I haven’t had a cold in months. I haven’t had to commute to the office, nor travel for business. If I want, my groceries can be delivered with just a click. The same holds true for any medicines I may need, or books, or home goods… really, almost anything can now be delivered to my front door. Yes, this lockdown was rough–for me and for everyone–but it has shown that there isn’t much I actually have to go to. Instead, everything can come to me.
Thanks to COVID-19 and a world thrust into chaos, we live in a changed world. As I wrote in my upcoming book, “Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula for Taking On Challenges and Achieving Happiness and Success”, suffering and setbacks are part of the human equation, and the pandemic has certainly given us plenty of both! We now know that the threat of pandemic is real, and the costs when one hits are significant. The World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 will require a new way of living until a vaccine is available, and as a result, businesses had to switch from an office-based existence to a remote workforce. All travel related to work was reduced to nil, while the notion of attending a conference or client dinner was (and remains) simply out of the question until science comes up with a vaccine or cure. COVID-19 has changed everything!
A Major Economic Flaw Exposed: The Economy was too dependent upon Human Travel
The sudden and dramatic shutdown exposed a major flaw in the modern economy. Previously, there was too much risk associated with an economy that emphasized human movement and close gathering. Now, crowded movie theaters and shopping centers, and packed airliners and trains–all the norm until COVID-19 struck–are big red flags.
As a result, humans–already evolving in the immutable pursuit of convenience–will change how much they physically move and how closely they will gather. Meanwhile, more and more products and services will come to them. Gatherings will be more virtual. Prior to the pandemic, we already had Amazon and Instacart delivering to our homes and a plethora of streaming services bringing us entertainment. But now, the shift to has kicked into high gear, with companies like Twitter and Facebook making their transitions to working from home a permanent one. Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke, who has already told Shopify employees they can work from home until 2021 and likely permanently, was recently quoted as saying, “The age of office-centricity is over.”
Coinbase, UpWork and others are also adopting “remote-first” policies. Work is coming to the home with Global Work Place Analytics estimating that 25-30% of the US workforce will permanently work from home in 2021. A recent survey even shows that consumers would rather watch movies from home than in a crowded movie theater! (For more on the shifting business landscape, check out this Bold Business story “Businesses Are Adapting to a Post-COVID-19 World”.)
Through all this, I believe the world will be a much better place, one that’s safer, less susceptible to pandemics, with cleaner air and less time spent commuting. COVID-19 forced the world to shift from the “Go-To Economy” to the “Come-To-Me Economy”–and there will be massive opportunities for those who are ready to adapt to this new world!
Less Human Travel: Simple Changes Can Have the Most Profound Impact
Throughout history, simple changes have had the most profound impact on the world. During prehistoric times, it was the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel–a simple chemical change and a simple engineering development. Much later on, it was the creation of the printing press, the combustion engine and the silicon chip, each relatively small things that occurred in workshops and labs, but by ushering in new stages of industrial development, these small things made for big impacts.
In describing how entire civilizations can rise or fall based on their ability to conquer, withstand viral outbreaks and leverage technology, Jared Diamond’s best-selling book “Guns, Germs and Steel” showed that simple changes have altered the destiny of mankind. I can see we are at one of these turning points again. The simple change: instead of moving yourself to something for a service or good (or for work), those things will come to you.
No more “go to”. Instead, it will be “come to me”. All because of how we must deal with a pandemic.
Why Not “Come-to Me”? An Immutable History of Pursuing Convenience
The idea of convenience is immutable. We wanted to bring heat into our houses, plumbing into our houses and refrigeration into our houses to make our worlds more convenient–it’s only logical that we would want to bring more entertainment into our houses, plus doctors, food and whatever else we can get that would make our lives easier. Our long history of pursuing convenience shows us that, as an evolutionary step in societal development, the Come-to-Me Economy is inevitable.
When live theater was the dominant form of entertainment, consumers had to go to such venues to get their fill. But the rise of broadcast media–radio, film and television–enabled that entertainment to go directly to consumers, no trips to the theater required.
