i3 | June 16, 2020

COVID-19: CTA Research Examines the New Normal

Steve Koenig

The situation arising from the novel coronavirus pandemic is as surreal as it is serious. Equipped with a ‘new’ digital toolkit, businesses and consumers alike are confronting a common challenge — coping with an evolving health crisis against the backdrop of uncertainty. So pervasive is the dynamic, that many describe it as the ‘new normal’. As the health crisis accelerated in the U.S. during early March, CTA Research kept pace with a raft of studies examining business impacts and analyzing consumer behavior.

Our initial work in CTA’s Consumer Technology Industry Update: COVID-19 Effects (March 4) documented the early shocks from COVID-19 beginning to ripple across the global economy from Asian shores. As factories across the region closed down, the impact to supply chains was increasingly apparent. Technology was especially at risk, but other sectors were already being strained including oil, travel and automotive — to name a few. As contagion spread to Europe (notably Italy) and the U.S., there was solid evidence of an economic downturn in the first quarter and the reality of a U.S. recession sank in.

Amid this climate we published our Coronavirus Member Impact Study (March 18) based on a CTA member survey fielded between March 2-9. At that time, 63% of CTA members surveyed said their company was affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Underscoring the global nature of the crisis, two-thirds (64%) of companies affected by the novel coronavirus cited impact to both U.S. and international locations. Negative operational impacts centered mostly on travel limitations, but more than half (56%) said their products were affected in some way.

How are Organizations Responding?

Importantly, our research found at this early stage companies were focused on the well-being of their employees, with some starting to message customers (17%) and a handful (8%) searching for new production facilities.

Later in March, as lockdowns and ‘stay at home’ orders cascaded from coast to coast to counter skyrocketing infection rates, we undertook a consumer study to understand how American households in isolation were using technology to stay connected, productive, informed and entertained. CTA’s COVID-19 Impact Study: Use of Technology at Home (March 26) analyzes technology use, content consumption, uptake of online shopping and delivery services and social media engagement.

For entertainment services, the pandemic has simply added to an existing uptrend. The analysis confirmed American households were engaging with more audio, video and gaming content and in some cases adding subscriptions to their entertainment stack.

But more significantly, our study found the pandemic has magnetized consumer adoption of other online services like online food or grocery delivery. These services are proving to be an essential tool to support isolating efforts and maintain physical social distancing. More than half (53%) of U.S. households we surveyed between March 20-22 had used or were considering using contactless food/grocery delivery services. The longer the pandemic remains a threat the more likely adoption of coping behaviors like online delivery use will stick once the contagion is contained.

We may also see moves toward contactless payment systems, a larger remote workforce, less business travel and a lot more video conferencing.

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