With vaccines becoming more readily available, it’s easy to imagine a future in which life returns to normalcy. However, while we may return to many of our old patterns, numerous aspects of our daily lives have changed forever.
One such change has been a shift in how digital plays a role in day-to-day life. Digital has taken on a whole new life during the pandemic. From the rise in popularity of curbside pickup to the boom in using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to connect with others, digital has become an integral part of almost every person’s daily experience.
Additionally, this heavy focus on digital has forced businesses worldwide to adapt and invest in digitally-focused strategies at higher rates. In fact, in a recent survey by Progress, 55% of respondents said that due to COVID-19, they are now expediting digital experience initiatives that they deferred in the past.
For companies planning their future, a strategy around digital commerce and digital initiatives is key. Let’s take a look at the five ways COVID-19 has caused consumers to say digital is better and how this will dictate the future of business.
1. COVID-19 Forced Digital Adoption
One of the unique facets of digital adoption that came out of COVID-19 is how wide the demographic of digital adopters has now become.
COVID-19 has pushed people toward digital alternatives, creating a forced trial of sorts. Much of this has arisen out of necessity. We still need to shop, but the store is closed. We need to meet with coworkers, but we can’t be in the same room. We need to eat, but restaurants are at a reduced capacity. We need to teach and learn, but schools remain shut down.
In some cases, digital adoption has been centered around creature comforts. We want to watch movies, but the theaters are shuttered. We want to read the news, but going to the store to purchase the local paper is out of the question.
COVID-19 has taken daily tasks, such as paying for groceries, planning for the next week, and drawing on a whiteboard and transformed them into the digital sphere.
Not only that, but isolation has caused us to seek out a release. We want to see friends, laugh, and distract ourselves from the stress of the pandemic.
From necessity to entertainment, COVID-19 has caused everyone, from five-year-olds to 80-plus-year-old grandparents, to adopt digital tools.
2. COVID-19 Introduced New and Old Digital Alternatives
All of this has introduced a myriad of digital alternatives to many everyday activities. Some of these digital alternatives already existed but had never been widely adopted. Some of them came from nowhere, birthed during COVID-19.
With consumers demanding it and daily life dictating its need, companies have raced to speed up their digital initiatives. In fact, a report by McKinsey found that across regions, there was a seven-year increase, on average, in the rate at which companies are creating digital products and services.
This hyper-speed of creation paired with existing digital tools created a new ecosystem of technology.
Here's a look at how all of the following activities have seen incredible leaps and bounds in technological advances during the past year:
- Meetings: While virtual meetings were already taking place, 2020 forced almost every business to adopt video conferencing. With this new wave of adoption came quick responses from Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. New features were launched almost weekly. From improved filter and background options to new breakout room features, technology quickly advanced to match the new demand.
- Planning: With meetings going virtual, planning too has become a technology-focused experience. Calendars are automatically updated, booking meetings has become self-service, and businesses are increasingly reliant upon virtual planning tools.
- Collaborating: During 2020, days of brainstorming in conference rooms with whiteboards and sticky notes quickly faded to the recesses of our memories. Collaboration became a virtual task with industry leaders, such as Miro and Atlassian taking center stage.
- Communication: While texting and messengers have been popular for a long time, COVID-19 took virtual communication to the next level. We became reliant upon FaceTime and voice-to-text to communicate on a day-to-day basis with even our closest friends and family.
- Ordering food: Food delivery became synonymous with 2020. Supporting local restaurants meant getting creative. In fact, according to Market Watch, food delivery services more than doubled their business during the pandemic.
- Consuming art: Some technological changes were more surprising than others, such as advances in how we consume art. From the incredible immersive Van Gogh display to virtual museum tours, COVID-19 forced us to rethink some of our oldest traditions.
- Learning: While schools were already slowly starting to adopt digital into their learning, COVID-19 forced teachers and students alike to adapt to a whole new virtual landscape. From utilizing Zoom to teach classes to virtual whiteboarding and breakout rooms, learning will likely never be the same.
- Working out: With gyms shuttered, many fitness junkies turned to Peloton, Tonal, and even smart workout mirrors to adapt. Now, the online and virtual fitness market is expected to reach $59.23 Billion by 2027.
- Paying: Touchless payment options became critical during a time when germ transmission became a central fear. This gave rise to the massive adoption of Apple Pay, contactless pay, and other touch-free options.
- Reading: With more time at home, folks began reading to pass the time. In many places, libraries and bookstores were closed for a large portion of the year, stimulating the economy of ebooks, audiobooks, and iPad magazines. In fact, ebook checkouts through popular library app OverDrive increased by 53% during the pandemic.
3. People Leaned Into Digital in a New Way
In many cases, COVID-19 forced us into digital adoption. However, during the past year, many of us leaned toward digital with gusto. We found ourselves downloading new apps, waiting for invites to Clubhouse, and testing grocery delivery services.
In a survey by CMS Wire, 74% of respondents said that their company had increased its focus on supporting and improving digital experiences due to COVID-19. Additionally, 73% of those respondents cited that their company had made financial investments into the resources needed to support digital experiences with their brand.
Consumers leaned in, and businesses quickly rushed to adapt.
4. Many Found a New Preference for Digital
Surprisingly, in many cases, we have realized that the digital alternative is actually better than our previous methods of performing daily tasks.
For example, consumers have found that they prefer all of the following advancements:
- Apple Pay instead of cash and plastic cards
- Using face ID instead of relying on email and password sign-on
- Remote work with video meetings instead of commuting
- Automatically booking meetings instead of manually reserving a conference room
- Subscription services instead of repeat purchases
- Recording meetings and transcribing with software instead of taking minutes on paper
- Exercising at home instead of working out in a packed gym
The things that are here to stay are staying because they make our lives more convenient and offer us an improved experience. COVID-19 has forced us to test things out and see what works and what doesn’t. We have all become the guinea pigs for technology transformation.
5. The Digital World is Becoming the New Real
For younger generations, digital is real and tangible. In fact, in some ways, the distinction between the physical and digital world has become increasingly blurred.
Think about, for example:
- Paper versus email receipts: Paper receipts can get lost, whereas new apps allow you to file away electronic receipts forever.
- Cash and credit cards versus Apple Pay: Credit cards and cash are often forgotten at home or in the car. Phone payment options, however, are almost always readily available. Who leaves home without their phone?
- In-person meetings versus Zoom/Teams: Previously, after a physical meeting ended, whiteboards were erased, and the only recording of the meeting was in our minds. Virtual meetings are digitally recorded, whiteboards saved as files, and chat conversations archived for as long as you want.
These are just a few of the countless examples of how the virtual world is quickly becoming a tangible place for many.
Where Does This Leave Your Business?
After 2020, much of the world will never look the same. For businesses, this means meeting new consumer demands for a digital landscape.
According to a survey by Deloitte, customers are interacting with businesses across multiple channels, and 75% of these consumers say they expect consistent interactions across all channels. The problem is that 58% of these same consumers say that they feel like they’re communicating with separate departments and not one company when interacting across multiple channels.
With consumers expecting more from digital commerce, businesses must quickly adapt.
The pandemic has left its mark on our daily lives, and savvy businesses will embrace digital transformation in the years ahead.
At Vaimo, we can help businesses adapt to the changing landscape of digital commerce. We can assist your business with everything from implementing Apple Pay to setting up a true omnichannel experience.
Vaimo has the tools and expertise to assess how good your digital experience currently is in the eyes of your consumers. From here, we use proven tools to test new strategies, creating a rich data-set to leverage as we create an optimized customer experience.
Talk to us today about how to leverage the new digital commerce landscape of 2021.