Technology has played a critical role in helping to alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis in many different ways. Indeed, people across the world, from all different ages and backgrounds, have embraced technology at an unprecedented speed.
As an investor, there are two sectors that I believe stand out due to the way they have embraced technology throughout the pandemic – retail and remote working. As the Government continues to announce further restrictive measures, I believe it is these sectors that will continue to thrive in the ‘new normal’ and therefore make an attractive future investment.
As an investor in the retail sector, I have noticed a couple of interesting trends that have successfully helped to re-shape the sector. COVID-19 has accelerated the inevitable shift from the high street to e-commerce, forcing the industry to embrace technology. Without overlooking the devastating impact of COVID-19, we cannot ignore the fact that business opportunities in the retail sector, both on a digital and technological front, have soared. Consumers have also had to adapt to these challenging circumstances and, in doing so, have become increasingly reliant on technology too.
I have invested in a number of early-stage companies which are providing innovative, digital solutions in the retail sector. One of them is Bolt: a payments company improving the customer checkout process and thereby the turnover of e-retailers.
Bolt is a payments platform that provides an optimised checkout experience, reinventing the concept of the ‘one-click buy’. The platform allows online retailers to utilise Bolt’s technology in order to enable consumers to quicker, more efficient purchases through fewer clicks and fields to complete, faster page loading, and a faster time from decision to buy, through to purchase to completion.
A second sector that has fully embraced technology during the COVID-19 pandemic is industry supporting remote working. In just a few months, the entire working landscape has dramatically changed; whilst many employers are adapting to a hybrid style of working, using video conferencing applications such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, others are looking to adopt remote working on a more permanent basis.
In a recent announcement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a range of new restrictions which included instructions to workers to stay at home ‘if they can’. In August, it was reported that only 34% of British white-collar workers had returned to the office, compared to 83% in France, and an average of 68% among major European counterparts. It is was clear that, even before new lockdown measures were implemented, there was a general sense of resistance towards going back to the office full time.
The “Coworking Spaces Global Market Report 2020-30: COVID-19 Growth and Change” published in May 2020 reported that the global co-working spaces market is expected to decline from $9.27 billion in 2019 to $8.24 billion in 2020. However, the market is then expected to recover and reach $11.52 billion in 2023. Whilst it is unclear at this stage which company will come to dominate the market, I believe that there is a substantial opportunity for business development and growth.
As we reach a “critical point” in the fight against COVID-19, new restrictions to try and curb the spread of the virus continue to be implemented. It is clear that our reliance on technology is playing a crucial role in allowing employees to not only work from home, but to also stay connected to family and friends during the potentially isolating months ahead.
It is very difficult to predict what the post-COVID-19 world will be like. The ramifications of this virus will change healthcare systems, politics, consumption and economics across the world beyond recognition. Whilst many of these changes themselves are unpredictable, it is almost certain that they will be driven by modern technology and innovation. As a result, business success will be largely determined by how quickly individuals and businesses can adapt to such technological advancements and implement meaningful change.