By Robert Farrell, Business Faculty Lecturer
The Digital Transformation Imperative
Nearly every industry has been impacted by COVID-19. Conferences have turned into webinars, meetings are held on Zoom, staff are working from home, restaurants are delivering food and even laggards are embracing eCommerce.
COVID-19 has prioritised the need for Digital Transformation. Some organisations are digitizing their internal operations to the cloud, others are adapting their external customer touchpoints with eCommerce and chatbots, some are even reevaluating their value proposition and changing their entire business model in the wake of lockdowns and social distancing. While past technology adoption has taken months or years, COVID-19 has accelerated this to weeks.
Salesforce describes digital transformation as ‘the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements’. According to McKinsey, even before COVID-19 hit, 92% of companies thought their business models would need to change given digitization.
However, we are not yet in the new normal and many business decisions are being made reactively to COVID-19. Organisations are adjusting to remote working; some have developed their first eCommerce offerings while others are adopting automation to cope with growing workloads. According to McKinsey, remote working has skyrocketed during lockdowns and is likely to remain higher than pre-pandemic levels.
70% of executives said the pandemic is likely to accelerate the pace of their digital transformation according to DMEXCO. But managers must pause before deciding on what digital transformation initiatives to invest in - this is not the time to make long-term decisions based on short-term conditions. So, what can organisations do to set themselves up for success in the upcoming new normal?
Provide frictionless digital experiences
Digital experiences include how customers interact with organisations online. This can be seen from 3 perspectives: 1) Emotional, 2) Urgency and 3) Consistency. Digital experiences such as eCommerce websites or ordering apps must be enjoyable and easy to use for customers (emotional). Organisations need close to real-time data to help them understand and predict customer behaviours (urgency). Digital experiences such as engaging with a chatbot must be consistent with a brands tone of voice and its look-and-feel (consistency). For example, the travel industry is already mapping out customer journeys to identify points of health risk and design a contactless experience.
Build relationships via communications
Customers' attention has turned to safety and familiarity, and brand trust is key. This is the time to use communication to strengthen relationships with customers. Many organisations are adjusting their content marketing and communications to meet customers' present needs. Events have turned into webinars, training has gone remote, brand messaging has turned to reassurance and content is COVID related. For example, the global furniture dealer Insidesource launched its digital magazine and started an online crowdsourcing competition called Quarantine Studios. The real estate firm Colliers has created a COVID-19 resource hub providing its customers with webinars, analysis and recommendations for managing real estate during the pandemic.
Integrated digital infrastructure
Marketing and IT departments have been converging in recent years as more and more marketers use tools such as Hubspot, Salesforce, MailChimp, Ahrefs, Google Analytics, Woopra, Zendesk, Asana etc. Marketing should ensure their tech stack integrates with the rest of the organisation's infrastructure, meaning that their CRM, CMS, e-commerce and other tools should be able to easily feed and pull data from the rest of the organization.
Digital Transformation is not a silver bullet to solve an organization's problems overnight; it is the ongoing journey of an organization's continued evolution amidst a changing landscape. As adoption curves accelerate and the availability of technology becomes more ubiquitous, organizations cannot ignore the need to adapt using Digital Transformation.