A few days away from an inevitable third confinement, in no way comparable to the two previous ones, the prospect of a different future is taking shape. While the world may one day return to its pre-Covid-19 state, there is no doubt that the impact of the health crisis will continue to weigh heavily on people and businesses, and will lastingly transform our consumption habits for decades to come. It is an opportunity for our societies to reinvent themselves, to go back to basics and to write a new page of a desirable future, not quite like yesterday.
The new year of 2021 has not brought the hoped-for improvement. At least not yet. As the imminent threat of a third containment looms, life under the Covid bell stretches on, with its share of constraints, temporary renunciations and despair. Nevertheless, rather than sinking into depression or mental illness, there are positive points to be drawn from this crisis that has become, by force of circumstance, our daily life. First of all, it highlighted our capacity to adapt, both individually and collectively.
Companies were quick to deploy IT tools and remote work. By spreading teleworking, which was previously marginal, they have been able to maintain their efficiency without collapsing despite repeated lockdowns and other curfews. In less than a year, the French economy has shown resilience. Until when? It is difficult to say, as the health context is so fluid and uncertain. The appearance of new variants of the coronavirus at the very moment when the first beneficial effects of the vaccination campaign were expected, has blurred the January indicators."The hoped-for rapid economic recovery will not take place. An uncertain economic and health context to which all French people will have to get used to, willingly or not."
All possible accompanying measures to support a country can be imagined but our species seems to be in danger in front of this threat of nature. The simple repeated mutation of a virus, existing in the animal kingdom, was enough to destabilize the fragile balance of our global ecosystem. It is true that science has rapidly provided solutions (identification of the virus, definition of gestures and protocols to protect against it, development of a messenger RNA vaccine in record time, etc.). But the pandemic is a reminder of just how fragile, mortal and human we are.
This brutal awareness of our finitude, by a simple virus that hinders our lives, has several virtues: it questions us, forces us to reflect on ourselves, on the meaning to give to our life, our deepest aspirations, the inter-generational differences, our societal models... Although salutary, this forced introspection is more and more badly experienced by the young generations, deprived of their freedom and their means to exchange, to meet and to build themselves. This generation Y and Z who are prevented from going to school today are paying a high price for the crisis: their education is impacted, their orientation is disrupted and their insertion into professional life is delayed, generating a generational spleen when it is not, outright, a plunge into precariousness and depression. The letter from Victor, a law student, to President Macron illustrates the cry of the heart of this distraught youth.
Condemned to change, we unconsciously rebuild, little by little, a new world, with different practices. All of this was made possible by flawless logistics, the effectiveness of which was again demonstrated by the crisis. From "click and collect" to last-mile delivery, commerce has integrated the digital dimension at a rapid pace in order to better serve consumers who are restricted in their movements. Some restaurateurs have created special concepts, developed meals, packaging and cooking methods specific to delivery. The point of sale itself is being reinvented. Showroom, ephemeral store, third places: the physical store will have to evolve strongly towards new functionalities, all but commercial. As a place of experience rather than a place of sale, it will have to prove itself desirable to attract an even more connected consumer who has changed.
The pandemic has changed the way we use and relate to each other. Gone are the concerts that bring together thousands of spectators, the huge events: the event industry, with a loss of 80% of its turnover in 2020, is one of the sectors most affected by the crisis. On the first of January, restaurants, bars, discos and cinemas, all places of sociability, remained closed. In collective catering, the number of guests at a table is limited to 4, the chairs occupied must be separated by one meter and the maximum capacity is set at one person per 8 m2, just like stores and shopping centers. Today, the restaurant is coming to the house. All that's left is to light the candles, put on some music and open a good bottle of wine to get life back on track.
Entrepreneurs, shopkeepers or restaurant owners have already seized new opportunities: shopping appointments, individualized 360° tele-coaching... This personalization of the offer is part of a trend that has been in place for several years. Amazon, Netflix or Spotify were already implementing it through targeted recommendation logics, personalized home pages or curation systems. In the same way, over the last 10 months, physical retailers have moved closer to consumers and have rediscovered their true raison d'être: proximity and customer intimacy. It is by addressing the individual rather than the flow, through multi-channel offers and other dedicated services, that the retail of tomorrow will demonstrate its added value and its raison d'être. Crises have the advantage of reviving the fundamentals and accelerating transformations.
Since it is clear that we will have to continue to live at a distance for some time to come, it is time to individually and collectively enter into resistance: let us be resisters for life! Ready to go on living no matter what and to bounce back when the situation demands it. Examples of entrepreneurs who have reinvented themselves abound everywhere. In the textile industry, a sector that has been shaken up and which has been able to make its production tool available - short circuit - to make protective masks in an emergency to equip the population; this same sector that is pushing e-commerce, well before the pandemic, with innovation has allowed the most advanced brands on digital to resist.
Online measurement tools (for example, the MySizeID application, a turnkey solution on a smartphone that helps Internet users choose the appropriate size of clothing for the chosen brand, based on body measurements in real time). The certainties and business model of fashion are reinvented as the crisis evolves. The acceleration of second hand, the rationalization of collections, the relocation of production and the return to the essentials are the weak signals of a more responsible consumption that is progressing rapidly."Post-Covid the customer base will not buy the same and will maintain consumption habits ingrained during the health crisis."
And it is on the mobile internet that everything will be played out. In the Covid era, the digital screen has become the essential channel for dialogue between stakeholders: everything is shown, everything is "liked", everything is commented on, for better or for worse. The screen of our favorite devices is becoming the new marketplace where we can meet, chat, tweet, post photos, make our voices heard, tell anything and show that we exist. The crisis has clearly increased the time spent in front of the screens. An online study conducted by Harris Interactive for the association Assurance Prévention/IRMES, estimates this increase at 50%, or 33.3 hours on average per week, for 6 to 18 year olds between February and June 2020. And for good reason, social media (TikTok, Whatsapp, Instagram, Zoom Cloud Meetings, Facebook Messenger, Netflix, Vinted, Snapchat...) are stimulating our children's brains 24/7.
Be careful, however, that these digital flows on screen do not come to lobotomize us and take the place of books which, alone, open us a true window on others and the rest of the world. From containment to containment, we learn a little more about living with viruses. In this new existential mode, our digital tools should not replace our dreams: for us, and especially for our children, let's keep intact our ability to imagine another post-Covid world!