COVID-19 has changed life and commerce more than many business leaders predicted. The scar of quarantining and recession will continue to be seen well into the 2020s.
Many businesses across the globe are wondering how much longer they’ll survive the pandemic. Fifty-four percent of small businesses in the U.S. have either temporarily closed or report that they could soon be closing in the coming weeks. And in China, 460,000 businesses have closed permanently within the first quarter alone.
Digitization Is the Answer
To make it through the pandemic, businesses are embracing digitization more than ever before. Across all industries, increasing numbers of companies are adopting videoconferencing tools and project management platforms to provide their employees with remote work options. Grocery stores are seeing more downloads of their grocery delivery apps. And more universities are offering virtual learning models.
One primary type of technology is jumping back in the spotlight during the pandemic: augmented reality and virtual reality. Here are some ways businesses are using these technologies to survive and thrive during coronavirus.
VR for Real Estate
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on housing markets and the real estate industry. But with VR, real estate agents and landlords have a golden opportunity to prosper, even during the pandemic.
Chinese startup Beike (Ke.com) has developed VR to let potential buyers and renters take virtual 3D tours of homes and apartments on the market. With almost 4 million houses currently available on its VR platform and 660 million people using it, VR is now an industry disruptor.
The company’s digitization efforts have also led to other efficiencies, including a real estate database that precisely defines housing properties with 433 fields. Its platform enables homebuyers to sign contracts and complete transactions online without breaking quarantine.
VR for Tradeshows and Events
The new culture of staying at home is causing unprecedented harm to the $ 2.5 trillion tradeshow industry. As exhibitions and conferences are being canceled worldwide, the damage is spilling over to other industries — especially hotels, restaurants, and airlines.
While hotels and airlines may have difficulty surviving without massive bailouts, the tradeshow industry can incorporate AR and VR to carry on. No, it won’t exactly be business as usual, but VR-based tradeshows could become even better than what they’ve been in person.
Many companies are using VR platforms that enable participants to join large conferences virtually. Avatars can appear over 360-degree live video feeds. All the knowledge of traditional real-world tradeshows can be shared without breaking quarantine orders.
Because VR-based tradeshows enable participants to join from other countries, this technology will likely stick around long after COVID-19 fears pass. The VR format could also encourage a larger number of experts to speak at conferences because it eliminates travel time, meal costs, and other traditional tradeshow expenses.
AR for Retail
Even when consumers purchase products online, they often go to a brick-and-mortar retailer to see the physical products first. But these in-person trips to the store are crumbling under the weight of quarantine orders. The retail industry obviously needs to “innovate or die” as the coronavirus runs its course.
IKEA is using an AR app that lets consumers use their smartphone to see what a piece of furniture will look like in any room of their home. The app even includes a “visual search” capability. A user simply points his phone’s camera at any piece of non-IKEA furniture, and the app searches its database to show the user examples of IKEA furniture that look similar.
Other retailers are using AR to let consumers see what they’d look like wearing a particular piece of clothing or eyeglasses without trying them on in person. Many shoppers are now able to accurately preview themselves in a certain shade of lipstick or hair color before ordering these items online.
The Opportunities Are Endless
There’s no end to the possible use cases for VR and AR during the current pandemic. In healthcare, doctors and surgeons use VR to view detailed scans of a patient’s anatomy without the patient being present. In the education field, classes and labs are increasingly being conducted at a distance, as if the entire class is in the same room. And think of the travel industry, which can offer virtual tours of almost any site or attraction on earth.
The bottom line is that digitization is no longer optional. As society continually changes with new realities like quarantining, only the most innovative businesses are surviving.
It’s crucial to think of ways to bring your customer to your products, even if your customer never leaves her home. It’s also important to think of new ways to virtually bring your employees to work, conferences, and events.
If you can find new ways to deliver value and convenience, all at a distance, you’ll likely thrive as a business operating in the era of COVID-19.