The global social and economic impact of Covid-19 are unparalleled. We’ve been forced, whether we like it or not, to finally make our reliance on technology official, in the form of project management tools, video conferencing platforms and other cloud-based software. Isolation and social distancing measures have made the virtual, personal. The app Houseparty, for instance, a digital app for socialising and hosting virtual gatherings, went from 130,000 downloads a week to over two million. The world, with all of its infinite variety, moved onto a screen.
Business suffered – severely. The FTSE 100 dropped by 26.6% between January and April. Organisations across the UK were forced to furlough employees as a response to dramatic and unexpected drops in revenue. Whether we knew it or not, we were in the middle of a ‘black swan’ – an unpredictable, extremely rare event that can cause catastrophic damage on a global scale. And then, as the dust settled, a pattern emerged. It was the businesses that had stalled on going digital, who had held back on building a digital platform, who were most vulnerable. Without the adaptability and agility of digital thinking, and without access to the right technology, the marketing and sales efforts of traditional businesses were essentially suspended until further notice. We had been forced, kicking and screaming, into a new age of market economics, and there were casualties aplenty.
That’s the thing about black swan events. By their very nature, we can’t predict them with any accuracy. For our purposes, they exist in a realm of their own, with no indication of their impending approach. The best analysts in the world can only talk about them after the fact; and, as a rather unhappy extension of this thought, that means the next one could be right around the corner, creeping up on us as we speak. This leaves businesses with two options to mitigate their effect: invest in the right technology, and use digital channels to build lasting relationships with their customers. All of this requires a step change in the way businesses think, feel and act.
Henry Ford once said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” Today, we could say, “Those who build their businesses without a digital foundation build them on shaky ground.” Both sentiments are true. The fact is, digital platforms and digital marketing have become the two most important facilitators of modern business. Data is the new gold, automation is the future – we hear these platitudes daily, but not often do we do something about them. Recent times prove to us once and for all just how fragile we are unless we move with the times and build something lasting, with real value to our customers – and to build it where they actually are.
So, has Covid-19 rewritten the business rulebook? The world certainly has the potential to look dramatically different. Businesses dragging their heels over digital transformation have been cruelly exposed. Those who put off putting systems in place to allow staff to work flexibly from home, for example, will need to adapt fast to survive. Decentralisation of staff, and the cost-benefit ratio of a physical office, is sure to come up for scrutiny, as is the intangible value of your brand to your audience. They say that, “in a crisis, we find out who our true friends are.” This is also true of our customers. With the right technology in place, and the right strategy and most importantly – the right mindset – you can set your business up to adapt and thrive regardless of external conditions.