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[KH Biz Forum] ‘Coronavirus didn’t change anything. It only accelerated existing trends’

Kim Ran-do, SNU professor and author of ‘Trend Korea’ series predicts more trends

Professor Kim Ran-do speaks on trends in the non-face-to-face era at The Korea Herald Biz Forum: “Contact less, connect more” at The Shilla in Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Professor Kim Ran-do speaks on trends in the non-face-to-face era at The Korea Herald Biz Forum: “Contact less, connect more” at The Shilla in Seoul on Tuesday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)


Some say the coronavirus has changed everything. But Kim Ran-do, a renowned scholar on fast-emerging trends in South Korea, said the change was already happening and the pandemic has only accelerated it.

At The Korea Herald Biz Forum: “Contact less, connect more,” held Tuesday at The Shilla in Seoul, the professor of consumer studies at Seoul National University said the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the speed of today’s trends but not their direction.

“In 2018, I coined a term ‘untact,’ which means of connecting and communicating via online platforms. Market Kurly, an online door-to-door grocery service provider, paid attention to the keyword and made continuous investments ever since. But companies that failed to make necessary preparations have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak,” said the professor.

Above all, he emphasized, there is no going back even after the outbreak ends, just as the internet and smartphones changed every aspect of people’s lives.

Instead of missing the old days and their outdated business models, the professor suggested, companies should learn three key phrases that can help them adjust to the new world.

Kim recently released “Trend Korea 2021,” in which he uses the acronym “Cowboy Hero” to define the year and announces 10 key phrases for next year, which will continue to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They are “Coming of V-nomics,” “Omni-layered homes,” “We are the money-friendly generation,” “Best we pivot,” “On this roller-coaster life,” “Your daily sporty,” “Heading to the resell market,” “Everyone matters in the CX universe,” “Real me: searching for my own label” and “Ontact, untact with a human touch.”

At the forum, Kim offered a closer look at three of the key phrases.

The first, “Coming of V-nomics,” has to do with a V-shaped economic recovery. According to the professor, the reason businesses hope for one is that they want to return to their once-profitable business models.

But the professor instead suggested a K-shaped model. Businesses that are doing well amid the pandemic will continue to do well, while those struggling will keep having difficulties.

For those grappling with change, the professor laid out the second key phrase, “Best we pivot.” To illustrate the concept, he gave Netflix as an example. Netflix started as a DVD rental company, but became a streaming service in response to the internet era. Now it has transformed into a production company.

“Just like the proverb says, ‘Done is better than perfect.’ Businesses must find their key strengths and make a pivot right away whether it succeeds or not because if they wait, trends would have changed by then,” the professor said.

Explaining the last phrase -- “Ontact, untact with a human touch” -- Kim said the growing non-face-to-face trend will actually reinforce the importance of physical contact.

“A day may come when artificial intelligence gives diagnosis to patients better than actual doctors. However, it will be human doctors holding their patients’ hands and persuading them to make final calls. Even in the non-face-to-face era, there is still a room for face-to-face contacts.”

By Kim Byung-wook (kbw@heraldcorp.com)
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