With the general uncertainty of what’s to come due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there are more questions than answers. Never in our lifetime have we seen daily life impacted so fundamentally, throughout the United States, and around the globe.
For all the uncertainty about what the future will look like, it’s clear that it will be digital.
Our homes are now simultaneously operating as offices, schools, and even entertainment venues, with digital at the forefront. The impact on businesses has been equally transformative, as most have had to learn how to operate remotely—at a high level and at far greater speed than before.
Organizations around the globe are suddenly being forced to figure things out on the fly. Consider how quickly banks have migrated physical channels online, how healthcare providers have moved rapidly into telehealth, insurers into self-service claims assessment, and retailers into contactless shopping and delivery. Digital is not only an increasingly important sales channel; it can also help companies adapt cost structures and make each step of the value chain better, faster, and cheaper. In short, the coronavirus is increasing both the pace and scale of workplace innovation.
This pandemic has underscored the crucial capability of being able to learn and adapt, which can be applied to every arm of an organization. The status quo – or whatever had been working for the past few years – almost certainly isn’t going to cut it right now. Every truth we accepted has been turned on its head, and the way you communicate with your consumers needs to adjust accordingly. The tone and messaging of every consumer outreach or touchpoint also needs to shift appropriately, and we need to make these changes in real time.
This race to digitize and modernize is not all bad news. Even before COVID-19 hit, 92 percent of companies thought their business models would need to change given the move toward digitization, according to a McKinsey study. Because of worldwide travel bans, many CEOs are spending less time traveling, and therefore have more free time to spend on other projects they just never previously had a chance to get to. And for that 92%, now is a great time to accelerate the process of digital transformation.
For marketers, this shift to digital has already been in the works over the past several years. And yet the events of the past few months have forced every organization to reassess their marketing efforts, and adjust accordingly in order to continue to communicate effectively with their customers who are now at home and online. This impetus to change holds true not just for the direct revenue drivers within an organization but every related department. In other words, it’s more important than ever before for companies to use this period to shift not just your marketing towards digital in order to reach customers who are at home and online, but also to use this opportunity to implement digital solutions throughout the company, including your CRM, product development and roadmap, reporting and analytics, and more.
Digital marketing provides a wealth of audience data that can be used throughout company infrastructures, to learn more about customer segments, which messages are resonating most with these audiences, and how they prefer to be communicated with. Companies who increase their investment in digital marketing now can use these insights to help other departments streamline and pivot, amplifying the importance of a digital first posture within any organization.
As businesses are forced to do more with less, many are finding better, simpler, less expensive, and faster ways to operate. In many cases, things will never be the same. Despite the immense challenges leaders are facing today, now is the time to act. One key lesson from the 2008 economic crisis is the companies that move early and decisively in a crisis do best. Brands that kept their advertising steady and remained strong in 2008 recovered nine times faster during the global financial crisis.
The global COVID-19 pandemic is unquestionably a tragic humanitarian crisis, and no one knows exactly what the future holds. Some things will snap back to previous form, while others will be forever changed. As more and more of our lives have suddenly gone online, there is no denying that the future is digital. In this unique moment, companies have a unique opportunity to learn and progress more quickly than ever before. Playing it safe now, understandable as it might feel to do so, is often the worst option.