KGW’s ‘What’s Next?’ series looks at the future of work, technology and innovation in a post-COVID world.
PORTLAND, Ore. — For those working from home, or who’ve been laid off and your industry has collapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic, what will the near-future look like for you, once things open up? We start our new series on KGW Sunrise called What’s Next? with a look at how the world of retail will be forced to adapt to the pandemic and the new shopping habits we’ve been forced to use.
Steve Brown is a Portland-based corporate consultant, innovation futurist with 31 years at Intel, and an author whose book “The Innovation Ultimatum” came out in 2020. We asked Brown to share some predictions for the future of retail.
Fergus Nolan is a Portland-based business executive with 18 years as a senior director at Nike, now head of IT for Columbia Sportswear. We asked him for reaction to Brown’s predictions and talk about what he’s noticing in the business world.
Steve Brown: The No. 1 thing consumers are looking for right now is convenience. They want it to be easy to do business with you. If they find that it’s taking them too many clicks to go through your website and buy what they want, they’ll just get up and move on.
Nolan agrees with Brown’s predictions, saying if the pandemic is inspiring you to open a new business, whether storefront or just online, our new economy only has room for things that people truly need or want.
Fergus Nolan: COVID has accelerated the digital adoption to no end. We have done more in the last 10 months than we would probably have achieved in the next 10 years if COVID had not come about. People going into a retail store or a shopping mall, they will only do it if they feel comfortable and safe and if they’re not going to be catching things anymore.
RELATED: Portland experts share perspective on what the office will look like when you go back to work
Rise of the conscious consumer
There’s a shift toward locally made, ethically sourced, and sustainable products with a big focus on health and hygiene.
Steve Brown: A lot more people are conscious consumers, thinking about the impact they have on the world of the goods they consume. That’s everything from climate change, to pollution to deforestation. They’re now thinking about what’s the impact that my decisions have and they’re voting with their wallets.
The literal supply chain itself is changing. How far away is that stuff coming from? The pandemic left so many companies with nothing to sell, dependent on China or India or Taiwan for parts, ingredients or assembly. Even a recent story KGW did about puzzles is a perfect example. So many of them are made overseas, stores were left empty when the globe locked down. But it gave American entrepreneurs room to start their own puzzle-printing companies. At least two new ones started in Oregon.
Steve Brown: You may see “touch” start to slowly go away, it won’t happen overnight. But moving to “gesture,” where we’re just using our hands to gesture to sign in the air. Maybe facial recognition, so we’re paying with a face if we choose to do that.