Confronted with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, a reality marked by radical changes to daily life for millions and personal tragedy for many, we are all searching for certainty and a path forward.
To move forward as businesses and communities, we need some solid footing. That’s why it’s helpful to remember that, while there are many questions about what the future might hold, there are some things that we as business leaders can say with confidence.
1. Customer experience has undergone a total digital transformation
Last summer, a Gallup survey found that only 11% of consumers bought groceries online. In the first week of April 2020, more than half of consumers (51%) reported doing so. As dramatic as that 5x increase is, the change in behavior is even more dramatic when we look at medicine. In March, the Cleveland Clinic logged 60,000 telemedicine visits. The monthly average before that was 3,400. Similarly, NYU Langone Health in New York has seen daily virtual visits climb from 50 to 900.
The digital transformation of daily life hardly stops with these common activities. In 2019 it was estimated that 7% of Americans worked from home; by early April 2020, it was estimated that nearly half (49%) of workers were working remotely. To top it off, it’s reported that 90% of schools the world over are currently closed. If class is in session today, there’s a good chance it’s happening online.
The bottom line is this: As we enter what some are calling “the contact-free economy,” digital channels increasingly serve as the primary way – in some cases, the only way – that people can access information, products and services.
2. Companies must welcome digital acceleration
People have been talking about digital transformation since the late 1990s. Since then, many companies have undertaken digital transformation initiatives, looking to a wide range of technologies to put their operating and business model on a digital footing.
These initiatives have tended to move at their own pace with the general consensus being that digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight. Indeed, as recently as last year, Ashley Friedlein, writing for Econsultancy, claimed that digital transformation takes five years on average. Knowing that these things take time, many organizations have lost a sense of urgency about making the digital leap.
Those days are over. The pandemic has accelerated the transformation timeline. If customers, employees and students have all gone digital, the companies that serve them will need to catch up.
And catching up starts with accepting our new digital reality.