In just a matter of few months, COVID has turned the world upside down in terms of what we had assumed as normal in the way we interacted with fellow human beings, either for our personal needs or in the context of running a business. As the pandemic wrecked havoc all over the world, many businesses worldwide struggled to streamline operations and sustain during the crisis.
At the same time, many businesses and countries are getting used to new normal and continue to reinvent themselves, both from a business process perspective and also by the aid of technology.
China, for example, derived on its strength from the central leadership that decides for the entire nation, to employ technologies like AI, Big Data and 5G to do contact tracing of people infected with the virus, disinfect contaminated places, closely watch people in quarantine, monitor temperature, and make the information available real-time using advanced telecommunication devices.
As much the new world of contactless economic system carries the unpleasant prospect of added distance between people as he new normal, there is also the prospect of the post-covid world ushering in the application and practice of various technologies. Perhaps, the post-covid could potentially trigger the real digital transformation efforts in many enterprises.
Here are few solution themes that we feel would be extremely relevant in the post-Covid world and that could potentially become the inflection point in their adoption. These are not just ideas, these are solutions that we have either successfully implemented for some of our customers and are in the process of implementing some of them.
Contactless Commerce in the B2C environment
While eCommerce has been part of the mainstream for decades now, having an online presence has become more than an necessity for customers to order during the lockdown periods and also to help them safely adhere to the social distancing norms. Recent statistics suggest a 49% surge in online sales in the US in the period of Mar-Apr 2020 and similarly a 33% increase in European eCommerce daily sales.
Most importantly, the online buying experience is also adopting to this new habit of customers in what is termed as BOPIS - Buy Online Pickup in Store. Though high shipping fees was one of the primary trigger for this shopping trend, this behavior gained more prominence during the Covid time, with many of the logistics firms affected by the delivery restrictions.
Many businesses are increasingly adding BOPIS into their omnichannel strategy. To enable BOPIS, businesses need to have the ability to connect with their customers online, most preferably through their favorite messaging platform like Whatsapp, along with the ability to do curbside pickup on the store.
Another key factor is the rise in usage and reliance of the messaging apps to get things done. Reports suggest that messenger apps usage went up significantly during the lockdown and especially Whatsapp usage went up as high as 51%. Hence it is highly imperative that businesses adapt to the changing habits of customers and make it easy for them to make a purchase.
Another business operation that could see a fundamental shift is the contactless business in literal sense, where wearing a gloves has become mandatory and this could change the way we have used computing interfaces. Imagine someone who has to remove the gloves every time to operate a computer and more importantly, even the modern touch interfaces do not work well with your gloves.
Enter Voice Interfaces. Thanks to the smart speaker ecosystem powered by Alexa, Siri or Google Home, voice based technology has become accessible to customers, with more than a billion devices sold across the globe. With numbers like by 2020, nearly 50% of all Searches to be Voice based, it sure is a habit in the making, with some deeper applications in the way many business operations are being run in the post covid era.
Imagine the reinvention of a modern day restaurant where the chefs or the staff who prepare the food in a pizzeria could talk to the computers to process the order dockets, without the need to remove their gloves every time. Similar applications can be extended in other areas like Healthcare, Labs and even on factory floors.
With the continuous advancement in STT (Speech to Text) cognitive services with very high accuracy rates, even with complex vocabulary and in environments with background noise, applications of Voice based interface is going to become mainstream in the coming days.
Accelerating real Digital Transformation
Often times, necessary is the mother of invention.
Be it to work from home, attend online classes or even take your favorite Zumba classes, it has been the digital tools that has helped the world maintain some normalcy. Given the social distancing norms, any businesses that had invested in the digitizing the traditional ways in which they conduct their businesses were left pretty much unscathed.
Insurance industry is a key example.
With a significant portion of their business run via intermediaries, leveraging personal interactions with prospects, the lockdown and the post-covid times became prohibitive in the way they conducted their businesses using the traditional ways. With the inability to collect payments through traditional methods like cheques, contactless payments through the payment gateways and wallets thrived. Many firms faced a multi-fold increase in the Sales and Under-writing functions shifting to the digital channels and that helped them meet the sharp spike in demand for the insurance products as well.
- True omni-channel sales strategy
- Leveraging messaging channels like Whatsapp for Servicing
- Call-center automation with AI powered Smart Assistants (not chatbots)
- Going paperless for internal process efficiencies and onboarding
Application and Platform Resiliency
Another area that did not leave even the technically mighty ones is the stability and resiliency of the technology platforms. With the sudden, multi-fold spike in usage volume, even big players like Zoom, Google and Slack took some serious hit with the stability of their platforms. So did other digital enterprises, unable to cope up with the surge in volume.
Not just these digital tools, with the increased demand for the online services, many businesses struggled to stay alive and customers were left with broken webpages or very slow response times. Added to that, many of the business process were not truly straight-thru in digital and were left hanging in the middle to complete the manual portions of the process.
A truly cloud-native application architecture that helps scale on demand would have helped these firms. Providing a seamless customer experience at the time of a crisis is so vital and ensuring your business applications stand up to withstand any additional customer demand is so critical to thrive in these moments of crisis.
As much as the disruption caused to various businesses across the globe, COVID would sure act as the inflection point in the Digitization efforts for many of the businesses that managed to survive or even thrive better in these tough times.
All resulting in extremely positive bottomline gains and user experience.