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From start-ups with less than 10 employees to global corporations, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on companies of all sizes. High street retail has almost ground to a complete stand-still, so these companies have been forced to adapt by taking their businesses online or face the risk of complete collapse.

Here are some great examples of businesses who have embarked on digital transformation journeys – successfully - during the COVID-19 crisis.


Digital transformation examples during the pandemic

1. Moving online – if you haven’t already

Brands who have online stores and can meet the demand for rapid online adoption tend to have the best chances of success during and after this pandemic. Before the lockdowns, many consumers were already leaning more towards online purchases but now this trend has been accelerated. According to a global survey by McKinsey, consumers are shifting to online/digital solutions to receive foods and services.

Our own survey found a significant increase in the number of people doing more than 50% of their shopping online and that this trend is likely to stay put even after the lockdowns are lifted. This is why it’s important to transition to online or digital means if you haven’t already because even the industries that typically require in-person contact are making the move.

Shopping on mobile

Gyms and fitness companies are one example. With their physical locations closed, they’ve had to start livestreaming exercise classes and offering home-friendly workout plans. For instance, these workouts won’t include equipment that you’d only find in a gym and they may even offer creative alternatives to typical home gym equipment (such as tins of soup instead of dumbbells).

Banks are another. Though still open for essential queries that can only take place in-person, some banks have updated their apps to better handle requests and offered online training sessions on various transactions.

Ping An Bank, a Chinese bank, launched the ‘Do It At Home’ campaign to promote its contactless and smart services during the pandemic. The bank’s app allowed customers to complete a range of financial services (from basic bank transactions to wealth management and insurance) and AI-powered customer service was introduced to offer round-the-clock support.

Both of these examples meant that these companies could effectively stay afloat and serve customers despite closing their physical doors.

2. Strengthening the bridge between your online and offline stores

But if you have both online and offline stores, it’s not enough to only focus on the online aspect. For maximum impact, you need to be strengthening the bridge between your two channels.

Allbirds, a San Francisco-based company that sells eco-friendly footwear, had a seamless operational infrastructure as they’d integrated their online and offline channels before the pandemic. This turned out to be a lifeline during the crisis because when COVID-19 caused disruptions, Allbirds could use staff from their physical stores to help fulfil online orders.

For example, if customers contacted the customer service team and asked questions such as ‘What can I pair these shoes with?’, the service team would ask customers if they’d like to speak to one of the sales assistants via video chat. Customers could then see what the sales assistants were wearing their Allbirds shoes with, plus the different colours and models available.

This meant Allbirds could satisfy their customers and maintain an excellent standard of service and experience while ensuring their in-store employees could support the customer service team as much as possible during this time.

3. Using your customer insights to make well-informed, timely changes

The crisis has shown that it’s more important than ever for companies to know their customers. If you know what your customers want, you can make quick, informed changes to your business model or offerings and stay afloat during unpredictable times.

This is what floorcare company Bissell did. They saw that their Chinese consumers were looking for cleaning solutions and steam cleaners because they were seen as effective disinfecting tools. So, Bissell held online training sessions on how to use these products.

Digital transformation during covid

The result? The sales of Bissell’s top-selling steam mop increased by 500% in the first quarter of 2020 – all because they leveraged their customer insights.

4. Expanding your digital ordering channels by partnering with tech companies

If you can increase the ways your customers can purchase your products and services, you’re adapting to the crisis, satisfying your customers and boosting commerce sales at the same time. Partnerships with tech companies can help.

For example, US pizza franchise Papa John’s expanded their digital ordering capabilities in 2017 by launching Facebook Instant Ordering and later followed up with a custom-ordering app for Apple TV.

Although neither of these were in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has meant that Papa John’s was well-prepared when the time came. Their digital ordering channels had been invested in for a while so this in combination with new team member hires and contactless delivery has allowed the pizza franchise to continue despite the crisis.

5. Connecting with your customers via digital channels

The pandemic has made it difficult for businesses to have face-to-face interactions with customers in-store. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with them via digital means.

At the end of April, Michael Kors launched a new customisation service for its handbag range, MK My Way. Debuting first in China before a global rollout later this year, the US fashion label’s pop-up experience allows users to take a personality quiz and receive a personalised message and product suggestions from the namesake founder.

The experience then offers users the option of adding hand-painted customisations to the Michael Kors bags.

In addition to livestream sessions and teaser videos, it’s meant that the crisis-induced lockdowns and social distancing hasn’t prevented the label from driving excitement about their new handbag range.

Business transformation ideas

What all of this means for you

The world was already fast-paced before the coronavirus. Now it’s even faster. Businesses that aren’t taking steps to transform risk falling severely behind the competition. But businesses that have a strategy in place aren’t free from the danger zone either.

If you’ve mapped out your digital strategy across several years (after all, digital transformation isn’t a quick fix; it’s a long-term change), you need to be speeding up your initiatives so they span across a matter of weeks or even days. Look at examples like Papa John’s who are already many steps ahead, having implemented forms of digitalisation years ago.

And if you’ve already transformed your business, it’s not the end of the road. You need to keep evolving and adapting in response to any changes because if there’s anything the COVID-19 crisis has taught us, it’s that unprecedented incidents are near-impossible to prepare for. Instead, it’s about being able to adapt on the spot and having the right technology in place can help with that.


Here’s where you can learn how to stay ahead of the competition

But what does the ‘right’ technology even mean? Our eBook, ‘New Decade, New Growth’, covers the importance of always providing excellent customer experience and the strategies, tools and solutions you need for success.

From PIM solutions to CMS and a commerce platform, download the guide to discover how you can use technology to enable your growth.

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