Since the global COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020, much discussion regarding the importance of technology has focused on the enablement of remote working. In a contactless or socially distanced world, the majority of interactions with colleagues, partners, and customers take place virtually by way of collaboration and communication tools. However, it is important to note this digital acceleration and virtualisation isn’t new, it has just been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic.
Speed of virtualisation
Dramatic increases in the use of online meeting software may provide the more obvious example of this virtualisation trend at the moment—Zoom reported surpassing 300 million daily virtual meeting participants by April 2020. Additionally, businesses are also showing interest in emerging technologies and more sophisticated tools.
Today, digitalisation touches almost every part of a business’ operations, from marketing and sales to logistics and customer service. GetApp recently surveyed 493 Australian business leaders about their digital acceleration journey since the start of the COVID-19 crisis.
The results show businesses have been transitioning to digital models in increasing numbers, taking advantage of new hybrid ways of working and even enjoying a wider customer reach. However, the survey shows that organisations need to take a more strategic approach when implementing their digitalisation initiatives to achieve long-term business benefits post-pandemic (the full methodology is available at the bottom of the article).
The drastic surge in the number of businesses going virtual in some capacity. Over the course of the last year, there has been a drastic surge in the number of businesses going virtual in some capacity. 52% of Aussie organisations surveyed are now conducting all or most of their business online, compared to just 3% that were fully virtual pre-COVID.
Businesses are increasingly relying on digital platforms for customer engagement
As a result of this transition to virtual platforms, 21% of organisations have seen a major increase in customer engagement and online traffic to their websites, with a further 38% reporting a minor increase.
Prospective customers from new and different regions are now able to engage with companies digitally where previously they were unable to connect via traditional channels. 64% of Aussie businesses are receiving half or more of their new online traffic from regions or countries where they hadn’t previously operated. This opens up new doors of opportunities for organisations to widen their net for clientele while improving their brand recognition and reach.
Increasing cash flow and retaining customers are the main priorities for the coming year
With digitalisation delivering clear business benefits beyond just facilitating remote working, technology will become increasingly critical to broader competitiveness. As Australia climbs towards economic recovery, the government has started providing support in the form of technical assistance.
However, in addition to ensuring that digital investments deliver beyond COVID-19, businesses also need to be resilient and agile in the current times of rapid change, which depends on more than just addressing technical issues. It starts with understanding and aligning initiatives with wider business goals.
Our research shows most businesses are fairly consistent when it comes to their short and long-term goals for 2021. Across the year, customer retention, employee retention, cost-cutting, increasing cash flow, and finding new customers, comprise Australian companies’ top five business goals.
Most businesses say that they have successfully engaged with customers in digital environments, interacting with them via social media or their websites. Of those surveyed, 32% say that they have been “very successful” while 51% say they have been “somewhat successful” in establishing such customer engagements. Though this transition from in-person to online hasn’t been without challenges.
The majority (73%) faced some obstacles when attempting to convert face-to-face services into online equivalents. Similarly, 68% of organisations faced difficulties in shifting in-person meetings online and keeping customers informed about changes relating to digitalisation.
Over half of respondents say digital investments won’t deliver in the medium- to long-term
As COVID-driven digitalisation continues to be the norm, there is increasing pressure on Aussie businesses to keep investing in technology to remain relevant and competitive.
The GetApp survey reveals 52% of organisations say their business would have failed without a pandemic-driven investment in digital technology, and 70% say they need to continually invest in digital infrastructure to keep up with competitors.
While most businesses accept, they need to keep pace with digital developments, 52% of organisations are worried that the technology they’ve invested in won’t deliver a return in the medium to long-term.
One of the primary reasons for this is the lack of digital skillsets organisations anticipate needing in the next six months. Of particular concern for most businesses is insufficient cybersecurity skills.
The offline and online battle won’t have a binary outcome. The companies should aim to use the best of both worlds to deliver a seamless, convenient, and meaningful experience.
Data for this study were collected in December 2020 from an online survey of 493 respondents that live in Australia.
To participate in the survey, respondents had to be:
- Employed full-time in one of the following roles:
- Owner, founder or other head of an organisation
- C-Suite executive e.g. CEO, CIO
- President of Vice-president
- Working for a company of up to 250 people
- Working at the organisation during the COVID-19 pandemic