Germany in a balance act between rethinking and return to normality. Experiences, chances and hurdles in Corona times for work, school, medicine, and everyday life
Interesting and exciting information was to be had during the special “COVID-19” edition of the gfu Insights & Trends innovation forum on 2 September in Berlin, an event presented by gfu Consumer and Home Electronics GmbH, organizer of the IFA. During this event, moderated by Judith Rakers, top level representatives from the consumer and home electronics industry, related industries, retail, media technologies and research provided insights into the COVID-19 situation in Germany. The presenters described experiences, opportunities and obstacles from workplaces, schools, medicine and our everyday lives, specifically related to COVID-19.
No other event in recent history has changed the lives of people worldwide as drastically as the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. Terms such as lockdown, home schooling, compulsory masks, contact restrictions, and social distancing, which were almost never heard of just a couple of months ago, have become part of our everyday language. This pandemic is not just about the spread of a virus and its associated health risks. It has also had an extensive impact on the economy, our lives and society as a whole. For some industries, the impact is critical, threatening their existence. While other sectors are coping better with the consequences, or may even be able to profit from the circumstances. The relatively slow pace of digitalization prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, for example, has been significantly sped up. While home based work was previously the exception, this is now part of the “new normal” – just one example of many.
In its program, the gfu Insights & Trends event showcased how different groups from science, industry, trade and media have been dealing with the challenges posed by COVID-19, the insights they have gained, the solutions they found and what we can learn for the future. Consumers also had their say – gfu had prepared a comprehensive large representative study of German consumers in preparation for the event.
Kai Hillebrandt, chairman of the gfu supervisory board, outlined the results of this latest gfu market study in his presentation:
The effect of COVID-19 on the consumer electronics and home appliance market, digitalization and society
This presentation was based on a survey of 2,000 German households during July and August 2020, where questions covered a range of topics: Purchasing behavior and planning, experiences with working from home and home schooling, personal economic impact of the virus, as well as any changes in attitudes toward or expectations of technologies, regulations, and lifestyles.
In the next presentation, Cornelia Schneider-Pungs, Education Specialist at Microsoft, spoke on the following topic:
Home based work and home schooling: Germany at home – working and studying online
She detailed experiences of working at home and of home schooling during lockdown, and looked at Germany’s preparedness for such a situation in general. She concluded that innovations are urgently needed in the education sector in particular, partly in terms of the technology required, but above all, the need for online content, its organization and legal considerations. She added that the economic structural changes brought about by digital transformation could only be managed through increased initiatives for lifelong learning and appropriate qualifications at all levels. According to Schneider-Pungs, public institutions, politics and businesses must work together more effectively to develop a new culture of learning and work.
The third presentation was from Patrick Schmich, Head of the Epidemiological Data and Survey Center at the Robert Koch Institute, where he looked at the German COVID-19 apps.
Dashboards, chat bots, apps: App development opportunities in the fight against the pandemic
In his presentation, Schmich discussed various aspects of data protection, and provided general information about app development and app usage, as well as providing initial insights into the pandemic apps. As the project manager for these apps within the Robert Koch Institute, he talked about the balancing act between gaining knowledge by collecting as much data as possible, and the users’ wish for data protection and anonymity. His central finding was that the COVID-19 warning app is an important tool in the fight against the pandemic as it helps to interrupt the spread of infection more quickly, and helps authorities understand the geographical spread of the virus.
In the next presentation, Marco Bühler, Managing Partner of Beurer GmbH, spoke on the following topic:
Digital healthcare: Insights & future developments in a post-COVID-19 world
He showed how COVID-19 has changed the way people think and consume in both the short and the long term. Bühler believes that going forward, there will be more self-directed illness prevention initiatives supported by digital tools, instead of symptom-based treatments.
Volker Klodwig, Executive Vice President of Sales at BSH Home Appliances and a member of the gfu supervisory board, focused his presentation on how the home atmosphere has changed.
Out from crisis, into a boom: How manufacturers and retailers are contributing to a new home atmosphere
He stated very clearly that the home as the center of daily life has become immensely important, showing how home appliances contribute to the feeling of reliability and security, as well as providing the inspiration to try something new. Home appliances are in demand, both as problem solvers in the home and to enhance the home atmosphere, more than ever before. According to Klodwig, the COVID-19 crisis is a catalyst, and the digitalization the driver of further change. It is now the responsibility of manufacturers and retailers to recognize and meet these consumer needs. In this context, he concluded it is crucial for businesses to assume responsibility, to have the courage to face the future and meet consumers in new ways.
This was followed by a panel featuring Volker Klodwig, Dirk Wittmer and Food Youtube channel host Saliha Özcan, or Sally, who discussed the role of cooking and baking during a pandemic, and touched on multi-channel marketing opportunities for brick-and-mortar retailers.
In the final presentation Dirk Wittmer, Managing Director of Euronics XXL Johann + Wittmer GmbH and chairman of the Euronics eG supervisory board, explored multi-channel marketing in his presentation:
COVID-19 Marketing Best Practices.
Examples and visualizations across all of the relevant IFA product groups provided a detailed outlook on how multi-channel marketing and customer relationship management will be in the future. Wittmer’s core statement of “Make the internet your friend” served to illustrate that it has never been easier to simultaneously reach a wider audience than right now.
gfu Insights & Trends was also the kick-off event for the IFA 2020 Special Edition, on 3-5 September in Berlin. This year, the world’s most important trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances is focusing on its core B2B functions, purely because of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is being held as a purely invitation-only event.
The speakers’ presentations*, photos and a video* recording of the gfu Insights & Trends event are available on the gfu website under the “Insights & Trends” menu or at https://gfu.de/insights-trends/programm.