No matter what our new normal may look like when we finally get "past" the pandemic, certain Covid-era business developments are here for good.
I'm talking about more than virtual meetings and shopping online. In many ways, Covid has transformed businesses from the inside out, either accelerating changes that were already occurring or shining a light on changes that were long overdue.
Here's my list of business trends that may have emerged because of a massive global shake-up, but are proving to have serious staying power.
Customer loyalty is no longer reliable.
You likely heard this stat bandied about in 2021: nearly 50% of customers tried new brands in 2020, and that trend hasn't slowed down.
The intense disruption of the initial lockdowns forced many customers to try new brands, even if they weren't specifically looking to do so. And now that the spell of customer loyalty has been broken, companies that want to retain their customers need to put a laser focus on customer experience.
Personalized content, support features like video chat and AI-supported text chat, and easy, transparent self-purchase portals are some of the features customers are looking for.
Digital transformation is more than a buzzword.
Digital transformation has been touted as a priority by countless businesses for the last several years, but the term's meaning was often nebulous.
Now that so many companies are digital by default--at least in terms of working remote, using digital tools to communicate, and selling products and services digitally--the term "digital transformation" has some metaphorical meat on its bones. Companies understand that their entire organizations can be streamlined through the adoption of digital methods, from communication and transactions to deeper business functions.
Take MORE Surface Care, which develops and sells safe sealers and cleaners for stone and tile. This company, which is both B2C and B2B, went from a 100% in-person customer sales model to a 100% digital customer sales model. They also had to add an entirely new digital marketing function to their B2B sales arm--prior to the pandemic, they'd done zero digital marketing.
This swift and comprehensive digital pivot was how MORE was able to continue expanding its business--even earning a spot on the 2021 Inc. 5000 list. Without it, they could have been one of the other thousands of businesses to suffer during the pandemic lockdowns.
Companies are also realizing that the way they manage data--how they structure processes and set up automation--can all be made more efficient and accurate through digital products and services like those offered by Altimetrik.
The digital business solutions provider works collaboratively with businesses to develop data solutions that can change a company from the ground up by serving as a single source of truth (SSOT)--a central enterprise data repository that provides a company with a singular and comprehensive view of its business and customers. The SSOT provides businesses with the ability to better track successes and struggles across sales, marketing and operations, enabling them to be proactive in correcting problems and amplifying successes.
We've (finally!) gotten past simply adding digital tools and strategies, and shifted into fully digital business models. The future will include more holistic and fully integrated digital solutions that go beyond a single function.
Businesses are reconsidering the value of buying and sourcing locally.
There's nothing like a broken global supply chain to make you appreciate the value of local businesses.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that 75% of consumers were planning to shop more locally in 2022, for everything from food, to gifts, to business supplies.
On a similar note, brands that may not be local in geographic terms, but that have many of the characteristics of local businesses that consumers love--small, with niche or specialized products, and a localized supply chain of their own--boomed during the pandemic and show no signs of slowing growth. For instance, Etsy grew massively during 2020, and while most experts predicted that the growth wouldn't last, the growth has continued.
Influencer marketing, especially for B2B, took off.
With all that extra time so many of us were spending on social media, it's no surprise that influencer marketing grew by leaps and bounds.
Influencers, and the brands that worked with them, had a larger audience than ever before ready to watch their Reels, buy their products, and tap that heart on any post they found compelling.
In fact, the industry grew from $1.7 billion in 2016 to $9.7 billion in 2020, a growth rate of 470%.
The growth was expected, but what was surprising--at least to people who weren't paying attention to how the B2B buying journey has changed--is how effective influencer marketing has become for B2B brands. In a 2020 study, 74% of B2B marketers said that influencer marketing improved their customer experience. In 2022, I'd be willing to bet that number will edge up even more.
There's no question that the way businesses operate has been permanently altered, and I'm certain we'll continue to see these changes play out in the years to come. The challenge is to embrace these changes, using them to make our companies stronger, better, and more agile.