The Pivot to a Digital World Accelerated by COVID

In 2020, the world as we know it came to a crashing halt. Overnight, COVID shuttered the doors of businesses around the globe, and people became confined to the four walls of their homes. As both consumers and brands looked to adapt to lockdowns and new protocols, a digital-first world emerged.

In fact, according to a study by Google, during the first year of the pandemic, consumer interest in online shopping and how to buy online doubled worldwide. Since people could no longer visit restaurants and stores in person, they looked for new ways to interact with brands and find the products and services needed.

During this time, consumers who may have been hesitant to use digital channels to research products, place orders, and connect with brands in the past became adopters of digital tools almost overnight.

Over the next few years, businesses need to find ways to pivot to the digital world that COVID has accelerated the adoption of. The following seven key changes will help brands build a plan to adapt to a digitally powered world.


1. Delivery Is on the Rise

For restaurants, grocery stores, and other retail businesses, one of the keys to future success will be in the ability to deliver directly to a consumer’s door. During the pandemic, customers could no longer visit brick-and-mortar locations. This led to an uptick in placing orders online and requesting delivery to the home.

And, these habits that were created during the pandemic are here to stay. Customers are now ordering more delivery than ever before. According to research by McKinsey, the delivery market has more than doubled during the pandemic in the US alone. Today, food delivery is worth more than $150 billion globally.

This means that if your business isn’t offering delivery services yet, it’s time to get on board. The delivery market will only continue to increase in size as people become more and more accustomed to digital ordering.

The good news is that adopting delivery services doesn’t need to involve a heavy investment for businesses and restaurants. There are platforms available that make it easy to implement tools for online shopping and ordering, in-store ops management, and integrated delivery solutions.


2. Customer Experience Is at the Center of Digital Interactions

While customers are becoming accustomed to placing orders online and interacting with brands digitally, their expectations around these experiences are also rising.

For businesses looking to implement more digital channels, the quality of the customer experience must be at the center of the entire strategy.

There are three key ways your brand can stand out when interacting with customers via distant transactions:

  • Quality of service. When interacting with customers online, it’s critical to ensure that the quality of your services doesn’t suffer. Focus on making the process for placing online orders simple and intuitive. Make sure that interacting with your brand online is as easy as when people show up at your store in person.
  • Speed. Another key to making your digital interactions a success is to ensure speed of services. When someone places an online order, make sure you understand and manage their expectations around delivery speed, then work to ensure that you meet or exceed those expectations.
  • Customer service. Finally, when someone interacts with your brand digitally, be sure there are channels for resolving issues and reaching out with questions. Customer service should remain a top priority for your brand.


3. Physical Locations Still Matter

While more and more people are turning to digital channels to place orders and interact with businesses, this does not negate the importance of a physical location. Physical customers can become digital customers and vice versa.

Instead, focusing on an omnichannel experience is critical. Make sure that no matter how a customer wishes to interact with your business, whether by walking through your door or reaching out to your team online, you have the right channels in place.

Additionally, be sure that your physical location supports your digital presence and ensure messaging is consistent across all channels.


4. A Robust Online Presence Is a Must

It’s more important than ever before to focus on your online brand, image, and messaging to attract new customers. If you haven’t launched a website, built out your social media channels, or implemented a digital ordering platform, now is the time.

Additionally, be sure that your marketing strategy includes digital channels. As more customers turn to the internet to find delivery near them, you want to ensure that you are targeting this audience with relevant and timely ads. This can help you increase business and reach new customers.


5. People Are Changing Where They Work

One of the biggest shifts in the world since COVID has been how people work. According to research by McKinsey, companies moved 40 times more quickly to implement remote work than they thought possible before the pandemic. In fact, it only took around 11 days for most companies to implement remote working solutions. And almost all companies surveyed were able to create a workable remote solution within a matter of months.

While things are opening back up, a recent survey found that 45% of full-time US employees are working from home either all or part of the time. Additionally, these figures are remaining static, signaling that many companies’ return-to-office plans are still on hold.

For businesses, this means that reaching customers must include a strategy to target their new remote work lifestyle. In the case of restaurants, offering lunch-time at-home delivery is a key way to reach this demographic.


6. The World is Becoming More Comfortable with Doing Everything Online

While the world is opening back up to allow for in-person shopping and dining, many customers continue to use digital channels for their interactions.

A study on US consumer behavior demonstrated that more than half of customers surveyed prefer to shop online rather than in person. Additionally, online sales in the US are expected to surpass $1 trillion by 2022. Beyond 2022, ecommerce sales are forecasted to continue to grow by double digits.

As people become comfortable using digital channels, businesses must ensure that they provide a quality online experience.


7. Companies are Adapting to a Digital-First World

In a digital-first world, companies are rethinking their overall business strategies. One of the notable ways that this can be seen is in how leading businesses are approaching their branding. For example, Facebook has changed the name of its parent company to Meta, embracing a new universe based solely on digital interactions. Square has changed its parent name to Block as it looks to expand its digital offerings.

Regardless of your business’s size, adapting to a digital-first world will be a necessity in the years to come. Rather than playing catch-up down the road, it’s important to invest in quality digital channels now, ensuring that you do not lose customers as they become increasingly reliant on digital tools.


Power Your Digital Solutions with Ally

If your restaurant or retail business is looking to adapt to a digital-first world, Ally is here to help. Ally is a software company that assists companies to join the direct-to-consumer revolution. Offering a full suite of enterprise-grade software, businesses that use Ally can find customers online, take orders digitally, connect with a broad network of delivery drivers, and manage payments without ever paying a penny in commissions. Learn more about how Ally can help you transform your business in a digital world.