How the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing is making us go more digital

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a massive change in how people behave. In a country like India, where pushing and shoving in public places was common, people are now practising social distancing by keeping themselves at least three feet from others. Lines in public areas are orderly for the first time.

Another impact of the pandemic is that it has accelerated trends that existed before COVID-19. While fewer people are venturing outside, more people than ever before are spending time online. Online gaming and video streaming sites have seen their subscriptions grow substantially. Social media has never been more popular; a fact attested to by the rising value of technology companies.

The world was already in the deep embrace of digital technologies; now, it is much more so. This higher interest in digital technologies means that much that earlier happened on traditional channels is happening on digital ones. A few examples of this change are as follow.

Online Virtual conferences

With most of their employees working from home, many companies are having virtual meetings. While virtual meetings are not a new phenomenon, their popularity has skyrocketed since the pandemic. People are afraid of COVID-19, at the same time they want to work. Video conferencing software lets people work from home without any fear that they will become infected by the virus. In addition to employees, many school and college-going children are also having virtual classroom sessions.

Bereaving online

Today when funerals of even the most loved people are sparsely attended because of COVID-19, their families and friends can still bereave together. Such bereavement can happen online by creating online obituaries. There are numerous advantages to creating an online obituary. Upon the passing of a loved one, an obituary can be created online immediately. While traditionally in India, people post obituaries in newspapers, there are several drawbacks to doing so. An obituary in a newspaper is printed only for one day and in all likelihood will be missed by many who knew the deceased.

Furthermore, an obituary in a newspaper is static; no new information can be added to it once it is published. The advantage of creating an online obituary is manifold. Firstly, such an obituary can be created very quickly and easily. A smartphone can be used to create an obituary on the same day a person passes away. Furthermore, such an online obituary is dynamic. All the deceased’s loved ones can contribute as much as they want to the obituary. For instance, a friend can share the memory of the dead by posting a photograph which evokes a fond memory.

Ordering In

Today nobody wants to risk eating in a restaurant. People have a good reason not to enter a restaurant. The chance of contracting COVID-19 in such places is significant. Instead of eating out more and more people are ordering in. They want to satiate their desire for delicious food but at the same time minimize their chances of contracting COVID-19. The most effective way to do both is by ordering food using one of the many food delivery apps.

While food delivery apps are still not as popular as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, many who never used food delivery apps are now turning to them. Such people tend to be those who regularly ate out, but because of the pandemic, are ordering in. As the months pass and the threat of Covid-19 diminishes, many more people will be using food delivery apps than did before the pandemic surfaced.

Shopping online

Many are just as afraid of entering shopping malls as they are of entering restaurants. That’s why instead of going out to shop, many people who never shopped online before, are turning to buying online. Online shopping was already on an upward trajectory; today, it is even more so. While entering a shop exposes people to the pandemic, shopping online is entirely safe. Also, now that all delivery persons have been trained in contactless delivery, people have all the more reason to shop online.  Just like ordering-in, shopping online will become more popular than had been anticipated before the pandemic.

The advent of digital technologies is underway. These technologies will serve as a way to keep people connected when they must stay physically apart. They will let people mourn together and buy food and other goods whenever they want. More people are creating virtual obituaries today than ever before. Online stores have captured the attention of many who earlier never shopped online. Such new adherents will continue to shopping online once normalcy resumes. In a nutshell, while consumers were already migrating to digital platforms before the pandemic, the outbreak has given this trend a massive impetus.

By Rajkumar Jalan, CEO, Pan India Internet Pvt. Ltd and Co-founder,

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