man outside doing virtual workout
Businesses that thrived during COVID-19 will likely stay successful in the post-pandemic world. — Getty Images/FG Trade

As COVID-19 continues to shift the business and commerce landscapes in the U.S. and around the world, some companies have been fortunate to see enormous jumps in demand. Many of these businesses, which mostly center around technology and recreation, will not simply be a flash in the pan and will continue to attract many customers after the pandemic in part to changing consumer behavior.

Here are 10 business types that will be in demand even after the threat of COVID-19 fully subsides.

At-home fitness

Peloton, Mirror and other companies that provide home-based connected fitness products and online classes have become popular because many gyms closed throughout the U.S. during the pandemic. However, now that these products and classes have become part of the home routines, it’s likely they are here to stay for the long term.

“With more people aware of the virtual options for maintaining their fitness and wellness, I think people will continue to include online classes and workouts as a part of their overall wellness routine,” Paul Javid, CEO of Alo Moves, told Forbes. “The key factor here is variety — people want their workouts to work for them, and they enjoy being able to customize their classes to their ever-evolving lifestyle.”

Cybersecurity

With so many more people working from home during the pandemic, IT has been a struggle for companies. As such, businesses have invested in cybersecurity solutions to help protect company computers, phones and data that are being used all over the country instead of in corporate offices. With some companies telling workers they can remain remote after the pandemic, the need for cybersecurity will remain.

“Companies are already dealing with remote workforces that were increasing in size — remote roles were increasing at most places, but then the whole company was remote,” Chris Wysopal, founder and chief technology officer of cybersecurity firm Veracode, told CNBC. “And so all of a sudden you had to deal with ‘How am I securing all the laptops that are there? How are all those employees getting in all the systems they need to access?’ It changed everything really, really quickly and cybersecurity people had to scramble, essentially, to make sure that that was all done well.”

E-commerce

With many physical stores still not allowing full capacity because of the pandemic and some closed for good because of COVID-19, more people are shopping online than ever. E-commerce sales in the United States increased more than 40% year-over-year in August 2020, reaching $63 billion, according to data from Adobe. Now, even if people head back to these stores after the pandemic, the convenience of online shopping will remain and more people will take advantage of that.

“We are seeing signs that online purchasing trends formed during the pandemic may see permanent adoption,” Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights, said in a recent report. “While BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) was a niche delivery option pre-pandemic, it is fast becoming the delivery method of choice as consumers become more familiar with the ease, convenience and experience.”

Fast-food franchises

While not all franchises have sustained normal demand levels during the pandemic, some franchises are thriving. Fast food franchises in particular have adapted to changing consumer behavior, including more people ordering in bulk, a preference for “contactless” pickup, in-app digital ordering and new traffic spike times. New investments in technology and automation will likely help fast-food companies weather the storm and remain a popular option after the pandemic.

With more people cooped up inside in 2020, consumers turned to gaming to help them pass the time during the pandemic.

Food delivery

With fewer people dining out and more eating at home during the pandemic, there’s also been a jump in consumers having meals delivered. While food delivery services such as Grubhub and Uber Eats have struggled with profitability, they have become more popular than ever during the pandemic. Uber, for example, said demand for Uber Eats more than doubled in the second quarter of 2020. Even before the pandemic, the market for online food delivery was projected by some analysts to reach $200 billion by 2025. Now that the pandemic has introduced more consumers to the convenience of food delivery, there’s good reason to believe it will stick.

Gaming

With more people cooped up inside in 2020, consumers turned to gaming to help them pass the time during the pandemic. Whether that gaming was on consoles, PCs or mobile devices, sales were up. As of the end of August 2020, $29.4 billion of video games had been sold in the U.S., up 23% from the year-before period, according to Quartz. Quartz reporter Adam Epstein believes many of those people who gamed during the pandemic will continue to play even after it is over.

“These widespread increases in both game sales and usage likely can’t be sustained as consumers leave their homes more often and life slowly returns to some semblance of a prior normalcy,” Epstein writes. “But they may fall back to a much higher baseline, as the pandemic permanently changes our entertainment habits, further steeping the world in gaming culture.”

Home improvement

During the pandemic, home sales have boomed, with many Americans seeking more comfortable places to ride out COVID-19. In July 2020 alone, home sales increased by 8.7% versus July 2019 sales. With so many people living in newly bought houses and more people stuck at home, home improvement stores and services have seen a new boom as well. Companies like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply and Sherwin-Williams have all seen demand increase this year, and surveys suggest home improvements will continue for quite some time as people invest in new properties.

“Although we expect some near-term deceleration as parts of the population go back to their places of business and spend less time at home, COVID-19 could provide a longer-term benefit for home improvement stocks if it ultimately does cause an increase in housing turnover as our survey may suggest,” Bank of America analyst Elizabeth Suzuki wrote. “A shift into larger existing homes (corresponding to a shift out of cities) and older homes requiring renovation (which most young buyers can more easily afford), could be a multi-year tailwind.”

Remote work software

Remote work applications — whether it’s video chat, instant messaging, productivity, collaboration or other tools — have become important fixtures in the work-from-home landscape that has been accelerated by the pandemic. Companies have invested in this software to better connect employees who no longer have the office to center themselves around. While some employees will go back to the office after the pandemic, not all will. As such, the software makers behind these tools will likely remain in demand.

Telemedicine

More people than ever are seeking medical appointments via telemedicine due to concerns about catching COVID-19 and restrictions limiting the number of people allowed in offices. Forrester now predicts “virtual care visits will soar to more than 1 billion” in 2020. While some people who did virtual doctor visits will return to in-person appointments, the ease of virtual visits and investments by doctors in telemedicine software means it’s here to stay.

"We've been telling doctors for years that by 2024, there will be more virtual visits per day than in-person visits. COVID has brought that date two years, maybe three years forward," Clinton Phillips, CEO and founder of telehealth app Medici, told TechRepublic. "Before, doctors were saying, 'Oh, 1% of visits are virtual. This will take forever.' Now they're going, 'Oh my gosh, this is really happening.'"

Virtual events

During the pandemic, virtual events and conferences have become a staple for companies trying to replace in-person experiences. While said in-person events will return after the pandemic ends, virtual events will also remain because so many people have now been exposed to them and companies have invested in the infrastructure to make virtual events work. What also might develop is a new hybrid model, where a conference will take place in person but there will also be an online version of the event for virtual attendees.

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Published September 22, 2020