“Looking back on the impact of past crises, my belief is that a black swan is an accelerator of trends, rather than a game-changer or reverser,” PingPong President and Chief Business Officer Ning Wang told PYMNTS. Read his unique perspective on how adoption of real-time payments and other innovations will now speed up in Black Swan, a special report exclusively from PYMNTS.
Expansion always has a surprising yet rational way of reversing.
At the time of this writing, spring is in full bloom in Hangzhou, China (where I am, which is also known as “the Silicon Valley of China”). The country is now recovering from the coronavirus, while Europe and the U.S. are still experiencing a rapid increase in new infections.
China has had non-stop growth for more than 40 years, and even the two previous crises (2000 and 2008) did not result in overall negative growth. People would never have imagined that a virus could bring the country to a full stop for a month.
Notwithstanding the origin of the coronavirus, the large-scale outbreak can be primarily attributed to highly increased mobility (airplane and high-speed rail in China, especially), resulting in a higher concentration of people, and a lagging behavioral change in personal sanitation and isolation. The lack of a systematic backstop further aggravated the issue. It is no surprise that Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, has long been the transportation hub for central China.
Black Swan Accelerates Instead of Changing
Looking back on the impact of past crises, my belief is that a black swan is an accelerator of trends, rather than a game-changer or reverser.
For the 2000 period, in retrospect, it was very clear that not every business was ready for a website-based solution (Webvan, CommerceOne), and information in cyberspace was too much to navigate. 2000 was the year when Yahoo! used Google as its search engine, setting the tone for the dominance of Google in the PC web era.
For the 2008 to 2009 period, the most notable trend was an acceleration of social networks, as typified by Facebook and LinkedIn, that built direct connections both personally and professionally. They both successfully embarked on major international expansions in the depths of the crisis, piggybacking on users’ need to share information, express themselves and seek employment during a difficult time.
2020: All About Point-to-Point, Real-Time Connections
For 2020, the trend is not definitely clear, but I have a few initial observations:
Global commerce and business will move to direct point-to-point. In the midst of confusion and cost-cutting during the crisis, middlemen will be squeezed out. On Amazon, we are seeing sellers sourcing directly from manufacturers as they seek lower prices, more customization and faster delivery.
Mobile screen is going from social to business. After users successfully form habits of texting, video chatting, swiping and clicking, they will be ready to move more business activities to mobile. Video conferencing may be the sage of things to come – and it may spell trouble for some enterprise software makers that are slow to mobilize.
Real-time information flow calls for real-time money flow. Domestically, the experience has been exemplified by Venmo, Square Cash and Zelle. However, at a global level, the point-to-point money movement has not been as easy or efficient. At the time of the outbreak, PingPong partnered with one major global bank to create a special channel for real-time donations from Europe and the U.S. directly to hospitals.
Governing will become more direct. Governments and heads of state are speeding up the use of technology to interact with citizens. The current president uses Twitter more efficiently than newspapers and television, with unpredictable consequences. During the depth of the crisis, Alibaba pioneered the Green Code, using self-declared information, geolocation and third-party verification to generate a real-time endorsement by the government as a health pass. This pass is used as the basis for arranging the orderly movement of people post-crisis. It is literally the issuance of a digital smart ID nationwide for more than one billion people, exclusively on mobile devices. The newly gained efficiency should give rise to smart governing with higher efficiency, more direct participation on the upside and possibly more volatility as a downside.
Read more executives' insights on the COVID-19 crisis in Black Swan.