Posted on October 5, 2022
Real estate, automotive, food, construction, retail: industries of all types are being transformed by technology. And today’s changes could eventually trickle into other economic sectors. After all, consumers are often at the heart of these transformations. Here are five sectors to look out for.
Real estate: increasingly challenging virtual visits
Shopping for a home is now mostly done online. In the US, 51% of homes purchased were first found online, according to the latest annual report on generational trends by the National Association of Realtors. Real estate agents, for their part, account for just 28% of finds, and signs in front of homes, 7%.
The trend was slightly accentuated with the pandemic, but the Internet has been dominating the real estate market for several years now. The various home-search tools on the market are both simple and effective, and are used by a whopping 97% of homebuyers.
To stand out on the web, real estate agents and specialized sites are using more and more technology, such as drones, which are used by 56% of agents in the US.
This trend is also behind the increase in virtual visits, which allow potential buyers to walk through a home via 360-degree pictures or, better yet, via a 3D reconstruction using simple tools, such as those by Matterport. This innovative solution helps avoid unnecessary in-person visits and highlight certain features that may not be as apparent on pictures and videos.
When you need an even more faithful rendition, or when presenting a space that has yet to be built (think a condo development before the construction starts), other powerful digital tools, such as the Unreal Engine 5 computer design engine, may also be used. These are used to show how a space still in construction may eventually look, or even a vacant space to be leased for events, for example.
There aren’t too many sectors that have seen their online sales increase as drastically as the food sector over the past two years.
This is especially true when it comes to restaurants, for which food delivery apps are now a must. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, a study by Dalhousie University estimated that 39% of Canadians had used a food delivery app at least once.
And these apps, which became incredibly popular as a result of the pandemic, are still thriving. According to Bloomberg, Doordash quarterly sales per user more than doubled since the crisis began. Restaurants, on the other hand, unfortunately do not always make profit from these sales, given the significant price margins of these services.
Other tools, some of which were developed in Québec, offer such deliveries, but with better conditions for restaurateurs.
Grocery stores also saw an increase in online sales, albeit on a smaller scale. According to NeilsenIQ, the market shares for grocery store online sales went from 1.7% in July 2019 to 3.7% in 2021. Even though shares are still relatively low, the transformation proved enough to incite certain players to invest lots in the sector. This was the case for Sobeys-IGA, which set up entirely automated warehouses for its Voilà! delivery service. Metro also plans to open an automated distribution centre in Terrebonne in 2023.
This automation trend is also emerging in the restaurant industry. Several projects came to fruition over the past few years, in Québec and around the world, including the implementation of robot waiters, robot chefs, and even fully automated restaurants.
Automation won’t completely overhaul the industry over night, but it’s likely to grow nonetheless as technology gets fine-tuned and labour shortage problems remain.
Construction-industry costs have exploded; between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the costs for both residential and commercial construction jumped by 22.6%.
There are several reasons for this increase, including consumers’ fondness of new constructions and renovation projects during the pandemic, the lack of certain materials, increasing gas prices, and especially the labour shortage, still affecting the industry today. In Canada, in the fourth quarter of 2021, employers in the construction sector were seeking to fill no less than 69,000 positions, according to Statistics Canada.
In the short term, many businesses used higher salaries to attract staff and retain employees. This strategy does have its limits, however, and the use of new technologies may be an interesting solution to the problem.
Certain businesses have added robots to their site, which will eventually allow for the automation of certain tasks, as well as virtual reality tools, which could help limit in-person visits during the work. The integration of mobile technologies and the Internet of Things could also help maximize operation on construction sites, leading to more efficiency among existing employees.
Whether it is because of convenience, lower costs, or delivery times (many online orders are delivered the next day), the increase in online vendors, or new habits adopted during confinement, online retail sales are continually on the rise.
In 2016, for example, e-commerce represented 2.3% of total sales in Canada, according to Statistics Canada. In 2020, this figure stood at 7.8%. In Québec, the ratio of cybershoppers rose from 58% to 78% between 2017 and 2020, according to the Université Laval NETendances study. This increase was especially notable among people aged 55 and older.
It’s still too early to measure the long-term impact of the pandemic on online sales (certain statistics from 2020 and 2021 are tainted by the periods of confinement), but one thing is certain: for many of the consumers who made such transactions for the first time in the past few months, there’s no turning back.
Not wanting to miss out, Québec businesses are increasingly turning to the web, which is no longer used just as a window, but also as a transactional space, even for companies that once relied solely on in-store sales. And with increasingly sophisticated online tools, these retailers can even offer a personalized experience to their customers, offering them incentives to return, both in person and online.
There are more benefits to online sales, such as easily enabling the multiplication of models for a single device. Nike By You allows you to customize your footwear, whereas Xbox Design Lab allows you to personalize your video game remote. Apple, for its part, allows you to engrave your AirTags when you buy them directly online via the company’s website.
With online sales now justifying technological investments, certain companies are also offering customers an even more personalized experience. Augmented reality, in which digital pictures are added over a video stream, allows for placing a piece of IKEA furniture in your living room or trying on digital copies of eyeglasses on your face, to name just a few examples.
Even in person, different technologies allow businesses to increase their service offering and be less affected by the labour shortage. This is the case for the no-checkout Amazon Go stores, for example. Plus, you don’t need to be an international electronics giant to offer this feature. In Canada, Aisle24 also allows for the installation of no-checkout stores in order to offer a 24/7 convenience store in a residential building, for example.
Automotive: the electric revolution
There’s been a dramatic rise in electric vehicles all over the world over the past few years. In 2012, just 120,000 electric vehicles had been sold worldwide. In 2021, more than that many were sold each week, according to the International Energy Agency. Overall, about 10% of new vehicles sold are now electric. According to the Association des véhicules électriques du Québec, consumers are primarily drawn to these types of vehicles out of concern for the environment (69% of cases).
But this is just the beginning. According to a study by Deloitte, 21% of Canadians would like their next vehicle to be electric or rechargeable hybrid. By 2030, nearly 30% of vehicles sold in the United States should be electric, according to the research firm EVAdoption.
And if the promise of independent vehicles were to come to fruition on a broad scale (the industry hasn’t lost hope: in fact, pilot projects of driverless taxis are increasingly widespread in the United States, even taking place in major cities like San Francisco), this could incite more people to opt for electric vehicles.
Such a transformation in the industry involves several changes, particularly with respect to the infrastructure needed for charging.
Even though most electric vehicle owner charge their vehicles at home, it can happen that the vehicle needs to be charged elsewhere. This is also the case for people living in a rental apartment, with no charging station in their building. According to Deloitte, 18% of electric vehicle buyers in urban areas plan to charge their vehicle at work or at public charging stations (vs. 7% in the outskirts and rural areas).
To stand out, more and more businesses and companies are installing charging stations in their parking areas to attract an additional clientele and keep their employees happy.
Like various other technologies deployed in the other industries mentioned earlier, these additions act as a little something extra, a way to stand out from others. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes more than a luxury, but rather a necessity.