Digital Transformation: Contactless Technologies Accelerate During Pandemic

The pandemic may have digitally transformed the way businesses operate. To survive COVID-19, many businesses had to make technological shifts.

https://tickertapecdn.tdameritrade.com/assets/images/pages/md/Contactless food delivery: Digital transformation via COVID pandemic
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Key Takeaways

  • Many non-tech businesses adopted high-tech gadgets to survive the 2020 pandemic
  • Teleconferencing and contactless technologies ushered in an era of enhanced efficiencies and high-speed solutions

  • The overall business landscape may have been permanently transformed by new digital capabilities

2020 was a transformative year, for better and worse. Not only was it The Year of COVID-19, but it was also the year that nearly all businesses became “tech” companies, so to speak. Surviving the pandemic meant digitizing just about everything—if not products, then services, communications, and other daily tasks.

Although the idea of a post-pandemic world is still showing signs of first light, many of these newly digitized companies may have permanently transformed the way they think about and do business, adopting a more hybridized mix of bricks and bytes.

When Mixing Bricks and Bytes Meant Survival and Growth

As stay-at-home orders clamped down hard on every sector and industry, save Health Care and other emergency services, it seemed as if business survival came with two prefixes: “tele” and “contactless.” With telework, telehealth, telemedicine, and teleshopping on one hand, and contactless payments and contactless delivery on the other, the list goes on and on.

Businesses’ digital and remote capabilities brought varying, and perhaps surprising, levels of growth and efficiency as many adopted new technology that allowed people to work together and reach customers without having to be physically present. In the pandemic’s shadow, past or future, many businesses may decide to keep or even upgrade their tele or contactless technologies.

Here are a few ways in which the business environment might’ve experienced a radical digital transformation.

On-Screen Hangouts

In the midst of the lockdown, work, school, and social gatherings were synonymous with the word “Zoom.” When Zoom (ZM) reported earnings in August 2020, its revenue jumped 355% year over year. Seemingly everyone was using its teleconferencing platform to learn, hang out, and get work done.

Microsoft (MSFT) Teams’ revenue also jumped, and lesser so Slack’s (formerly WORK) video-less platform, before getting snagged for acquisition by Salesforce (CRM) in 2021. But overall, from preschool to boardroom, it appeared that ZM was the big star. And with the threat of any similar disruption hanging over the future, it doesn’t look like video conferencing software will fizzle out anytime soon.

Contactless and Travel-less Transactions

Buying food and other essentials was something you couldn’t avoid during the pandemic. And although everyone wore masks, latex gloves didn’t quite make the fashionable cut. But touch-based viral transmission was less of a worry for those who used contactless payment systems like Apple’s (AAPL) Apple Pay, Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google Pay, and to a lesser extent Square (SQ). And for those sending cash to friends, families, or anyone else, transferring digital funds using PayPal (PYPL) or its other platform Venmo kept COVID from hitching a ride with dead presidents.

Stores selling discretionary goods were hit hard during the lockdown but arguably not as bad as restaurants. For some, though, online delivery platforms offered by Amazon (AMZN) and DoorDash (DASH) saved not only businesses from shuttering but also households from cabin fever.

So, aside from hedging against viral exposure (not the good social media kind), contactless payment and delivery systems both provided a speed and efficiency that outmatched other forms of money transfers and product handoffs.

Looking to the bustling future, will consumers prefer to power walk on cobblestone streets knowing they can sprint on the digital superhighway?

Is Telemedicine Tearing up the Old Health Care Playbook?

One thing people needed during the pandemic, for various reasons, was to see a doctor. Sadly, it was also the one thing you either didn’t want to do or couldn’t do for fear of physical viral exposure. Clearly, the traditional doctor visit was due for disruption.

As health care providers began offering virtual doctor visits as a necessary supplement to physical appointments, some companies like Teladoc (TDOC) made telehealth and telemedicine their primary domain, connecting patients to medical professionals in a way that might have been faster and more efficient than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Another company is Boston-based Amwell (AMWL).

Arguably, nothing beats an in-person doctor visit. But do all patients really need to see their doctor in person for every medical issue they have? Probably not. And if telemedicine can make such visits faster and more efficient, how might this new emerging industry disrupt and enhance the state of the Health Care sector overall?

The Bottom Line

Toward the end of 2020, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said, “We’re not going back to the same economy; we’re going back to a different economy.” The digital transformation of the business landscape is arguably a key factor of that change. What began as a quick response to the pandemic may have transformed into an evolutionary driver reshaping the future business landscape. If so, this may also reshape the way we think about investments.

Karl Montevirgen is not a representative of TD Ameritrade, Inc. The material, views, and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and may not be reflective of those held by TD Ameritrade, Inc.

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Key Takeaways

  • Many non-tech businesses adopted high-tech gadgets to survive the 2020 pandemic
  • Teleconferencing and contactless technologies ushered in an era of enhanced efficiencies and high-speed solutions

  • The overall business landscape may have been permanently transformed by new digital capabilities

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