It has been a year since COVID-19 hit globally and completely changed the world as we know it. But is a pandemic something one can ever quite get used to? As a society, we’ve had to adjust in many ways, such as how we conduct business and adapt to consumer behaviour changes. Many businesses, especially small ones, were hit extremely hard due to shutdowns and other restrictions and subsequently forced to find solutions to survive. The pandemic has birthed and accelerated several trends. We have identified these major changes and their impact on businesses.
Embracing Digital Transformation
Business owners and entrepreneurs need to keep their businesses relevant in a competitive and ever-evolving landscape. A digital transformation (DX) forms an essential part of this process, and an integration of digital technology into all areas of a business. It requires businesses to fundamentally change how they operate and deliver value to customers.
An ideal DX model involves experimentation, challenging the status quo, and bringing about a culture shift that starts with leadership. According to a 2020 McKinsey Global Survey of executives, nearly half of the executives said that they did not implement digital changes earlier because it was not a priority before the pandemic and they were hesitant to make changes out of fear that customers would resist these changes, or it presented too much of an operating risk. The pandemic has shifted both trends as businesses were forced to prioritize digital solutions to deal with lock-downs and restrictions, and a majority of people’s interactions were moved online.
The survey also revealed that companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer interactions, supply-chain interactions, and their internal operations by three to four years and digitally-enabled portfolio by seven years. Despite global economic uncertainty (and a slowdown in spending on technology) in May 2020, IDC (International Data Cooperation) forecasted that global spending on DX technologies and services will grow by 10.4 per cent in 2020 to $1.3 trillion. Companies who’ve invested in a digital transformation have focused on cloud connectivity, virtual interactions, digital marketing, and digital distribution methods.
One of the biggest changes due to the pandemic was the shift to online channels for people buying and selling goods. According to data from McKinsey, three-out-of-four Americans tried a new shopping behaviour during the pandemic. Respondents said they were three times more likely to have digital interactions with consumers now than they were before the pandemic. Businesses and entire industries have responded to this growing trend by adapting how they deliver products and services to consumers online.
For example, some experts believe that the digital shifts we’ve seen in areas like cashless payments, buying groceries, and online fitness are trends that will likely outlive the pandemic. In 2020, CNBC’s Disruptor 50 list featured eight logistics and delivery companies, and 12 fintech companies. The fact that these kinds of companies dominated the disrupters list is proof of the paradigm shift towards a stay-at-home economy.
Remote Work and the Cloud
Another trend expected to extend beyond the pandemic is the increased popularity of remote work. Before the shutdown, only 21 per cent of companies had a majority of their employees working remotely; now the number has skyrocketed to 70 per cent. According to the Associated Press, 40 per cent of companies are planning to keep a majority of their employees working from home moving forward. For that to be a reality, companies must invest in solutions like cloud-management services, and access to corporate networks and devices.
Ninety per cent of business decision-makers consider cloud management a top digital priority. Unfortunately, most businesses don’t have the proper IT infrastructure and security systems in place to permit safe remote work. Early in the pandemic, some employees were reduced to using their own unsecured personal devices to do work, which was a problem because detecting and mitigating security threats is one of the biggest challenges around working remotely. Other things businesses should consider are distributing work-approved devices, building network infrastructure and securing the network.
Storage and the Cloud
Another trend accelerated by the pandemic has been remote data storage systems, now a necessity among companies. Many top companies employ cloud computing to provide them with support on everything from teleconferencing to food delivery. Cloud storage allows employees to access data without creating duplicates or different versions of important documents, keeping things consistent and making it easier to track and collaborate on projects.
A Zero Trust approach to cloud storage is a set-up where nothing inside or outside of the platform’s infrastructure is trusted automatically. That means only verified users can access the data, which decreases the risk of security breaches. From a customer’s standpoint, it’s vital to ensure and explain how their data and personal information is secure—especially considering so much of our lives exists online now.
Customization and Customer Experience
It’s important to understand how customers are using technology. By allowing customers to choose how they use these technologies, you’ll develop a better understanding of what their wants and needs are. Not only will this likely lead to more satisfied customers, it will also give important insights into the minds of key demographic markets, hence, leading to more effective decision-making.
Marcus Medford | Contributing Writer