Adapting your business and making digital central to your strategy in a post COVID-19 world
Updated: Oct 1
At the end of 2019, we clinked our champagne to celebrate success and organisations had clear plans and areas of focus for the year ahead.
Fast forward to March 2020 and a global pandemic is declared. Nobody could have predicted that this is what 2020 would look like. COVID-19 has impacted our daily lives in many ways, and has wreaked havoc for many industries and businesses.
We still don’t know how far into the pandemic we are or how much longer we have to go. What we can be sure of is COVID-19 has changed consumer behaviour forever with more people than ever before online, accelerating the need for businesses to embrace digital.
Recent statistics from Publics Sapient found that during COVID-19, digital commerce has skyrocketed with 74% of shoppers reporting that they had purchased from a brand that they hadn’t previously. Three quarters of shoppers say they have purchased more online than what they would usually and 48% say they will continue to shop online in the future.
It has been 13 years since Apple launched the iPhone and 16 years since Facebook became part of our lives and yet many organisations have struggled to adapt and operate efficiently in the digital world. COVID-19 has exposed many fundamental flaws in business strategy and has left many organisations struggling to develop a digital presence.
For some the pandemic has provided positives such as organisations being forced to think creatively and reinvent themselves in order to survive. In contrast, the lack of investment in digital over many years has meant the leap into digital that should and could have been fruitful, has been met with less than desirable outcomes.
A closer look at changing consumer behaviour and expectations
Acceleration and adoption of online shopping
The differing levels of nationwide restrictions and self-isolation measures have meant that shopping online has become the preferred, and sometimes only way to shop.
In April 2020 more than 200,000 new shoppers entered the online space, setting a new record. To put this into perspective, purchases in April were 6.8% higher than the highest ever recorded period, which was the pre-Christmas rush of 2019 that included shopping event ‘Black Friday’.
The adoption of online shopping in recent months has been so rapid and unforeseen that it has left many retailers scrambling having not considered or implemented the digital infrastructure required to meet such high demand. We’ve seen major supermarket retailers forced to suspend and refund online orders due to overwhelming demand, and others like Kmart implement an online queuing system for customers. And it’s not just big retailers who have suffered, smaller businesses have had to rapidly build and scale an online presence to ensure survival.
Changes in behaviour and attitudes
The term ‘contactless delivery’ has quickly become part of our new normal and an expectation rather than an option. The post COVID-19 customer is health and hygiene conscious, expecting their goods to have touched as fewer hands as possible. ‘Click and collect’ whilst not a new purchasing option, has also surged with the closure of many retail outlets.
Small business has been hit hard in 2020, but in some ways COVID-19 has acted as a positive catalyst for social change in this space. Hashtags such as #BuyFromTheBush, #BuyRegional and #SupportSmallBusiness continue to trend on social media with the aim of creating awareness for struggling small businesses. Consumers are now acutely aware of how much small businesses need the support of the community, encouraging consumers to look for local alternatives.
Sadly, many Australians are experiencing financial hardship as a result of across the board redundancies and scale backs. With everyone in the ‘same boat’ customers have a new expectation that organisations will show compassion and understanding in the form of bill extensions, negotiations around payment, flexible cancellations and other offerings to make things ‘easier’. Customers will remember which businesses showed appropriate levels of compassion and this will dictate who they choose to shop with long after the pandemic is over.
Online consumption habits.
The pandemic has shown us that we can do virtually anything, virtually. Activities that traditionally had to be undertaken at a particular location, can now be done from home. One prime example of this is fitness with many gyms and fitness businesses quick to pivot to providing services such as personal training and classes online. Consumers are rapidly embracing virtual tourism by transporting themselves to all parts of the globe at the click of a button. Other categories such as home entertainment have continued to enjoy increased levels of activity with on-demand and subscription TV seeing record breaking uptake in the past few months.
Setting your organisation and team up for success in a digital world
If there was ever a time for your organisation to adapt to the changing market, it is now. Digital needs to play a central role in any organisations strategy and whilst failure rates in digital transformation are significant, the cost of standing still is now simply too high. A lack of clear vision, employee resistance to change, protecting existing revenue streams and applying old ways of operating to new problems are just some of the reason’s transformation efforts fail. How your organisation and leaders navigate the change can be the difference between success and failure.
Digital shouldn’t be a bolt on
Often organisations approach digital as a bolt on to their existing business. When digital is a bolt on, it is unlikely that it is going to receive the attention or ownership it needs from the marketing team and other parts of the organisation. Silos form and the business begins to treat its customers based on the channel they interact via rather than as a customer of the brand. Digital is a mindset and a way of operating and it will fundamentally shift how you engage the market. It might mean you need to revisit your business strategy and model, the customer journey and experience with
your brand and how the organisation creates value in a digital world.
Adopt an MVP approach
One of the key challenges that often holds an organisation back is the enormity of the challenge as well as concerns over the investment required. Within a large organisation another common challenge is the fact there are many departments and various stakeholders all wanting to put forward their own department’s needs. This is where adopting a minimal viable product approach (MVP) is beneficial as this allows you to bring something to market in a relatively rapid fashion and learn as you go. Put simply, it means you can start small when it comes to execution and scale up or down based on learnings.
Identify the key capabilities you need to build and embed
Digital transformation will inevitably require you to assess the key capabilities you need to drive the agenda forward. For marketing teams these capabilities include CX, digital product management, marketing & customer analytics, MarTech strategy & implementation among others. Building capabilities will require you to assess if you have the right skills and expertise at the table and this assessment extends to your partners. Having the right skills and experience whilst important, is also the tip of the ice-berg. Building new capabilities will require you to embed new ways of working and the right tech to enable It.
Stay the course
Often organisations who invest in digital expect immediate results, but we know good things take time. Whilst digital channels afford immediacy, this doesn’t necessarily mean digital investment will net significant short-term gains. Building and scaling digital platforms and audiences occurs gradually and determining the most effective strategies occur through extensive learning and evolution, therefore it is crucial to stay the course.
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