When going out isn’t an option many industries ramp up virtual and delivery capabilities
Within a week of the widespread shelter-in-place orders, national restaurant sales plummeted 74%—and they weren’t alone. Retail sales have also dropped dramatically year-over-year, with real estate and supporting services like mortgage lending seeing similar declines. In some regions, even ER visits have seen double-digit decreases.
As more and more Americans stay in, traditional service models have been impacted significantly. If people aren’t eating out or shopping or traveling, service providers need to evolve and adjust or risk going out of business. And for many, that means adopting tech-centric on-demand models to connect their services to their customers— now.
Boosting the on-demand service experience
Telemedicine is a good example of this shift. Originally projected to hit 36 million visits this year, experts have revised their estimates and now expect more than 200 million visits and one billion virtual healthcare interactions in 2020. Teladoc—a popular telemedicine provider—is currently fielding more than 15,000 daily requests.
And virtual medicine isn’t alone. March saw a 100% surge in daily online grocery orders plus increases in food delivery.
While the numbers are surging, these options existed pre-COVID19—and, in many cases, were already gaining steam. Forty-two percent of people reported buying groceries online at least weekly, up 22% from 2018. One in 10 Americans had used a telemedicine service in February 2020—and, even without the impact of coronavirus, those numbers were expected to climb. The virus was the accelerator, in these instances, replacing some of the losses traditional service providers are experiencing.
Rethinking traditional service models
But beyond accelerating some existing businesses, the COVID19 outbreak drove many service providers and industries to quickly rethink their models. According to Steven Kemler, an experienced entrepreneur and real estate investor, virtual home tours, for example, have increased fivefold. An industry once anchored in in-person tours and walk-throughs has now gone heavily virtual, ensuring buyers can still purchase even if they can’t get out.
Education is moving even more quickly. What’s traditionally been an in-person experience at most schools has moved online (with various degrees of effectiveness) almost overnight. Open online provider Udemy reported a 425% increase in enrollment between February and March. Outschool—an online platform for pre K-12—is no different. The school pushed to hire 5,000 teachers on the heels of COVID19, increasing its teaching base by 500% over a two-week period.
While we have been moving towards more personalized and virtual experiences and services for years, COVID19 has expanded and accelerated the demand in an unprecedented manner. The creativity many service providers have shown—and the ability for seemingly steadfast industries like real estate and education to quickly pivot—has helped us all maintain some sense of normalcy when little seems normal.
The big question? What happens next? When we can return to stores, and to what degree will we? How will the post-coronavirus landscape be reshaped for industries and individuals? Steve believes that for now, on-demand will keep expanding and evolving, helping service industries stay afloat in coming weeks and months. And, with it, we’ll be able to keep pace with everything from doctor visits to happy hours to homework, on demand.