COVID-19 entered the world with a vengeance. Suddenly, more than 1.5 billion people were told to stay at home or shelter in place, a directive that transformed every aspect of our lives.
No more commutes to work. No more conferences and networking events. No more in-person education. No more happy hours with friends. The list goes on and on.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing consequences of COVID-19 is the acceleration of digital transformation. This transformation is nothing new, but it’s immediacy is. A five-year plan for transformation is now a one-year, or better yet, a six-month plan.
Adapting to a Virtualized World
Every business must adapt to this new virtualized world in which we find ourselves. The question is: How do we react to these changes, both on an immediate and long-term basis?
Some are more prepared than others to tackle both the proficiency and efficiency challenges we’re facing. First, we must figure out how to cope with what’s in front of us. Then, we can assess the inevitable long-term transformation and what our new future looks like.
Prioritizing for the Short Term
Our collective short-term response requires a priority framework.
For Coveo, that involved our leadership team obtaining broad agreement on the order of priority from our board and our shareholders. We aligned on the priority of protecting shareholders’ assets, but not before protecting our employees and continuing to serve our customers. This priority alignment guided our immediate actions.
Beyond traditional safety and health measures, we took steps to protect the company as a source of security and stability for employees and customers. One of the best ways we’ve found to help our customers in these times is to make sure that we’re more dependable than ever, including offering our training and education workshops for free, assisting our healthcare customers with their capacity needs, and more.
Companies need to start with the fundamentals and avoid introducing new variables that stand in the way. And they should strive to run flawlessly. Once businesses have triaged that, they can begin to think about the long term.
Transforming in the Long Term
Just a few months ago, we were mostly operating in a business-as-usual mode. We were tracking against pre-crisis obsolescence plans and following digital transformation agendas without the immediate threat of COVID-19.
Then came business and human disruption like we’ve never seen before. Work, education and commerce became remote within weeks. People became stuck at home, needing to do more on their own. Whether it’s needing to do more as a customer, shopper or employee, every person needs to be empowered and enabled with the content and support they need. And right now they also need to do more on their own. Amazon, Tableau, Salesforce and other digital leaders have set the bar for digital experiences; consumers and employees expect every organization they interact with to deliver the same exceptional and effortless digital experiences.
Businesses need to prioritize this accelerated transformation, by creating experiences that are unified, relevant and valuable to meet those expectations.
Unified experiences bring together the content and knowledge from different digital silos, such as a mobile app, customer community or Youtube channel, as well as the data from those silos. By doing this, the customer journey is completely connected and unified, with the signal of the user intent and context carrying from one interaction to the next.
Relevance – in the moments that matter – is of critical importance now. Your customers and employees are not only having to deal with the stress of a global pandemic, but they’re also often balancing childcare, work and more during this time. If they’re not able to find answers to their questions immediately, your competitors are seconds and a new browser window away. And this isn’t just what the marketing team thinks they need or the next steps to take; our world has changed and the user needs to take the lead. Once the infrastructure is able to connect all of the data and content, AI can automatically understand the intent and context of the user, based on the behavioral data of similar users, to deliver the content and experience that the user needs right when they need it.
Part of that does need to be balanced by the business needs, which is where providing valuable experiences comes into play. Especially in light of complex supply chain issues, businesses need to connect their overall business strategy and data into what products and content are recommended to customers and employees as they navigate the digital experience. If a product in an ecommerce store now costs double to ship compared to a similar product, why not recommend the other product? These profitability calculations can be done in real time with the help of data and AI.
COVID-19 will eventually decline, following an inevitable tail effect. And companies will return to some form of normalcy. But normal will be different than it was before this crisis. We will never go back to business as usual. What was a digital crush – a flirting affection with new technology – will become a digital rush – a strategic imperative prioritizing the acceleration of digital transformation. Because this is what people have now experienced at scale, and they will not go back.