It's April 2020. We don't think there's anyone on the planet who could say 2020 has been the year we expected (so far), or the new decade promising new beginnings has panned out how any of us imagined. We're in the midst of a global pandemic; a national lockdown; a worldwide crisis. And something we never thought likely - or even possible - in our generation.
This is a tragedy. Huge numbers have become seriously unwell or lost their lives. The impact on the economy is vast. It would be easy to propel further and further into a tail-spin about the whole thing (and we've all been there at some point or another in the last few months). But we're choosing to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to view the glass as half-full, to hope.
We don’t have a crystal ball, so in these unprecedented times (a phrase that will go down as the most over-used of the 21st Century) anything could happen. We're also under no illusion that we're a while away from the implementation of any 'exit strategy', and that business won't be "as usual" for longer than we wished for. But we're hopeful and optimistic that industries will come back from this, that they'll survive and even thrive. It's estimated that mobile app spending will double globally to 24 million in the months and years succeeding Covid-19; we think this period of time has and will teach us valuable lessons and new skills around the tech industry, and continue to impart significant shifts in norms and lifestyles across the globe.
The Coronavirus lockdown has catapulted companies into 'digital transformation' without a second thought. That's not exclusive to the app development industry; every sector has advanced their own digital transformation. Yet, while businesses operating in the App Development industry are *clearly* no strangers to tech, they too have had no choice but to adapt to the current climate. We're all learning new skills at a rapid pace.
As companies become astute to the surprising levels of productivity induced by the shift in workplace operations, we predict that increased remote working, and therefore digitalised internal comms, won't go anywhere far post-lockdown. For us personally, we've found that it's actually streamlined our internal processes; designers can quickly ping a query to a developer with no disruption, while developers can instantaneously collaborate with screen-sharing, instant messaging and video calls. So, love it or loathe it, working from home (at least partially) could become a permanent fixture of our new normal.
And with wide-spread office shut-downs, digitalised communications are also underpinning client comms. While it seemed daunting at first (even to the tech wizards of the world), virtual communication with clients is something that's quickly been adapted to: we think it'll stick in the coming years. With digitalised communication, we've got no choice but to be more efficient (a.k.a. eradicating hour-long meetings with extensive travel at either side in favour of a twenty-minute catch-up call). Don't get us wrong, in the app development industry at least there are instances where in-person meetings are clearly superior, but for the most part tech has got us covered. *Goodbye long commutes in rush-hour traffic to client meetings, hello video conferencing*.
As industries far and wide realise the requirements for high-quality tech to ensure operations resume, the apps and digital products that facilitate such remote working have been propelled into the spotlight. This trend has - and will continue to - provide extensive opportunities for innovation and creativity in mobile apps. In short, the next few years will bring with them a lot more "Zoom"s, "Trello"s and "Slack"s.
A NEW ERA OF APPS
If Covid-19 has elucidated one thing, it's that if you have a great idea, you shouldn't sit on it. Just go for it. We think a lot more people will live by this mantra in the coming months and years; that's great news for the app industry.
The opportunities post (and mid) lockdown for exciting digital products are limitless. There are a plethora of potential digital products that could enhance and benefit users' lives. So, as we adjust to a new way of life, our apps have no choice but to adapt to keep up with this new "normal". In the contact-free era that we now inhabit, digital products are more fundamental than ever to help us retain at least some of what underpinned our pre-covid19 lives.
Take, for instance, direct-to-consumer grocery apps. For many this digitalised alternative to grocery shopping is their only option for receiving the food and necessities they require. And many tech-heads have already responded to this surge in demand, like market-leading grocery delivery app Instacart or India's JioMart which has introduced a WhatsApp ordering system for grocery shopping. Alas, regular trips to the supermarket could be a thing of the past as this trend accelerates in the months and years ahead.
Of course opportunity for innovation and creativity doesn't lie solely in grocery apps, there are numerous industries (education, health and wellbeing, travel, gaming... we could go on) where opportunities are boundless.
VIDEO-BASED AND VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE APPS
Underpinning this new era of apps we're predicting are those that can provide a virtual experience for users. As we all come to terms with the fact that life won't be as we know it for a considerable time, we must put a pause on our in-person experiences, swapping them out for their virtual counterparts. Dominating this trend is travel giant Air BnB which has launched virtual experiences, led by their 'hosts'. So while we stay home and observe social distancing, we can still engage in unique experiences in travel, food, exercise and well-being across the globe... And we can expect to see a lot more brands jumping on this bandwagon. But in the meantime, virtual Sangria Mixing Class with Pedro, anyone?
As people see the benefits of services going virtual and tech innovators devise new ways of interacting through an app, we can expect to see a lot more video-based products. If you haven't already heard the term 'Telehealth', you can expect to in the coming months. For those most vulnerable to Covid-19, this is a game-changer; it enables patients to visit their doctor *virtually* without leaving the home. In some instances Telehealth is arguably superior to traditional healthcare practices, allowing patients can be examined more often by healthcare practitioners via video, who can gain deeper insights into factors such as their living environment which may be impacting health conditions. Covid-19 is causing more and more people to engage in Telehealth, and we think that demand for this digitalised form of healthcare will expand greatly as we push into our new reality.
And the video-based app trend doesn't end there. Leading dating apps such as Match have launched virtual dating capabilities in-app (to be closely followed by Facebook). So matches can get to know one another via video call... who needs a three-course dinner or overpriced cinema trip anyway?!
TECH FOR GOOD
It does what it says on the tin: using tech for some greater good beyond profit-yielding. Frankly, our hearts have been warmed by the masses of tech companies endeavouring to do good during this pandemic. We think - and hope - that this will continue long beyond Coronavirus.
In addition to the abundance of mobile app companies working over-time to create Covid-19 symptom trackers and other necessary Healthtech platforms to cope with this pandemic, there's also a mass of tech firms creating other essential digital products in areas like mental health and education.
The techies of the world are truly pulling together, showing the compassion of humanity.
Take Umbrella, a startup that delivers essentials to the elderly; the New York-based tech company has relinquished its membership-fee business model in favour of a platform that connects the elderly with local volunteers. The core objective of Umbrella is to provide the elderly with food, medication and other essentials *contact-free*. Great job, guys!
Basically, the list is endless. Italian home-sharing app Sweetguest is letting out rooms for free to anyone self-isolating. UK-based parking app YourParkingSpace is currently offering NHS workers over 900 free spaces throughout the United Kingdom, while London-based start-up Fully Charged is providing free e-bikes to NHS workers for the next three months. And Paris-based food delivery service Frichti is distributing meals to hospital staff - for every meal someone donates, Frichti donates another.
In the midst of an unprecedented global emergency where many would fold, the mobile app industry has demonstrated resilience, optimism and selflessness. We're confident that, when the time comes, businesses old and new in the sector will prevail, as the world in its entirety navigates this new normal.
Although current events makes it more difficult than ever to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we're hopeful that we will emerge this stronger, kinder and with more imagination and vision than ever before.