2021 and Beyond: How Supply Chain, Car Buying, and Real Estate Industries Adapted and Accelerated Growth

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change–Charles Darwin

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything from medical appointments to schooling to workouts went online. As more people worked, learned, exercised, relaxed, sought medical care, and even coordinated home renovations from their homes during the pandemic, they received a crash course in just how much can be accomplished remotely from the comfort of their couch (or beach in Mexico.)

A year into the pandemic, some countries have resumed daily life, while some are currently experiencing a resurgence in cases. As vaccines are administered, what will be defined as the “new normal” remains uncertain for many, but what all are certain about is the fact that the pandemic has not only fundamentally impacted our personal lives, but also impacted the way we live, work, and conduct milestone events.  This is likely to last long after the pandemic is completely over, possibly even forever.  In this post, we will explore how several industries have adapted to the challenges presented by COVID-19.  

Real Estate

Record-low mortgage rates and a drastically low inventory of housing, created by the era of remote work and resulting “mass exodus” from large urban areas, have raised the stakes on the housing market in many places.  We are living through the most competitive housing market in decades. The median sales price of single-family homes rose more than 10 percent in 88 percent of U.S. metro areas, pushing the monthly mortgage payment for a typical single-family home up to $1,040 this month, according to the National Association of Realtors. With extra low mortgage rates — currently hovering around 3% — continuing to hold, mortgage applications for home purchases are way up.

Gone are the days when buyers could walk through a home multiple times over few weeks’ time before making an offer. Nowadays, homes generally have multiple offers on the table within hours of the MLS listing going public; sometimes even earlier.  Buyers have had to adapt to optimize their chances of signing on a home and as a result, many tech tools are now being used to view listings, apply for loans, and finalize contracts; all from the comfort of their sofas.  These tools include 3-D walk throughs of homes, virtual tours through Zoom, online loan platforms, and remote signing and notary software like DotLoop or DocuSign. 

Car Buying

Prior to the pandemic, the ways that typical consumers purchased new or used cars at a dealership had not changed significantly in years.  Most shoppers went to multiple dealerships to check out a car that they were interested in, took the car out for a test drive, negotiated pricing with the salesperson, and finally worked through paperwork and warranty terms with the finance manager.  

Prior to March 2020. the shift towards online buying had already begun.  Most buyers spent a significant amount of time online researching cars before heading to the dealerships.  However, the process of purchasing a car solely online was not seamless and therefore not widely used.  

Once COVID hit, dealers were forced to close all departments other than the service department and had to immediately pivot to online sales processes, at home test drives, and flexible car delivery options.  Automakers quickly implemented platforms with a full spectrum of features: from pricing research to determining trade in values through digital contract signatures.  Customers love the transparency of the platform while automakers and dealerships value the increased bond with the consumer that the platform enables while managing the end-to-end process.

Nowadays, customers are unlikely to go back to the way things were before COVID and to spend hours at a dealership negotiating a great deal on their next car, especially since they have digital tools that will allow them to negotiate with multiple dealers at the same time without the pressure of in-person showrooms.  Some carmakers have added the ability for customers to see the price that they will pay-online or in person-directly on the app once the car options have been configured, giving them transparency, and reducing the risk of customer displeasure at the final stages of pricing negotiation.

Supply Chain

The year 2020 saw Covid-19 challenge governments, economies, healthcare systems, businesses, and individuals; and the supply chain industry was no exception as companies scrambled to keep a steady stream of product flowing into their 3PLs and customers’ warehouses considering material shortages, factory shutdowns, transport disruptions, and movement restrictions.  Businesses are preparing for lasting changes to adapt and minimize risk, shifting their business models to meet the dramatic shifts in global patterns and consumer behavior.  

A huge supply chain issue that is impacting everyday life today is the semiconductor chip shortage.  This has not only impacted the automotive industry- thousands of cars are sitting in plants across the country waiting for the final parts needed to complete assembly- but the electronics industry as well.   This shortage was caused by the increased demand for consumer electronics during COVID, such as smartphones, laptops, and monitors.  The manufacturing facilities cannot just hire more workers to ramp up production to keep up with demand.  The chips are difficult and time consuming to produce- they take time to design, to build a foundry capable of making them, and for the production itself. This shortage is expected to last until at least 2022.  This is impacting new car sales, the car rental industry (if you are travelling, book your car as soon as your flights are confirmed!) and everyday products such as toothbrushes and TVs.

One of the biggest supply chain triggers was the global surge in e-commerce activity. Imposed social distancing measures and curfews caused a mass switch to online shopping. Traditional brick-and-mortar brands started experimenting and restructuring product offerings to meet new consumer demands, whether that meant going digital and selling online, exploring the direct-to-consumer (D2C) model, or working creatively to take an experience-based business into people’s homes. 

Companies had to embrace innovative solutions to help stand out against the competition.  One recent example is Alibaba- the company recently launched a cloud based livestreaming product designed for e-ecommerce.  This will allow brands to launch a live stream shopping feature on their websites or apps located on Alibaba’s platform.  They hope that this will help them stand out against the competition- namely Amazon.  

Overall, companies across industries are now relying heavily on increasing their online presence, analyzing their direct-to-consumer strategies in order to gain and maintain the upper hand in the new normal, and using horizontal supply chain platforms like the GRID that help them integrate data with their workflows across their critical path and offer actionable insights that aid in smarter business decision making. 

Written by Aviva Vizel

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