In only 8 weeks the world made 5 years worth of advancements in the implementation of digital technologies. With the two most important changes seen through digitalization being remote work and cloud migration. Although it can be argued the economy was already heading in that direction as companies were already investing in technological preparedness and cyber security pre-pandemic.
However, questions remain around the nature of this shift: is it a temporary solution, or newly-established status-quo, and how much of this shift towards digitalization was prompted by the pandemic?
A Trend Driven By Necessity
Advancements were reflected in both how businesses organized their operations as a means to stay afloat and the way in which consumers interact with businesses. According to a report by Deloitte, the number of businesses which engaged with their clients through digital means has tripled since the outbreak of the pandemic.
One such example of shifting digitalization for their benefit comes from Christopher Clarke, founder and CEO of PlanM8. The company had to adjust their marketing strategy to deal with changes in the market by, “doubling down on digital presence by going deeper on different media platforms and putting more attention on organic traffic & SEO marketing this year. We came to this conclusion by taking a step back and looking at how we can make our customers come to us, rather than chasing after them with paid ads. Last year, similar to other SMBs, we were dealing with the shock of the pandemic and mostly focusing on customer retention. Because we understood that during these harsh times it would be much harder to get new customers, so instead we focused on the retention of existing customers.”
While Kevin Namaky, Chief Brand Officer at the Gurulocity Brand Management Institute, found the changes driven by the pandemic to have greatly improved the company’s reach. “The results exceeded our expectations. Not only were we able to keep the business going through the pandemic, but 2020 was a record revenue year while also saving our staff travel time. Our 2021 training events are now 100% virtual and will stay that way until customers demand otherwise.
Prior to the pandemic we never considered virtual delivery because customers never demanded it. In fact, most corporate customers perceived in-person work to be the gold standard that provided the highest value. Perception has changed all around.
From a marketing standpoint, we put conferences and speaking on the backburner and focused heavily on PR, LinkedIn and Youtube with great results. These will continue to be priority tactics for us moving forward. The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it forced us to de-risk and future-proof our business.”
A Trend Backed by Productivity and Employee Satisfaction
Shifting the focus to employees, the trend towards digitalization remaining post-pandemic is strengthened as the workforce has responded positively to the changes one year since the outbreak. A survey of European employee attitudes revealed that more than 75% prefer to retain at least parts of the remote work style. The same survey highlights the positive experience that employees had with telework and although there are a few who would like their jobs to move entirely online, a large majority are in favor of a mix between physical and virtual work.
We interviewed multiple business owners from a variety of industries to understand their process of digitization and plans for the future. Their answers echoed the results from the surveys mentioned above, most of our respondents reported having positive experiences with the online transition. At the same time, most business owners expressed their intention to stay on this trend even after the pandemic is over. Here are some of their answers:
Martina Cooper, Main Writer & Editor at BHMR
“My employees have grown more appreciative of the ability to work from home. At first I noticed a drop in effectiveness and productivity but after optimizing workflows and helping them build a nicer work environment for their particular situations… the quality of work significantly increased.
This obviously won’t apply for all businesses and some will need to go back to their usual workplace but I do think that a huge percentage of businesses will stay “digitalized” after noticing how amazing the benefits of virtual work is.”
Brittany Hardy, owner of Empty Desk Solutions
“It is my sincere hope that in a post-pandemic world, we will have realized how much we really need to find new ways of working and creating harmony in our lives. Working remotely even if it is part-time can be life-changing in such a positive way, especially for those like me with growing families. The one thing we cannot make more of, time, is given to us as a result of streamlined remote working arrangements, less or no commuting, healthier lifestyles all around.”
Teri Shern, Cofounder of Conex Boxes
“When everything calms down, we aren’t going to remain online to the extent that we currently are, but we also aren’t going to throw this digitalization out completely. We’ve learnt that it has its benefits and that some of our staff are actually a lot more productive in the online space, and will therefore be running a hybrid workplace. Something that this time has taught us is exactly what remote management styles work for our remote employees.”