6 months in 5 days – the first week of 2021

It has been quite the first week of the year.

  • Back to work after the holidays
  • A new lockdown, with a spiraling pandemic
  • Brexit/End of the transition period, with a loss of trade freedoms with the EU starting to bite
  • and oh yes, a violent attempt to stop a peaceful hand over of power in Washington DC

With everything going on, more normal news has struggled to get much air time this week. There are however themes for us to consider as we start the new year.

Digital is still dominating headlines and investment. With a further lockdown, this will undoubtedly be further accelerated. Firms continue to press forward in what is increasingly looking like the new normal. Some are already complaining they are being disadvantaged, a sure sign that this is a hot topic and source of competitive advantage.

The upcoming challenge is where on the scale of 100% automated vs purely manual do firms want to sit and where is the human touch needed.

The march of WhatsApp also continues. Over new year it set new records for engagement.

Facebook, who own WhatsApp, are working to gradually monetize the platform. It was announced that Facebook will now have access to more WhatsApp data which is likely part of this wider plan.

For UK customers, WhatsApp data is still reportedly under European region, Facebook data is being moved to the US (an impact from Brexit). All of this could potentially give access to new features, such as facial recognition. Whether it will potentially start to erode some perceptions around privacy on the platform we will see.

The ultimate goal however still feels like it is moving towards an omnichannel platform for the internet. Closed systems environments, capturing all customer interaction data, do seem to be increasingly popular.

The economy still feels like it is sluggish. For consumers not sick, and with a job, more data came out showing they have been paying down debt and moving house.

However, all eyes are now on what happens in the mortgage market the next few months. The stamp duty holiday ends at the end of March 2021, which arguably has driven up housing market activity… it is one we need to watch. The concern, whether the end of support will trigger a pop in what could be a housing bubble.

Globally, it certainly does feel as if the economy in many places continues to run on vapour. With all the stimulus keeping it aloft, at some point it will need to come into land. We need to watch for speed of descent. This will determine, the nature of any crash landing… and with extra headwinds in the UK it does feel like we are in for a bumpy few months.

Have a good weekend.