Online Industries Booming in Wake Of Lockdown
Since mid-March, the global pandemic known as COVID-19 has shook the world economy in unprecedented ways.
11:12 11 August 2020
This has created an unpredictable stock market and universal concern over what the long-lasting financial impact will be. While the road to recovery is still shrouded in uncertainty for most businesses, the positive trends we’ve seen for many online-based companies isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon.
Second waves of contagion and future lockdowns are still possible, and in light of this fact, we can point to a few online industries that are likely to remain safe bets for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re looking for ideas on where to invest money in these uncertain times, or considering new and reliable business ventures, consider these top industries that have seen a surge in money and consumer interest since COVID-19.
Pandemic lockdowns have allowed Netflix to achieve an all-time record for new subscribers in Q2, namely 10.1 million. Total membership growth is therefore up by 26 million for the streaming giant in the first half of 2020. Needless to say, revenue is up, and the same kind be said for most other major TV, movie and music streaming services. How this unexpected surge in revenue will be invested remains to be seen, but it’s reasonable to expect expanding libraries, better user experiences and - in Netflix’s case - higher production value for its own TV shows in the near future.
From educational courses seizing upon the opportunity to promote discounts and recruit new students, to YouTube fitness instructors seeing record numbers of viewers - it’s clear that online education has enjoyed a boost in light of COVID-19. With a summer full of cancelled events, and all of us advised to stay at home as much as possible, more and more people are looking to learn new skills as a way to pass the time. Language learning app Duolingo has seen a spike in sign-ups and engagement. COVID-19 has also created greater interest in self-sufficiency skills, COVID-19 has made many realize that they can’t always rely on easy access to basic items. Early lockdowns confirmed in the minds of many that it is worth learning how to grow your own vegetables, or cook and clean with basic household items. All this has meant that online education is at an all-time high.
People want to be distracted and entertained during lockdown. Unsurprisingly, video game sales and mobile game downloads have all been on the rise since COVID-19. Social online gaming has helped bring people together at times when they might have otherwise felt lonely, while other forms of gaming have kept boredom at bay during the increased number of hours we all spend at home. Video games sales will likely continue to rise, but new player behaviour in light of COVID-19 will also have an impact on game development and gaming regulation.
Online mobile casinos like PlayFrank and in-app purchase games like Clash of Clans have seen an increase in players and transactions, which has prompted some game developers to set limits on spending per account during lockdown. A spokesperson from PlayFrank said; “lt’s great to be able to welcome more players, but we’re also aware that these are exceptional times during which people might easily lose track of how much they’re gaming and how much they’re spending, which is why we are closely monitoring player behaviour.” (source: https://www.playfrank.com/en-gb)
Online Health Services
Personal health has been on the mind of everyone this year. Whether we’ve been worrying about our own health, or that of a loved one, a lot of questions have arisen about what COVID-19 is, what it can do, and how to protect ourselves from transmitting it or getting infected. With society-wide anxiety and endless questions, people have naturally gone online to learn more. Google has taken measures to ensure the most accurate, official and authoritative medical information is available on the first page of search engine results for commonly searched queries - however many wish they could have a more personal conversation with a medical health professional. It’s no surprise then, that medical appointments via mobile apps or video calls, or online chats with doctors, have been on the rise - and this will potentially contribute towards their normalization.
At the end of 2019, there will have been no reason to suspect that going all-in on the video conferencing company Zoom will have been a sound financial decision. In hindsight, of course, the company’s incredible stock performance seems painfully predictable. But just because you missed out on Zoom doesn’t mean you can’t cash in on other technologies being developed for the sake of improved online video call and conference communication. Microsoft Teams and Skype have also made fast improvements to their products, as they saw a huge increase in users this year.
Online Grocery Sales
It goes without saying that online grocery shops will outperform in 2020, due to the precaution many take in buying their groceries from the safety of their own home. Delivery services, similarly, have received a knock-on boost in light of this trend. Groceries are typically dropped in front of the customer’s door, without the delivery staff having to come into contact with the customer themselves. This has allowed individuals in the risk group to shop with a peace of mind, avoiding the crammed supermarket aisles. Online supermarkets also have the benefit of instantly showing the customer which products are out of stock - an important detail in a time when the pandemic has caused food shortages across the world.
The argument could be made that the rise in online grocery shopping is only temporary, and consumer behaviour will return to normal as restrictions ease. However, with no clear date for when vaccines will be available, online grocery shopping may remain a preferable alternative to many people for a long time. Those who adjust to buying their groceries online, furthermore, may begin to consider this means of shopping more convenient, and continue ordering online even as things return to normal. This could see online supermarkets emerge as one of the long-lasting winners of the pandemic, and those supermarkets that aren’t currently equipped to be handling online orders would do well to invest in their website and delivery capabilities.
Since the early days of the internet, innovative tech companies have sought ways to bring more aspects of everyday life online. In 2020, everything from banking to shopping to staying in touch with friends and family has been digitized. Following the global pandemic and the demand it places on other sectors to digitalize, we’re likely going to see even more institutions and processes go online. Nobody can say for sure what the long lasting impact of COVID-19 will be, but considering university teaching, voting, working and so much more has gone online, it’s unrealistic to not expect at least some of this innovation to stay even after the pandemic settles.