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Business transformation after Covid-19: Adapting to a digital-first world

(Image credit: Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock)

As countries around the world ease their Covid-19 lockdowns, with varying degrees of success, many are already looking towards the future – despite how challenging the past few months have been.

The way many of us live and work has completely changed since the pandemic began. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people are spending more time online. Yet as the population is becoming more digitally inclined, they will find it a hard habit to break after lockdown lifts. With society moving in this direction, businesses will need to adapt and change to meet the needs of the post-pandemic world. In-person interactions will be reduced or replaced with new digital initiatives, and many industries will be completely transformed. The organizations that will have a significant advantage are those that can facilitate rapid innovation and provide a perfect, digital-first user experience.

New technological behaviors will be formed

The pandemic has brought the importance of technology into the spotlight. If this pandemic happened in the twentieth century, society would have had very little choice but to resume “normal” operations after lockdown eased, making it harder for many people to manage. For instance, we would see people unable to access their basic necessities through eCommerce, or lacking access to the medical information and services that are so important for our day-to-day lives. Fast forward to 2020, and the digital world has offered us new ways of living and working – with beneficial new services which will continue after lockdown has been lifted.

Technologies that might once have been considered ‘less-known’ are being used far more widely in our daily lives. Video conferencing applications such as Zoom that were once considered to be specialist tools have now become household names. Their functionality and availability allow families, friends, and coworkers to remotely meet-up more often than they ever would have in person. As a result of these technological advances, we have learned new habits and techniques. However, once social distancing guidelines have been lifted, it is unlikely these new habits will completely disappear over time.

Telepresence is now a recognized part of our lives, one which will have significant effects on industries that aim to focus on digital initiatives. It is expected that more services will be performed remotely, while business travel will be reduced. On the consumer side, in-person visits to various museums or galleries are likely to fall, resulting in these organizations selling virtual tours and experiences to take the sting out of the decline in footfall.

Industries will need to transform

Whilst the immediate post-Covid-19 impact on individuals is clear to see, the effect is less obvious for many businesses – especially for those which were temporarily forced to cease operations altogether. There are certain opportunities and challenges for individuals adapting to lockdown by finding new methods of collaboration from different locations. This new way of life will be the basis for digital start-ups aiming to create innovative new products and services after lockdown lifts.

In event-based industries such as sports, it is likely to be a struggle to attract audiences – with the population expected to be far more cautious about mixing with fellow spectators. Reducing capacity at events, whilst increasing ticket prices, is not enough – the end result of more expensive tickets is likely to mean fewer seats filled. It will be crucial for these industries to take advantage of digital services by creating new experiences, such as offering virtual or interactive events.

Offices and properties are also likely to be repurposed, as their occupiers realize there are other ways to do business. For instance, medical facilities are likely to see a change in use, as medical consultations and prescription ordering both move increasingly online. Regular offices will no longer be the same as most organizations – and their employees – have enjoyed their successful first, taste of mass remote working. Businesses that are deemed ‘office-bound’ will need to transform, while those that adapted to the working from home lifestyle will reap the benefits.

Adapting to a new standard

Organizations that are well-adapted and are aiming towards a digital-first strategy – one which focuses on user experience and ensures data is used to facilitate innovation – will gain a significant advantage.

Fashion brands like Tommy Hilfiger, for example, have recognized that the traditional face-to-face buying process was forcing retail buyers and samples to travel around the world. The global fashion brand instead decided to look into sophisticated data architectures to launch a series of digital showrooms in important regions. Wholesale retail buyers now have the option to select which ranges to sell and consignments to order within an afternoon. It will be vital for businesses post-Covid-19 to ensure tasks such as these become more streamlined with minimal contact and resources used.

In another example, Israeli healthcare giant Maccabi has launched an app on mobile devices that provides patients with as much information and care as possible so they do not need to visit clinics or hospitals. The app allows users to book in-person appointments, communicate directly with doctors, and tailor their care preferences. Example like these offer proof that businesses can reposition their capabilities, and other organizations should be able to follow this lead.

This global pandemic has allowed us to rethink and reconsider new digital possibilities. Businesses have operated on this digital journey for many decades without truly embracing it. To progress in this digital-first world after lockdown, organizations need to ensure they are not just seeing technology as ‘just another channel’.

Covid-19 has provided us with a gateway for digital tools to transform and assist human-driven processes. However, after lockdown finally lifts for good, it is essential to make sure all this progress isn’t reversed. Moving forward, there will almost certainly be practices and experiences that will forever be digitally focused. For example, we already no longer need to go into banks to ‘balance the books’ or check our account balance. Many other experiences will be digitally transformed across healthcare, retail, travel, and entertainment. Organizations that are forward-thinking, ready to innovate and offer seamless customer experiences will be the ones that thrive in this new world.

Ravi Mayuram, Senior Vice President Engineering and CTO, Couchbase