The Digital Future is Now
Almost overnight, the 2020 pandemic digitized the way many Americans go to work. If we could be certain about any prediction of the future, it would be that digital experiences will become the most important part of our businesses. How companies communicate internally and externally has been forced to go online wherever and however possible — changing marketing, sales, and the overall approach to connecting to customers.
This year has left us feeling like we’re living in an alternate reality. This isn’t far-off from the truth. People have had to rapidly change the way they conduct themselves in business and their personal lives. To succeed in this new environment, businesses seem to have two options to keep turning a profit: Organizations that stayed open amidst the pandemic either transitioned very quickly to a virtual environment (making it easier than ever for customers to buy) or they relied on the support of a loyal customer base while they digitized workflows.
In both scenarios, a transition to a virtual marketplace is necessary.
“I used to say that with modern digital sales capabilities, sales changed more in the past five years than in the past 50 years. I should say now that sales changed more in the past five months than in the past five years,” said Joël Le Bon, professor at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
This digital transition has businesses worrying more about how they offer their product rather than the actual product itself. Businesses have extended this “ease of access” to how they work with employees as well. As much as 42% of the nation’s workforce is now working from home, according to estimates from a Stanford University report.
Yet 2020’s alternate future presents other unforeseen problems for professionals. Bedrooms have turned into offices and conference rooms now exist virtually, courtesy of Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. Remote workers are helping their kids with the school during their lunch hour and leaving the house is more of a project than ever before.
Businesses have been forced to recognize the issues that come along with their employees’ new lifestyle. Hiring, training, talent advancement, networking events, and speaking events are now happening in digital settings to make it safe to engage while working remotely.
Since owners and managers cannot rely on everyone being physically present, they’ve had to develop greater organization and structure for employees and the projects they are working on. Organization from the top down now exists entirely online, in various IT systems and automation software.
Whether it is a cloud computing software, supply chain management system, email marketing program, or CRM software — managers must conduct an audit of what works best for the entire team. These data systems should integrate or work in unison to streamline the digital business. Owners and managers have to listen to each internal department to decide which systems make the most sense.
Most importantly, digital systems in place must support customer engagement and feedback gathering. For example, if a company is going to use a certain email marketing software — it should be used in a way that educates, promotes a seamless sale, and ultimately develops a trustworthy customer relationship. Companies that understand their audience (demographics, interests, etc.) will design digital customer outreach that speaks directly to them. What’s more, using customer data intelligently means that outreach campaigns are well-thought-out, effective, and just frequent enough to avoid email fatigue.
Businesses must constantly define their audience(s) and create a digital landscape that reflects the personal needs of their customer base. Employees, too, must be given the tools they need to not only make jobs easier but to ensure each task is furthering departmental and company-wide goals. For now, digital experiences make up the majority of interactions that consumers will have with businesses. Companies can still foster a great customer relationship by making sure that the technology in use unites the employee base, stimulates consumer engagement, and personalizes a seamless experience for the end-user.
“Before a digital transformation can truly begin, the company must switch its mindset from being product-focused to being customer-focused,” said Blake Morgan, author of the book The Customer Of The Future. “The driving force behind technology decisions should be customers, and the goal should be to make their lives easier instead of making things easier for the organization.”