The coronavirus pandemic taught us many lessons. We have a better appreciation of our key workers, which includes staff, shop workers, and transport and logistics providers.
A better understanding of the spread of infectious diseases has also helped individuals and businesses protect themselves and their staff more proactively.
For businesses that had already invested in digitization, this was a straightforward move. In some cases, employees were already used to home working. But for others, investment was required quickly to implement the necessary technologies.
A McKinsey survey found that as a result of this need to adapt, businesses accelerated their digitization by a huge seven years, allowing one positive side-effect of the pandemic.
Where Businesses Invested In During the Pandemic
So, where have businesses been investing since the pandemic to make it through the pandemic and continue to grow even post-Covid?
1. Digital marketing takes the front seat
Many businesses have realized the value of digital marketing in the face of an increasingly competitive industry and challenging economy. This is especially true for retail and B2B organizations that have traditionally operated face to face.
For non-essential retailers, national lockdowns meant they could only transact online. While many of these businesses were already operating in the e-commerce space, they didn’t necessarily have the same presence they held on the high street. They had to invest in digital commerce to stay afloat.
Online visibility has remained crucial as more retailers are still pushed into the online space. Covid lockdowns also resulted in consumers spending an extra day a month online. Online sales as a percentage of retail sales shot up by over 50% between February and April 2020 from 19.1% to 30.2%. The lockdown saw sales soar further to 36.3% of all retail sales.
As a result, ad spend on traditional media fell by 50%. Even retailers who increased their sales during the pandemic, including Amazon, reduced their traditional media spend. Meanwhile, after an initial dip due to heavily impacted sectors postponing activity, Google’s parent company Alphabet recorded record profits. Tellingly, 81% of its sales came from digital advertising.
Visibility on search engines and social media is crucial to online success. While undertaking intensive SEO work should be a long-term goal for businesses looking to increase their online market share, paid search (PPC ads) can create some quick wins todate.
Many businesses turned to Google Ads to increase their online visibility and sales. Focussing on paid search is still an effective strategy today. Then, as your business grows its online presence, paid and organic search can work together as a lucrative income channel.
2. Customer service has gone digital
As a result of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the McKinsey survey found that businesses in Europe increased their percentage of digital customer interactions from 32% to 55%. Interestingly, almost half of brands with over 20 years of longevity ranked customer engagement as their investment priority. Only 39% of younger businesses, however, said the same.
The demand for digital customer service has increased over the years and has also been accelerated by the economic downturn. Businesses that don’t offer digital communication risk losing customers who will seek organizations that prioritize their experience.
Of the organizations that rate themselves as excellent in delivering customer engagement, 67% exceeded revenue goals in 2020. What’s more, 75% of these brands increased their budgets the following year. In 2023, brands are ramping up their digital customer service and customer experience (CX) investment to better engage customers and drive brand loyalty.
It’s widely assumed that younger customers prefer digital contact methods, and their older counterparts overwhelmingly favor traditional communication. It’s important to make sure these digital options are available to all of your customers.
However, research shows a third of over-65s prefer digital contact. For important interactions, the survey found 53% of people prefer to speak in person or over the phone. But for information or basic tasks like paying bills, customers prefer digital communication or online self-service options.
With all of this in mind, there’s no clear winner when it comes to how you deliver your customer service. Blending face-to-face interactions (where possible), telephone, email, live chat, and web self-service will ensure you’re meeting the expectations of a wide cross-section of customers.
3. Employee engagement and flexible working is key
The pandemic years were turbulent for office-based workers. The majority were instructed to work from home starting as early as March 2020, before being encouraged to go back into the office, and were then sent home again… and so on. Business spend on digital communication and engagement tools skyrocketed, with Microsoft Teams and Zoom usage growing by 894% and 677% respectively between February and June 2020.
With the pandemic now over, many organizations have welcomed staff back to the office after extended time away. While you’ve likely implemented workplace safety and hygiene measures in place, employee engagement is also important. Especially considering over two-thirds of home-workers feel less connected to their colleagues and businesses as a result of working from home.
For those workers returning to the office, there are a number of ways you can increase engagement and keep them up-to-date with company news and performance. Placing digital signage screens throughout your office that display company bulletins, performance metrics, or even industry news, for example, can help employees feel more connected to your business.
Equally, hosting regular meetings for colleagues and business update sessions in the office or at an outside venue, and incorporating team-building exercises and a social element to the sessions will help your people reconnect. If you’re one of the many businesses incorporating hybrid and remote working into your long-term business plans, there are still ways to engage remote employees.
Keeping your company intranet up to date is also key to helping employees feel like they know what is going on with your business. Team-building activities don’t always have to take place in-person, either. Virtual quizzes, movie nights, or even gaming sessions are a great way to get your remote workers involved in your company’s culture.
For businesses whose operations were adversely affected by the Covid pandemic, cost-saving and adaptability were essential. For those that continued to operate throughout multiple lockdowns, and still press on today post-Covid, investment in the right areas has never been more important.
Businesses should prioritize key areas including digital marketing, customer experience, and employee engagement to remain resilient, competitive, and thrive post-Covid.