5 Big Picture Trends Being Accelerated by the Pandemic
As every email introduction has reminded us in 2020, we’re living in “unprecedented times”.
No doubt, even after a viable vaccine is released to the general public and things begin to return to some semblance of normalcy, there will be long lasting effects on society and the economy. It’s been said that COVID-19 has hit fast forward on a number of trends, from e-commerce to workplace culture.
Today, we’ll highlight five of these accelerating trends.
#1: Screen Life Takes Hold
Smartphones have drastically altered many parts our lives – including how we spend time. In the decade from 2008 to 2018, screen time on mobile devices increased 12x.
Fast forward to today, and screen time is up across the board, with some of the most dramatic increases seen among kids and teenagers. 44% of people under the age of 18 now report four hours or more of screen time per day – up from 21% prior to the pandemic.
Gaming is another digital segment that has benefited from the pandemic. Video game revenue spiked in the springtime, and sales have remained strong going further into 2020. Companies are hoping that casual gamers won over during lockdown will continue playing once the pandemic has come to an end.
Acceleration signal: International bandwidth and internet traffic was already increasing steadily, but COVID-19 stay-at-home activity has blown away previous numbers.
Even as more workplaces and schools begin to operate normally again, it’s doubtful that screen time will drop back down to pre-COVID levels.
#2: The Big Consumer Shake-Up
The consumer economy has been innovating on two fronts: making physical buying as “frictionless” as possible, and making e-commerce as nimble as possible. COVID-19 broke old habits and sped up that evolution.
Innovations in real world shopping appear to be moving in the direction of cashierless checkouts, but in order for that model to work, people first need to embrace contactless payment methods such as mobile wallets and cards with tap payment.
So far, the pandemic has been an accelerant in moving people away from cash and pin-and-swipe credit cards in lagging markets. Once people get used to the convenience of contactless payments, it’s likely they’ll continue using those methods.
Of course, no conversation about e-commerce is complete without talking about Amazon. The company has seen consistent growth in subscription revenue in recent years, and the company’s actions have a wide-reaching effect on the rest of the industry.
Much like the gaming industry, e-commerce companies like Amazon are hoping that people who dabbled with online ordering during the pandemic months, will convert into lifelong customers.
Acceleration signal: E-commerce penetration projections have shifted upward.
In hindsight, 2020 could be an inflection point where e-commerce gained a much bigger slice of the overall retail pie.
#3: Peak Globalization
Globalization went on a tear starting from the mid-1980s until it hit a plateau during the financial crisis. Since that point, global trade as a percentage of GDP has flat-lined in the face of trade wars, and now COVID-19.
Trade was obviously impacted by the pandemic, and it’s too early to say what the long-term effects will be. One thing that is clear is that the information component of globalization is becoming an even more important piece of the world’s economic puzzle.
Even before COVID-19 took hold, the global services trade was growing 60% faster than the goods trade, and was valued at approximately $13.4 trillion in 2019.
Acceleration signal: The dip in merchandise trade looks eerily similar to the one that took place in 2008.
#4: The Wealth Chasm
On the high end of the wealth spectrum, billionaires are worth more than ever.
Meanwhile, in the broader economy, inequality has grown over the last few decades. Those in the top 50% wealth bracket have seen increasing gains, while the bottom 50% have seen stagnation.
This issue is sure to be compounded by economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19. Younger generations face the dual challenges of being more likely to be negatively impacted by the pandemic, while also being the least likely to have savings to cover an interruption in income.
In fact, nearly half of people in the 18–24 year old age group have nothing saved at all.
The longer the economy is affected by COVID-19 measures, the more of a wedge will be driven between people who have continued working and those who are employed in impacted industries (e.g. tourism, events).
Acceleration signal: Growth in the net worth of billionaires has been largely unaffected by COVID-19.
#5: The Flexible Workplace
As of 2019, over half of companies that didn’t have a flexible or remote workplace policy cited “longstanding company policy” as the reason. In other words, that is just the way things have always worked.
Of course, the pandemic has forced many companies to rethink these policies.
This grand experiment in remote work and distributed teams will have an impact on office life as we know it, potentially reshaping the entire “office economy”. The impact is already being felt, with global commercial property investment volume falling by 48% in Q3 2020.
Acceleration signal: Thousands of people are moving out of pricey urban areas, presumably because they are able to work remotely from a cheaper location.
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Visualizing the World’s Flower Bouquet Export Market
This graphic highlights global flower bouquet sales in 2021 and how a few countries dominate the entire flower export market.
Visualizing the World’s Flower Bouquet Export Market
For many, flower bouquets are the go-to gift choice when congratulating a colleague, visiting an ailing relative, or simply showing love and kindness to partners and friends.
And the global popularity of these carefully-arranged and vividly-colored bundles has led to the creation of a billion-dollar flower bouquet market. And demand for beautiful bouquets has kept growing, with global flower bouquet exports in 2021 reaching $11 billion—which is a 30.2% rise since 2017.
Louis Lugas Wicaksono uses data from World’s Top Exports to highlight the spread of this industry. In this image, he shows the flower bouquet exports across different countries in 2021.
Countries Trading the Most Flower Bouquets
Far at the top of the list and best known for their tulips, the Netherlands dominated the flower bouquet export industry in 2021.
|Rank||Country||Continent||Flower Bouquet Exports (2021 USD)|
|12||🇿🇦 South Africa||Africa||$70.4M|
|🌎 Rest of the world||$735.2M|
The small European nation exported $5.7 billion worth of bouquets in 2021, accounting for over half of global flower bouquet trade. This dominance comes from centuries of being the world’s largest producer of flowers and being a floral trade hub due to its advantageous location and connections with other growers, suppliers, and wholesalers.
Colombia and Ecuador fall next on this list with their exports totaling $1.7 billion and $927 million, respectively. Roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums are heavily exported from these South American nations.
On the other side of the Atlantic, cut rose flower exports were the leading drivers for Kenya and Ethiopia, earning these African nations $725 million and $254 million respectively.
Together, these five nations contributed to 85% of the world’s flower bouquet trade in 2021.
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the flower bouquet export industry remained resilient. However, this was not an easy feat.
Many florists embraced new strategies like online sales and free home deliveries, and exporters dealt with global shipping slowdowns. Some countries including Columbia and Kenya focused on producing flowers with longer shelf lives that could be shipped further away.
As we continue to drift away from the pandemic and global trade eases up, we can expect this industry to blossom further.
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