Technology has helped make life tolerable in the pandemic. And whenever it becomes normal again to leave the house for work, school and shopping, we won’t be going back to the way it was. What were conveniences before the pandemic now seem necessities that we’re unlikely to give up even after there’s widespread immunity to the coronavirus. And there are a number of reasons this new stay-at-home economy will likely be an important part of the new normal.
First, companies have made huge investments in the infrastructure needed to deliver goods and services to our homes quickly and efficiently, which means those products are now easier to use and often less expensive. Second, families have also invested in the services and gadgets to keep their members safe and sated while sheltering in place. Third, our habits have changed: Many people have gotten over the “hump” of adopting new technologies earlier than they otherwise might have. And finally, hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost traditional jobs in retail and service—on showroom floors and inside restaurants—have found new ones working in online order fulfillment and delivery. Even those who retained their jobs are seeing their roles shift to address these new conduits for economic activity.
It’s no wonder Fed Chairman Jerome Powellsaid on Tuesday, “We’re not going back to the same economy—we’re recovering, but to a different economy.”
You don’t have to look beyond the behemoth of Amazon for an example of a company betting that the stay-at-home economy will last. It spent $30 billion on capital expenditures in the first nine months of 2020, much of it for its e-commerce business.
Just about every other company that competes with Amazon has made its own investments to handle the pandemic surge of demand. Walmart , Target and major grocery chains have all doubled down on using their stores as fulfillment centers in which deliveries can be packed up and sent out. Netflix , Disney and other purveyors of streamed entertainment have added not just subscribers but also deals for the IT infrastructure and content required to keep them around.