What Can 2020 Teach Us About the Future?

By | December 28, 2020

As 2020 begins its journey from memory into history, I can’t help but wonder how our experiences in this gruesome year will shape the future. We may have experienced 10 years of social innovation in the past 10 months, but how will that accelerated innovation change the way we spend our days? What will come back? What is gone forever? What can 2020 teach us about the future?

Work from home

For jobs where working from home is an option, the future is clear. The big question is, what percentage of time will previous office workers have to spend at the office? The follow-on effects of even 10% of previous daily commuters working from home for some portion of the week are profound. The bigger the number, the bigger the impact on the service economy that supports their commutes and their out-of-home needs. I don’t see this as an either/or scenario. We will continue to see a shift in working environments. We should prepare for the economic impact.

Business travel

On a related subject, I don’t know anyone who has a full business travel schedule. Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, doesn’t think air travel gets “back to normal” until 2024. That sounds right. But the new normal may include far fewer business travelers. Clients are now fully empowered to have a quick face-to-face video chat. Let’s say business travel will be reduced by 25% going forward. What economic impact will that have?

Media consumption

Warner Bros. will release its entire 2021 slate of theatrical motion pictures on HBO Max the same day they are released in theaters. Other motion picture distributors have made their movies available online for $19.95 within weeks of their theatrical release (or sooner). Cord-cutting is accelerating. People have had the time to learn new ways to consume media. TikTok and YouTube are experiencing extraordinary growth. People have a wealth of choices. Production values are increasing at a remarkable rate of speed. There is more to watch, and there are more ways to watch than ever before. The media landscape has evolved, and it is not going back.


We shop differently now. Will we go back to brick-and-mortar retail? Yes. Will it be the same? No. Will we continue to shop online at unprecedented levels? Yes. ecommerce, tcommerce, social selling and all their variants are the clear beneficiaries of our suffering in 2020. The magic of “press a button and it shows up in a day or two” is not going away. Curbside delivery may be temporary, but ordering groceries, staple products, hard goods, CPG and even soft goods is here to stay. If your business (supply chain, inventory management and distribution) is not tuned and optimized for data-driven sales, advertising, marketing and PR, you need to level up.

Health care

In January 2020, very few doctors would agree to telehealth visits. Even fewer would correspond via unsecured email. At best, you could call your doctor and, more often than not, the outcome of that call would be a visit to the doctor’s office. Now, almost every doctor offers telehealth visits, they accept co-pays online, they will transmit prescriptions to your pharmacy electronically and we are seeing the use of medical monitoring apps increase exponentially. Healthcare is getting seriously digitized. And more importantly, big tech is getting in the game. Amazon Pharmacy is up and running. Apple Fitness and Apple Health are becoming a focus in Cupertino. We are on the cusp of a health and wellness evolution thanks to big tech and big medicine. Hopefully, this will be accompanied by better patient outcomes. Time will tell.


Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making.