to this change. Businesses that formerly ran physical stores have opened up online boutiques and shopping options. Businesses such as restaurants and coffee shops offer customers online options for table reservations and food selection.
When combined with the revolution in the digital marketing industry, the shift from eCommerce being a growing industry to a ubiquitous industry in people’s everyday lives was almost overnight.
The Big Picture
Each of these three industries experienced a core-changing experience during the past few years. These specific changes have also affected a change in the overall world economy and daily life.
While many industries are still recovering, eCommerce, digital marketing, and virtual communications are three sectors on the rise. Not only this, but these three industries helped keep the economy from completely collapsing during the pandemic.
Without virtual conferencing, all non-essential businesses would have stopped running, and students would have lost out on an entire semester’s worth of classes. Without eCommerce, thousands of people would have been unable to access their basic daily needs like food and medications.
The future of the world’s economy is being driven forward by the changes in the virtual communication, eCommerce, and online marketing industries. The abrupt changes to people’s lifestyles in 2020 showed the world what was necessary to keep the economy moving while facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, and these three industries stepped up to the plate. They have now become a part of everyday life, which is perhaps the biggest change of all.