As the world prepares to emerge from the lockdown imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses are still struggling to recover from its after-effects.
The lockdown led to a massive economic disruption with hundreds of businesses forced to shut shop, and the continued safety measures have made remote working and digital operations the new normal.
As a result, businesses will now have to make a rapid transition from offline to online, which requires a completely new approach to business strategy.
Business impact of COVID-19
In the post-pandemic world, services that relied heavily or entirely on customer mobility have been the worst-hit. Transportation services like Uber, fitness centres, and the tourism industry, for instance, have taken heavy losses and – in many cases – have permanently closed operations.
Other businesses have been compelled to reduce their workforce, give up their physical office addresses and restrict client interactions to digital conversations.
With COVID-19 necessitating social distancing and work from home, businesses have been facing an unprecedented level of IT challenges.
The need to make real-time decisions and manage both external and internal operations online is pressuring C-suite executives to quickly amp up their systems resilience. In many cases, this calls for a complete overhaul of the IT infrastructure.
Customer relations impact
Customer expectations have now drastically changed, both in terms of buying patterns as well as interactions with a brand.
Companies that wish to satisfy these new expectations have to ramp up their digital commerce in new ways, such as by working with shipping partners to provide “contactless” delivery and curb-side pick-up options. They may also need to modify their product lines to cater to more essential needs.
Supply chains have undergone a paradigm shift as shipping and distribution facilities have been either shut down or severely restricted. This means that businesses can now cater to only a fraction of customer demand, and must quickly adapt to new channels – particularly ecommerce – if they wish to survive.
Both team members and executives are struggling to adjust to virtual work while coping with the uncertainties of the present and the future.
As businesses struggle to meet demand, employees have additional worries about whether they will face pay cuts or even job losses.
What is the way forward for businesses?
As a business evaluates its plans for delivering services optimally in a post-pandemic world, it needs to find the answers to questions about whether the markets and geographies it has been serving remain profitable, which core technology and business practices need to be modified and how the team can be best enabled to keep delivering in the new normal.
This requires detailed research on online business best practices and how customers would like to be best served in the new reality.
The research itself, moreover, has to be completely online as in-person interactions become the exception rather than the rule – while remaining as authoritative, unbiased and goal-oriented as before.
The need for digital transformation is not just an outcome of COVID-19. Mckinsey Global Institute predicted in 2017 that up to 375 million workers would need to update their skills by 2030 to adapt to the new wave of automation and artificial intelligence.
Another recent survey revealed that 87 percent of executives were already experiencing skill gaps or would do so in the next few years. For a business, the move to digital is not merely about setting up a website and running social media campaigns.
It has to figure out optimal ways for the team to stay connected and continue business-as-usual while working from home, while also staying in touch with consumer needs and expectations.
Market research tools to support digital transformation
Market research companies are providing businesses with several solutions in this regard, including a DIY qualitative solution and in-depth data collection assistance. These tools can be set up by any business and can operate on its own.
Compatible across devices, the tool is designed for focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with customers. Another online solution allows businesses to connect with online communities of customers, whom they can categorise according to interest groups and generate loyalty through a rewards programme.
Now more than ever, businesses need to be ready to adjust rapidly to changes. This calls for a complete removal of rigid structures and a shift towards a data-driven, technology-powered enterprise that consists of empowered team members and strong leadership.
Supply chains need to be reshaped and processes need to be automated wherever feasible. Companies should also be agile with their financial planning so that they have enough liquidity to respond to unexpected needs.
Adjusting to remote working
CHROs around the world are rising to the new challenge of helping their teams navigate the sudden and massive transition into remote working. It is critical now for leaders to display solidarity with their teams and support them emotionally as well as professionally.
Keeping team members informed about strategic decisions and providing them with a platform to voice concerns and suggestions will help them feel included.
The COVID-19 lockdown was a situation no one could have predicted. Now, more than ever, it is time for businesses to be at their most agile and to adapt intelligently and optimally to a mostly-online way of working.
This requires the active support of the team and an extensive understanding of how markets are likely to work now and in the foreseeable future.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)