It may have only been nine months since the outbreak of COVID-19, but the pandemic has fundamentally and definitely changed the way businesses in Australia operate.
More shocking, studies have found that the pandemic has forced companies across all sectors to bring forward their intended digitization by seven whole years.
According to Forbes, prior to the outbreak, 70% of companies were either working on digital transformation or had a future strategy in place. Adopting a hybrid working model that utilized video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams for communication and apps like Monday.com for organizational purposes was a key business goal.
However, these were not the only planned changes. Across Australia, businesses and organizations were planning other digital evolutions, such as to try using a timeclock app to record employee attendance and manage shift patterns.
What’s clear is that as we move into 2021, more and more companies are embracing technology – a trend that has been spearheaded by tech conglomerates like Facebook and Google who have openly encouraged a working-from-home model until at least the middle of 2021.
Facing New Horizons of Digital Technologies
There is no denying that adaption is key for businesses to remain competitive in the new global landscape. Embedding technology deeper into the fabric of our lives at this point seems inevitable. You only need to look at the explosion of eCommerce shopping during the pandemic to see that technology is a requisite to meet consumer demand.
With consumer opportunities to visit physical stores limited and retailers migrating their products online, eCommerce retail is finally overtaking the high street. Amazon – the world’s largest online retailer – has seen its profits soar. At the end of July 2020 alone, the company announced that its quarterly profits had soared from $2.6 billion USD to $5.2 billion USD. Net sales had also increased by 40%.
If there was ever an indication that our online infrastructure was vital to consumerism and that businesses should be migrating their products online, this is it.
However, as eye-catching as statistics like this is, Australian retailers should, of course, remain focused on their own businesses. To remain competitive in this new commercial and economic environment, businesses need to embrace new strategies that incorporate digital platforms that add value to their operations.
Business owners should ask themselves what technology will benefit their business. Thankfully, as harsh as the pandemic and subsequent shrinking of the global economy, one that has seen Australia plunge into its first recession in nearly 30 years, there is a silver lining: we have the technology and innovation know-how to adopt and develop technologies that facilitate large-scale remote or hybrid working, allowing businesses across a wealth of sectors to continue operations seamlessly.
Digital adoption has taken a quantum leap in 2020
It should come as no surprise to anyone (and we have already alluded to it in this article) that throughout the pandemic, consumers behaviour has dramatically shifted towards online channels. This has prompted sectors and businesses to transform their operations to reflect this trend.
For instance, with face-to-face communication having been impossible for months at a time, Melbourne alone only lifting lockdown on 28th October after residents endured a 112-day lockdown period, digital adoption skyrocketed – driven mainly by the availability and performance of video conferencing software.
In a study conducted by KPMG, a global firm with interests in asset management, banking, and capital markets, in addition to the chemical and consumer retail markets, it was discovered that, during the lockdown, globally companies spent the equivalent of $15 billion AUD a week on digital adoption to help keep their workforce safe and secure.
Although the scale of this spending is unlikely to be sustainable in the coming years, what is clear is that digital platforms will become increasingly integral to operations not just in Australia but throughout the world.
What will be the biggest changes to occur and will they be long-term?
Predicting what working will look like in Australia – and across the globe – in 2021 is a difficult task. However, it is safe to assume that for at least the start of 2021, commercial operations will primarily be focused on keeping workforces safe and well.
This means a continued emphasis on remote working. Businesses are likely to continue to, or scale, the digital platforms that they use to provide their workforce with the infrastructure they need to perform their roles with proficiency.
Customer preferences will likely be for remote interactions, and all technologies that meet health and hygiene sensitivities will be favoured.
There is also likely to be a significant shift in supply chains too. Any change will depend on the requirements and challenged faced by individual sectors. They will also occur over a longer period because of logistical limitations and demands and prior established contracts.
Then there are consumer-facing sectors, like health and beauty. The days of visiting a retail shop and speaking to a shop assistant about a product are numbered. Does this mean that we are likely to witness the rise of the chatbot? It is quite likely.
In general, do not be surprised to see the physical footprint of retail outlets decrease as 2021 unfolds. Amazon has long intended to open physical stores across the globe, however, with consumer attitudes towards retail shopping changing – and let us not forget their record profitability – it would not be too hard to imagine that Amazon’s large-scale plans to open physical store could be shelved.
COVID-19 has forced companies to embrace technology
The pandemic has prompted change on a scale that has not been seen in generations. It is fair to say that we may have even gone past the tipping point and are already immersed in a brave new world – one that embraces technology with open arms. This is as true for businesses as it is for individual people.
As the decade progresses, expect more and more businesses to adapt and evolve to new consumer behaviours and demands – something that will involve more dependence than ever before on our digital infrastructure.