Updated: Apr 20
The COVID-19 pandemic has been described by Forbes as “A before-and-after moment in the history of the economy and the digital transformation”. Business Insider reports that “a third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown”, while according to UNESCO, about 1.3 billion learners around the world are not able to attend school or university. The impact on economies around the globe has been staggering.
However, what has emerged clearly is that “enterprises leading in digital transformation are significantly less vulnerable”. As the International Data Corporation (IDC) found in 2 surveys conducted in February in China: “The outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic has showcased the value of IT and digital transformation and organisations should turn the crisis into an opportunity to accelerate the transition.”
The “on-demand’ economy: on-demand food and services
Around the globe, businesses have been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Some have been destroyed, while others, like some airlines, will be bankrupt without major bailouts. Restaurants, hair salons, retailers, multinational corporations and many more are struggling. However, the directives that are forcing thousands of workers to work from home have also led to greater demand in some areas and there is “a sharp uptick in demand for delivery services, especially in the food and grocery sector”.
Companies such as Pick ‘n Pay that have already invested in digital transformation strategies with online shopping platforms face many challenges in Namibia in the current crisis, such as importing goods. But they are better able to meet customer needs than those that are only now waking up to the enormous changes “driven by a culture of ‘everywhere commerce’ in which digitally connected consumers are increasingly expecting to be able to shop whenever and wherever they want; whether it be in stores or online, using their smartphones or even voice-activated digital assistants.”
And it’s important to note that all is not gloom and doom. In the USA, “…some companies have seen soaring growth due to COVID-19. The publicly traded video conferencing platform Zoom, now part of the country’s collective lexicon, has seen its stock rise, as have delivery services as most Americans try to ‘shelter in place.’ Large companies like pet supplier Chewy, meal kit company Blue Apron, as well as smaller businesses and start-ups have been blindsided by surging sales over the past several weeks as COVID-19 and increased containment restrictions turned worlds upside down.”
For example, Farmbox Direct is a company in the US that delivers fresh fruit and vegetables via an online subscription service. When the owner woke up on 14 March, she thought there must be a gremlin in her computer system. “‘There’s no way we could have taken that many orders overnight,’ recalled Tyrner recently, ‘but we did. We are doubling the company every 24 hours.’ Many of Farmbox’s new customers are located in areas where supermarket shelves sit empty. Other new customers set up deliveries for parents and grandparents who are not risking infection by leaving their homes to shop.”
Since there are now so few In Real Life (IRL) experiences in shopping, people in self-isolation are exploring social media to a far greater extent than before for content and connection. And brands are becoming more creative with their social media channels, focusing on their existing customers with automated marketing and loyalty programmes. Shopify suggests selling on Instagram if you aren’t already doing so. It reports that: “Over the last two weeks, influencer agency, Obviously, found a 76 percent increase in daily accumulated likes on Instagram #ad posts, and a 22 percent increase in Instagram campaign impressions from last quarter. With such a highly-engaged audience, Instagram can make your brand more discoverable by existing and future customers.”
Working from Home/Telecommuting
One of the most profound changes to occur as a result of the pandemic is the shift to working from home. “Whatever objections businesses have previously had to telecommuting, COVID-19 may be the moment that brings it into the mainstream and shows leaders that with the right technology, culture and expectations, employees can be just as productive and effective from home.” As the IDC survey in China revealed, two of the top three positive impacts of the pandemic on businesses are:
Improved corporate ability of long-distance collaborative work.
Wide recognition of the value of digital transformation and information technology among employees.
When asked what their digital transformation focus for 2020 will be, the companies surveyed indicated that one of their top priorities would be “creating new telecommuting and enterprise collaboration systems.”
Many of the reservations companies had in the past about allowing their employees to work from home were about monitoring their activities and a potential drop in productivity. However, with software that tracks keystrokes, as well as email and Web surfing monitoring programs, and remote screen readers, companies can successfully track employees’ work performed at home.
In fact, Forbes revealed in surveys of companies using telecommuting that more than two-thirds of managers reported an increase in overall productivity. Why is this so? “With none of the distractions from a traditional office setting, telecommuting drives up employee efficiency.” And, without needing to spend time during the day driving to and from work or using public transport, employees are less stressed. The environment benefits too as the carbon footprint is reduced.
In addition to the benefits for employees, the survey found substantial benefits to companies as well in the form of decreasing costs. “According to Aetna, an insurance giant in America, it shed 2.7 million square feet of office space and as a result saved $78 million. American Express reported similar results by saving $10-15 million annually thanks to its telecommuting policies.”
Much has changed as the world responds to the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen massive surges in e-learning, streaming and online shopping. And we’ve learned that: “Organisations that have web enabled their businesses are in a much better position to weather this pandemic, both in the short and long term.”
It’s important to remember that different organisations take different paths to digital transformation and maturity. Every business will have a unique digital journey that is aligned with the needs of the business and its customers. V5 Digital – one of the leading digital marketing agencies in Namibia – will assist you in developing your unique digital business model, whether that involves helping you to use digital to sell your products or services online, or connecting with your customers on social media. Don’t hesitate to contact V5 Digital for a free assessment.