The come to me economy for sports entertainment started in baseball. When baseball first took hold of the nation, the financial viability of holding baseball games was based on the premise that fans wanted to physically come to games, paying for a ticket (and maybe purchasing some peanuts and Cracker Jacks while there). This was the sport’s main revenue stream.
The First Broadcast Rights were sold in 1897. That’s right 1897!
I am a big baseball fan and love it’s history. Beginning in 1897, broadcast rights began to be sold. Initially, this was via telegraph, but as technology evolved, so too did the broadcasting arrangement. From “The Economic History of Major League Baseball”:
Each team received $300 in free telegrams as part of a league-wide contract to transmit game play-by-play over the telegraph wire. In 1913 Western Union paid each team $17,000 per year over five years for the rights to broadcast the games. The movie industry purchased the rights to film and show the highlights of the 1910 World Series for $500. In 1911 the owners managed to increase that rights fee to $3500.
Eventually, radio became the broadcast media of choice, then television.
In 1946 the New York Yankees became the first team with a local television contract when they sold the rights to their games for $75,000. By the end of the century they sold those same rights for $52 million per season. By 1951 the World Series was a television staple, and by 1955 all teams sold at least some of their games to local television.
Nowadays, the top three baseball team franchises–the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox–can each boast annual revenues of over a half billion dollars, which much of that coming from mankind’s quest for convenience, and the evolution of having to physically go to a baseball game to being able to sit on a couch with your friends and cheer on your team from the comfort of your home.
This “Come-to Me” change made the baseball industry owners billionaires. Come-to-Me will do the same to many more industries.
For more on how the next evolution of sports entertainment, check out the Bold Business story “Sports Are Now More Digital Than Before”.
Humans Don’t Travel as Easily as Products, So the Products Should Come to the Humans!
Sometimes massive opportunities come and people don’t see them, even when they’re staring them in the face. Case in point: the entertainment industry.
A revolution occurred in the entertainment industry in the late 1940’s, as a new medium was introduced that conveniently brought entertainment into people’s homes. At that time, the television industry wasn’t just born, it was an outrageous success. People were happy and fortunes were made. It altered industries forever.
But the folks behind live theater hated television because they were concerned live TV was going to impact their bottom line. It did, of course, but ultimately television greatly expanded the entertainment industry as a whole. Entertainment shifted from Go-To to Come-To-Me, and now delivery systems in communications and cable are worth billions, simply to feed people’s desire for convenience in entertainment.
Of course, any digital age example would have to include the most obvious one: Amazon. When Amazon was first introduced as a home shopping platform, it dealt only in books. But demand for all products was so high that Amazon shifted to selling virtually everything.
The Come-to-Me Economy Was Hidden in Plain Sight
With entire swaths of the globe under lockdown, businesses have pivoted to work-from-home postures that replace the constant movement of commuting, business trips and conferences with video calls. Everything, it seems, can be done remotely. But prior to the paradigm shift the coronavirus lockdowns brought, the world was already teetering on the precipice of the Come-to-Me Economy–in fact, the Come-to-Me Economy was hidden in plain sight!
The examples were all around us.
- Instead of going out to restaurants to eat, companies like UberEats and Doordash were bringing those restaurants (or their dishes at least) to customers.
- Traveling to work was becoming less needed due to the Internet giving access to company systems and robotics.
- Physical business meetings were being replaced by apps like WebTalk, Slack, Google Meet, Citrix, Facetime and Zoom.
- Trips to the grocery store were becoming trips to the front door of your home to gather the bags Instacart and Shipt dropped off.
- Clothing shopping and more were pivoting to stronger online presences thanks to Amazon, Shopify, WalMart and a wealth of other retail giants.
- Where possible, going to the doctor’s office or physical therapist was being replaced with telemedicine. Take Kaia Health for example: with the promise of turning your smartphone into a digital personal trainer, therapist or doctor, Kaia Health took what has traditionally been a service people had to go to and rebranded and redefined it as digital therapy, eliminating the need for close person-to-person contact (and the spread of germs!).
