Leading Best Practices for Digital Transformation During and After COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and created many behavioral changes due to stay-home orders and social-distancing. As our behaviors change, so do business trends. This article will provide ideas and practical tips on how to adapt your business to operate during and after the COVID-19 era as according to the Digital Business Lifecycle: Branding, Web Development, Marketing, and IT.
Branding: Positioning yourself as a supportive and caring member of society, internally and externally
During this time of fear and uncertainty, we can be a lighthouse and a pillar of support to our customers, employees, stakeholders, and society at large. Here is how you can show your support:
- Be sensitive: COVID-19 is having real impacts on everyone. Be mindful of the extreme difficulties and challenges people are going through.
- Pass the heart test: Now is the time humanize your brand and perform actions that feel good to the heart.
- Do reach outs: Social distancing has helped us feel the importance of social contact.
- Utilize employee-generated content: Consider opening up your social media to include more content from team members. Afterall, we are in this together.
- Be sympathetic but optimistic: In 1932, Roosevelt's campaign used the song "Happy Days Are Here Again" to bring hope and optimism to the country. With all the scary and depressing headlines dominating the news cycle daily, we can all help bring some positive energy into society.
- Have a COVID-19 support policy: Create a COVID-19 support policy to help your clients.
- For example, with Smartt, we have:
- Allowed team members to work from home while remaining open as an essential business
- Updated our payment policy for clients, including payment deferrals and service suspensions
- Given away free digital transformation servers (DTS) to our clients during COVID-19
- Added ourselves to the government’s database of IT consultants/vendors for COVID-19
Digital Marketing: Strengthen relationships and be greedy when others are fearful
During a time of economic hardship, it may be tempting to cut marketing and sales budgets. However, many studies have shown that the best performing companies tend to increase spending on marketing and advertising. A McGraw Research shows that companies that maintain or increase ad spending during recessions average out-sell their competitors by over 250% during the subsequent 3 years.
As Warren Buffet puts it, “be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” Look into optimizing your marketing instead of cutting it; strengthen your relationships with your existing customers and take over the market gaps where your competitors are fearfully paralyzed. Here’s how:
- Adapt and win: Adapt your product or service to be more online friendly. For example:
- Create digital products or lead-in products
- Use webinars instead of in-person seminars and tradeshows
- Expand your e-commerce offerings
- Offer “touchless” experiences
- Include various DIY options and bundles at different price points
- Clearly showcase how and why you are still safe to work with during COVID-19
- Address pain points your customers may have during COVID-19 and offer innovative solutions
- Stay top of mind: Utilize remarketing banners to existing customers; emphasize on virtual delivery or shipping. But be careful. Don’t try to be humorous during these dark times, and don’t show things like handshakes, hugs, and high-fives.
- Think about what people may want to do while working from home: Your customers may just find the time to try things they would not have considered if they didn’t have to stay at home all the time.
- Email and call existing clients: We have been reaching out to existing clients just to say “hi” and getting great responses. When we are all stuck working from home; we really appreciate those social contacts.
- Reach new audiences: Use display ads with affinity and similar audiences to promote your brand to new clients
- Expand your search budget: If they are looking for it, they may still want or need it despite COVID-19. Make it very clear how easy it is to do business with you despite the current environment.
- Make your COVID-19 policy clear: Have a very visible link to a page that shows how you have adapted your business model to work during COVID-19.
Web Development: Improve your conversions, e-commerce, and overall digital delivery experience
Many retailers are finding themselves relying on e-commerce, restaurants are relying on deliveries, and B2B businesses are relying on the online sales collaterals instead of tradeshows. There’s no more critical time than now to make sure your website is working flawlessly as an essential part of your business. Here’s how:
- Upgrade Your E-Commerce / Digital Delivery: Your clients will need to be able to do business with you online.
- Make sure you cover your whole digital journey (Aware-Search-Evaluate-Buy-Evangelize) stages: With tradeshows and physical visits not an option, the only way your customers will be able to convert will be online. But do you have the content to take them through each stage of the buying cycle?
- Add a COVID-19 FAQ section: Show them how you have adapted your business model to work during COVID-19.
- Improve ability to convert visitors and customers: Include strong call-to-actions, case studies, and testimonials. Run split-tests to improve conversion.
- Integrate your social media: Show the human side of your brand.
- Make you’re your Google Business Page is up to date: Your customers may be looking at it to see your updated hours and other important information.
- Upgrade your E-Commerce
IT: Be ready to support remote workers even after COVID-19, both from a user friendliness and a security perspective
Lastly, we need to adapt our IT infrastructure to prepare for the digital shift that may never reverse. Work from home orders have introduced the concept of remote working to many organizations that were more resistant to practicing it regularly. Now that businesses and teams have adapted their workflows to accommodate remote working, we may see continued growth in video conferencing, cloud productivity suites, VPNs, and remote desktops even after the COVID-crisis.
Unfortunately, this will also mean the bad guys may find ways to scam and hack companies that do not protect themselves diligently. Businesses need to be ready to support remote workers and e-commerce permanently; both from a user friendliness and a security perspective. Here are a few practical tips:
- Have enough upload bandwidth throughout for your office: It’s the upload speed on the office computer that counts when it comes to remote working. Make sure you have enough throughput for everyone to avoid slow performance. Check if fiber is available in your office building – the productivity increase will be worth it.
- Consider native cloud apps: Some companies may benefit from cloud software instead of connecting to a remote desktop through a VPN.
- Streamline remove communication: Give your team access to chat software such as Slack or Rocket.Chat (open source).
- Store files on a secure cloud: Put files on Dropbox or Sync. For companies that wish to house their own storage; consider OpenCloud.
- Secure your video conferencing: Setup passwords for your meetings. Practice discretion during video meetings. Clean up your desktop, be mindful of confidential data during screen sharing, use only encrypted videos services, and set up meeting passwords.
- Manage your passwords: Use secure password systems to store your passwords. Do not email them.
- Have a clear remote work policy: Train your staff on proper remote working etiquettes so they are mindful of security risks. Also train them on communication protocols for remote working.
In summary, COVID-19 may create a new norm how we conduct business and interact with vendors and customers alike. Companies that invest in their Digital Brand Lifecycle will likely see continued benefits during and after COVID-19.