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Reflections on the past year and what lies ahead

We all knew and have repeatedly heard throughout the pandemic that it is an “uncertain time.” Covid-19 changed the way we live, work, get an education, shop, do business, communicate, travel (or lack thereof), the list goes on. We have learned to enjoy many of the changes we were initially forced to accept, which are now becoming our “new normal.” So, what did we learn? And more importantly, what’s to come?

Observations from the past year

It’s hard to move out of your comfort zone. Too many businesses approached the 2020 pandemic believing they could wait it out for a few months until things went back to normal. As we now know, that didn’t happen, and it isn’t likely to happen. The real winners made quick, radical adjustments to their business without any expectation of a return to the primary market. It’s hard to give up known and comfortable operating models, but if companies avoid leaving the comfort zone, they risk falling behind as the market evolves.

Consumption has changed forever. The closure of retail locations forced more consumers to e-commerce channels, and the convenience and experience were better than they expected. As a result, large groups of consumer behaviors will be forever changed with the simplicity of online ordering and the immediacy of placing orders with local delivery or curbside pick-up. This restructuring of commerce will have downstream impacts on everything from marketing and supply chains to prices and product diversity. We won’t fully understand it for a few years, but when we look back, it will be profound.

Predictions for the rest of 2021

Working from home will continue, but it will look different. While working remotely has proven more successful than expected, there are positives and negatives to only working from home. Research suggests most employees desire to continue working from home for at least part of their workweek. When we reach a point where it is safe to return to office settings, many employers will be focused on creating an effective hybrid working model to provide the optimal environment for both in-office and remote teams in order to retain employees.

Travel may become the fastest-growing category by the end of 2021. Consumers are so eager to travel again that when it becomes possible to do so, they will take advantage of it. Travel revenue will exceed even what it was before the pandemic hit as travelers rush to go to new places and break out of their bubbles. As a result, the travel companies that weathered the pandemic market well will become huge winners. But they need to start planning for that now.

Management by intuition will be over. Even with all of the data tools available, many business leaders still used intuition to make business decisions pre-pandemic. After the pandemic hit, intuition was useless because the market experience upon which it was built no longer existed. In this new market, using rich, aggregated data is the only way to navigate successfully. As a result, it’s unlikely that leaders will ever go back to intuition-based decision-making because the pandemic has made clear the power of data-driven decision-making. Companies struggling to derive business insights from deep stores of data are adopting smarter, AI-driven data platforms such as Outlier, which automatically serve up actionable advice. Moving beyond dashboards, these brands realize on a daily basis the value of dynamic data insights to make simple, revenue-driving adjustments to their business. To see this in action, sign up for a demo of Outlier.