- Going to concerts was changing. Virtual concerts with Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and so many others have now gone mainstream. Billboard even has a special section for livestreams and virtual concerts.
- Dating was going even further into the virtual world. One of my friends recently shared with me his experience of virtual dating. With a Zoom date you can still meet someone, have a drink together, and share a conversation–all without leaving your home.
Our economy was too dependent on moving humans, but that doesn’t have to be! And now one small change–the need to have stuff come to the consumer instead of the consumer go to it–is leading to a profound impact. The Come-to-Me Economy was hiding in plain sight, and it’s being embraced like never before!
Clean Air, More Time and Lower Costs: The Winners and Losers in a Come-To-Me Economy
As with any economic shift, there are always winners and losers.
Business will irrevocably change.
- Shifting to a Come-To-Me Economy is a boon for companies like TeleVet, Peloton, ClassPass, Outschool and anyone else whose basic tenet was providing an element of convenience to consumers.
- Virtual offices mean a lower overhead for businesses that have had to buy or rent office space.
- Less business travel means lower business costs as well.
- By removing geography and going virtual, workforces will have a far easier time becoming more diverse and inclusive.
On a personal level, there are a lot of “winners”, too.
- Specifically, everyone who no longer has to commute to go to work. Removing that commute definitely improves the quality of life for many–if not everyone!
- Cutting work travel out of the equation puts more personal time on the clock for individuals who spend an hour navigating rush hour traffic–personal time that could be used for exercise and improving one’s health.
- Even the advent of virtual dinners and happy hours means less travel and more time for yourself and your family.
- Take commuting and travel out of the equation and a person saves more than time – they save money, too!
Society as a whole has a lot of wins coming to it.
- Commuting consumes massive amounts of energy and pollutes the air. Remove this facet of the Go-To Economy and even Mother Earth benefits.
- Take away commuting and you take away the pressing need for constantly maintaining roads. The money saved by municipalities can then be better spent on education, healthcare and a multitude of other things that can improve society as a whole.
- Less exposure to strangers on the subway, bus or airplane means less germs and viruses passed about. Remember what I said about not having a cold in months? As someone who commuted quite frequently from Florida to New York City, I can say with full authority that that is a big win, and I’m sure the rest of the former commuting world (and their families) would agree!
- Take away travel requirements and you have a population that can focus on personal health more. That makes for a healthier population!
- The world has been lamenting about traffic congestion since humans first began congregating in towns and markets. Guess what the Come-to-Me Economy alleviates?
- The efficiency of “Come-to-Me” makes our society wealthier, in terms of time, money saved, and accessibility. After all, if everything is offered online, then geographic constraints are removed. Now, schools can have the best teachers teach from anywhere in the world (not just within driving distance of a particular institution) and businesses can pick from a global talent pool.
A Change for the Better
It has been a shock, I’ll admit it. The Manhattan I know is very different now than it was just a few months ago. There have been challenges, and while I discuss how challenges are a part of living in my book, you have to wonder sometimes if the subsequent changes for the better. (Spoiler alert: they are.)
For well over a century, the notion of constant movement was a cornerstone of the economy. From getting up in the morning and commuting to work, to business trips to meet with clients in distant locales, to conferences in hotel ballrooms in Las Vegas, the idea that nearly every aspect of business had at least some component of people moving from one place to another was simply just part of the equation. It was something that had to be done. Yet, now we know it doesn’t have to be done that way.
Thankfully, our economy and society can now better transform itself to make it more pandemic proof without sacrificing economics. After all, the human race has always been adaptable.
We will thrive in this new way of living.
I am looking forward to sitting back and letting this new lifestyle “Come-to-Me”.
For more on what the future holds, check out the Bold Business story “After the Lockdowns: The Post-COVID-19 Business Outlook”.
Ed’s book, Project Bold Life: The Proven Formula for Taking on Challenges and Achieving Happiness and Success, is due out later this year. For more information, check out his site.