Covid-19 Is Forcing Digital Transformation

By Nikki Buergel ~ General Manager & Head Of Paid Media

Covid-19 has given the world a wake-up call beyond what the vast majority of us could ever have imagined in our lifetimes. We have watched the world go into lockdown and as South Africans, we have experienced one of the world’s harshest (and in some ways nonsensical) lockdowns, which has had a significant impact on businesses and individuals alike. Whilst we may have pandemic fatigue, the one thing we have all witnessed, is that the world can be shaken beyond its core without notice and in a very short space of time!

Covid-19 has brought about a retail apocalypse and South Africa in particular has had to adapt to this very quickly; there has been an almost overnight shift in how we conduct business. To survive, businesses have had to go from traditional methods to online. The retail sector has particularly had to adapt very quickly. Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way in which we do business and this cannot be ignored if you want to survive. These changes include all elements of business, from our workspace and staff to sales and marketing to selling. The two key elements surfacing are adaptability and technological flexibility. It is now more than ever crucial to remain relevant. No longer can one hide from the online space and rely on what worked before Covid-19. This is a lot for any business to digest and can be daunting. At 959 we are here to help you embrace this new reality. This is not an overnight quick win. There is no crash course that will provide all the answers or even a one size fits all solution. Think of it as adopting a healthy lifestyle in terms of diet and exercise. This is a ‘lifestyle’ change if it is to be beneficial. So is adapting to Covid-19 within the business sector. It is a mindset and business shift/ change, with an action plan and we at 959 will be your personal trainers in this new business venture.

The 5 most important digital transformations we are likely to see in the coming weeks, months, and years:

  1. Transformation And Mass Adaptation Of Online Shopping
    Online shopping has become the new norm and even the most technically challenged have had to adapt to this and those who normally do not interact with online shopping, especially in South Africa. The pandemic is forcing us to make behavioral changes and inturn form new habits. 2020 is showing a common trend towards tech for both businesses and the consumer. This shift to online shopping will continue as long as Covid-19 remains a threat and as such, it will become the new norm. Businesses need to supply the consumer and why would you go to a crowded car park with people breathing down your neck when you can shop from the comfort of your own home and get it delivered?! 
  2. The Metamorphosis Of New Product Choices
    Like the Spanish Flu pandemic, the Covid-19 pandemic will leave behind a legacy. The impact it has had on people’s habits and everyday interactions has been profound. On a personal level, there has been a significant change around health, hygiene and nutrition. These shifts have also had to move to the workplace with employers having to take a vested interest in their staff’s health and personal hygiene, as well as mental health. Even how we commute has changed. Fundamentally our patterns have had to change almost overnight. There has been an increased demand on the online space, from e-learning, to how we work, to how we shop and interact with our friends and family. It is evolving daily and whatever your feelings towards this pandemic maybe, this transformation is not going away anytime soon. There is pre-covid (BC) and post-covid (AC). Which means we all have to adapt to survive!*New products have trended within e-commerce e.g. bread machines to packaged foods to weight training machines, toilet paper, dog food etc.

    A number of categories declined e.g. travel luggage, cameras, women’s swimwear, bridal clothing, gym bags etc.

    *An article by the Visual Capitalist shows some of the top 100 fastest growing e-commerce categories across the US.

    In light of lockdowns and behavioral changes, none of these declines come as a surprise as consumers adapt to this new world. Consumer habits will change as people make the most of their time at home and this reflects in their shopping habits. As a business, you need to supply the consumer and adapt to these changes….supply and demand!

  3. A Multichannel Approach To Sales And Delivery
    Retail is all about creating a seamless shopping experience, whether the consumer is shopping online from a desktop, laptop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a brick-and-mortar store.The spike in online shopping has forced companies to explore different means of delivery, other than the traditional home delivery. This has resulted in new business partnerships.

    Again, this boils down to supply and demand. If a business’s delivery method is taking too long and consumers are complaining, then the business needs to adapt and improvise with delivery alternatives. Both online and offline channels need to be seamless for the consumer.

    One of our retail clients, Mobelli has adopted this approach by doing live product demos and online sales . If you are on their database, they send you a personalised email to these events. In addition, when we went into lockdown, they produced a fun music video introducing the team and letting their customers know how they were adapting to this new working model. It also showed a human element during these very uncertain times.

  4. Payment Methods
    The nature of Covid-19 brought immense awareness to the hygiene surrounding the various payment methods e.g. cash and ATMs. Shoppers and shops alike opted for cashless payments and digital currency wherever this was/ is possible.Now more than ever, businesses need to adapt to the rise in smartphone usage. It is no longer a luxury item, but a necessity for many. Consumers are using their smartphones for research to shopping to digital currency e.g. Snapscan. AC19 will undoubtedly see a breakthrough on e-payments.
  5. Automation And AI
    This has been on the rise over the last few years but as businesses recover from the aftermath of Covid-19, more and more businesses will need to adapt to automation and AI to ensure seamless selling and delivery with the goal of keeping humans safe.

Client retention is crucial in order to survive these times, so businesses need to listen to their consumers and also deliver exceptional customer service. Businesses need to embrace this change and adapt to the ever-changing behavior of consumers. People are spending more and more time online and on social media, therefore digital marketing is the best way to reach this larger audience. With all the uncertainties and loss of financial revenue/ income/ outlays etc, it may not seem like the best time to spend money on advertising, but now is actually the best time to invest in digital marketing! If you think about it logically, why would you spend less here when everyone is online now?!

It is an interesting era we are witnessing and we are able to provide the groundwork for a future that is here to remain!