Digital disruption began well before we were all forced to practice social distancing, but recently it has advanced into sections of society that were previously slow to adopt. As more and more business is conducted online, especially from the palm of their hand, customers are beginning to distinguish between companies who provide an easy experience vs. those who have limited or no digital capabilities.

This is really just a continuation of the evolution of customer preferences, and the rewarding of those who align with (or even drive) that evolution.  In the not so distant past, we witnessed what can happen to a brand that does not respond quickly to customer behaviors. Customer battles were everywhere: Blockbuster vs Netflix, and every box store vs Amazon.

Now, in the tenuous aftermath of the nationwide COVID-19 economic shutdown, we are seeing other sectors being challenged to make digital the new normal, including service, government, and industrial sectors. Even a trip to the local gym has been replaced by online fitness coaching; you can buy a car online without ever “kicking the tires”, and have it delivered to the door.

Customers are realizing that Digital interactions are often a far more efficient way to do things, both in their personal and business lives.  But are businesses moving fast enough to keep up?

A study conducted by Salesforce found that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product and services. This puts pressure on brands to transform quickly in how the provide that experience.

The opportunity exists in some industries to play offense and to gain market-share with an improved Digital customer experience; in other industries companies need to Monetize IT just to play defense and protect their current market-share.

There are two main areas of change on customers’ minds – operational and automation, with an underlying interest in security in all interaction with a brand.

Successfully transforming to a Digital organization (or using Digital tech to accelerate your existing business model) involves modernizing the holistic business, adapting processes and ways of working, cultivating a new cultural mindset, and re-imagining workforce models.  It is a journey that is complex, costly and time-consuming, but real results await those with the vision to make the trip.

COVID is accelerating Digital Transformation FAR beyond its previous pace

Rahm Emanuel famously stated “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”   The Digital wave seems to have adapted his approach.  Before COVID, it seemed that companies with significant investments (and inertia) in traditional business models might have plowed ahead for many more years without feeling the impact of Digitalization on their P&L.  Now in the midst of the pandemic, the rewards and punishments are already being awarded NOW by customers based on Digital capabilities — even in many more traditional sectors.

Truly the Covid-19 crisis has changed the world almost overnight, by dramatically moving two lines for customers of all kinds…

  • what they feel comfortable with for their safety
  • what they feel confident with technologically

The scale of the shift on these two axes is enormous, as is the resulting impact on their expectations and preferences.

Brands are quickly looking for virtual replacements for their previous physical offerings, but some may need to be re-imagined altogether to enable a streamlined Digital user experience.

New operating and business models are emerging and evolving across all sectors, including the remote workforce and automation, supply chain flexibility, and heightened data security.  Successful business transformations have benefitted companies that leverage their core assets and integrate them with new technologies, such as data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). The crisis has forced rapid scalability, shortening experimental pilots, pushing “beta” systems into operation in much shorter time frames. Truly spring and summer 2020 is offering business and tech strategists an opportunity for real-time learning.

Whether by partnering with Innovation Vista, or another consulting firm, or by redirecting internal staff with the right skillsets, we encourage leaders of all business types to take seriously the seismic shifts which have occurred in customers’ safety parameters and technical competence.  Consider carefully the enormous shift this in turn has driven in their expectations and preferences, and plan and fund a Digital Transformation accordingly.  Whether you have a chance to play offense or are forced by these dynamics to play defense, the ROI of these investments have become undeniable, EVEN IN (or perhaps ESPECIALLY IN) the uncertainty of a second wave and other future disruption.