The coronavirus pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons. We have a better appreciation of our key workers, which includes NHS staff, shop workers, and transport and logistics providers. A better understanding of the spread of infectious viruses has helped individuals and businesses protect themselves and their staff.
The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns also taught businesses the importance of digital solutions that enabled remote working and collaboration. Roles that could be carried out from home made the switch. For businesses that had already invested in digitisation, 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 digitisation by a huge seven years, highlighting one positive side-effect of the pandemic. But where have businesses been investing during this time?
Digital marketing takes the front seat
Many businesses have realised the value of digital marketing in the face of an increasingly competitive industry. This is especially true for retail and B2B organisations 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.
Online visibility has been more crucial than ever because many retailers were pushed into the online space. National 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 current lockdown has seen these 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 can create some quick wins. Many businesses turned to Google Ads to increase their online visibility and sales. Then, as your business grows its online presence, paid and organic search can work together as a lucrative income channel.
Customer service goes digital
As a result of the 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 in recent years and has also been accelerated by the pandemic. Businesses that don’t offer digital communication risk losing customers who will seek organisations that prioritise their experience. Of the organisations that rate themselves as excellent in delivering customer engagement, 67% exceeded revenue goals in 2020. What’s more, 75% of these brands are increasing their budgets in 2021.
It’s important to make sure these digital options are available to your customers even when things go back to “normal”. It’s widely assumed that younger customers prefer digital contact methods and their older counterparts overwhelmingly favour traditional communication. However, new research shows a third of over-65s prefer digital contact. For important interactions, the same Echo survey showed 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….