July 21, 2021
5 mins

Digitally-infused businesses can survive COVID-19 and beyond

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If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have almost certainly felt a material impact on your life and business as a result of COVID-19. The US government responded with financial relief measures of over $2 trillion for individuals and business, which are bigger than any previous stimuli by the US.

While businesses will also get financial relief through these measures (ranging from guaranteed loans at near-zero interest to grants), the worst-affected businesses continue to grapple with a shock decline in demand and are scrambling to survive. The financial relief measures can only provide a temporary fuel to keep the wheels of business running, hence, the most-nimble businesses may survive in this crisis and the post-Corona world. If you are a business owner, your focus is understandably on shoring up your current assets and management of cash flow to respond to your most immediate obligations. However, it is very unlikely that we will jump back to a pre-Corona world as we slowly get past the worst of this pandemic. The pace of economic recovery notwithstanding, businesses will have to face a new normal characterized by a change in human behavior. If your business has sufficient capital to see through this crisis, now is a good time to reassess your strategy and be prepared for the future.

Figure one: Develop and assess your client's journey

Consumer Behaviour: Get up to speed with a new paradigm

Picture this: within a month of nations ramping up their response to COVID-19, the downloads of video-conferencing software increased by a 1000%. People started using “Zoom” not only as a noun, but also a verb. Regardless of the generational differences in adopting technology, every individual forced to work from their home (and mostly in pajamas) had to learn technology designed for remote work and digital interaction. The increase in video streaming sent network services providers in Europe in a tizzy, prompting Google to reduce the streaming quality of videos on YouTube and other services following suit.

Picture this: within a month of nations ramping up their response to COVID-19, the daily active user count of Zoom (a popular video-conferencing software) increased by a 378%. People started using “Zoom” not only as a noun, but also a verb. Regardless of the generational differences in adopting technology, every individual forced to work from their home (and mostly in their pajamas) had to learn technology that was designed for remote work and digital interaction. The increase in video streaming by people forced to stay home has sent network services providers in Europe in a tizzy. Google reduced the streaming quality of videos on YouTube in response to the demands from regulators. This change is not just a change in behaviour; it is a change in competency.

Repeated use of technology makes us better at using it and we begin to consider it a regular part of our work and life. This competency isn’t going to disappear; rather, it will only further the empowerment of individuals to continue to work and leisure themselves from their homes. Even after governments lift lockdowns and movement gets easier, individuals would continue to demand better service at their homes and more delightful experiences on their screens. Hence, beyond responding to immediate concerns of keeping the “lights-on” in business, you should remember that your consumers may now be significantly adept at distinguishing great digital experiences from the less than great. They will expect you to provide better insights, easier navigation, and a world-class look n’ feel.

Here is where you can start:

  • Develop a journey of your client from end to end, regardless of the channels and mediums. Identify the incremental value that you are providing in every milestone and assess whether that value can be provided digitally.
  • Identify the milestones that are most likely to delight the clients if done digitally, and map them against their relative contribution to your milestone-specific KPIs. Conversely, also map the milestones against their likelihood of angering your customers if not done properly.
  • Among all the points of improvements that you may have in your plan, prioritize your core value proposition by answering this question, “What is it that I provide which makes my customer choose me over my competitor”. If you have answered the previous question, identify whether you are prioritizing this core value proposition in your roadmap of digital.
Figure Two: Ensure clarity and safety

Continue to communicate safety and security to all stakeholders, beyond COVID-19

COVID-19 has jolted us back to the fact that the virus doesn’t discriminate on any grounds. It has dented the safety nets that we thought we had bought with our money, and has reminded everyone to care for what matters: the value of human life. While it is important at this stage for you to communicate the steps that you are taking to protect your stakeholders, it is likely that your stakeholders will continue to expect a communication on safety (or any other prevalent issue) even after the crisis is behind us.

They may expect you to behave like first responders and convey critical information before everything else. The costs of doing business as usual will far outweigh the benefits. Consumer who have trained their eyes for prominently displayed safety standards may not only find the lack of communication as inconvenient, but also indicative of laxity and not keeping up with the times. The resulting damage to the reputation can not only evaporate your much-needed future revenue streams but also attract the ire of regulators.

Businesses that are considered essential will set themselves up for future if they are able to modify their communication strategies to today. But if your business isn’t from this category, the tasks in this direction are likely to compete with the essentials of restarting your business in the coming months. However, a bright side to this challenge is the availability of examples from those businesses that remained functional and provided a superior response as evidenced by their consumer perception. To succeed, here is what you should consider doing:

  • Dedicate a flexible capability on your digital front to provide vital information which is consistent across channels and centrally controlled. Use this capability to inform your customers of the steps you are taking for safety. Ensure that the message on your website is consistent with that on your mobile app, and the same is visible on your physical location.
  • Keep up with the current trends of design and user experience. The era of clunky designs and awkward placement of information is long gone. Hence, do not race to get the message out unless absolutely necessary. Experiment with various designs through A/B testing and take a data-driven decision to choose the most optimum change.

- Jayesh Gajre

Jayesh specializes in business and technology strategy, and is currently working as an associate at CIBC, a leading Canadian financial institution. He is based in Toronto, Canada. The views expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to BrewingStack, the author's employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.