As communities around the world cope with the extraordinary impact of COVID-19, we are faced with one of the most challenging times in nearly a generation. My heart goes out to all those stricken by this deadly virus and to all who have lost beloved family and friends. Every day I read inspirational stories about brave people working tirelessly in hospitals and makeshift healthcare facilities across this nation, and I am humbled by their personal sacrifices and unwavering dedication to saving lives. These people are the true definition of essential workers, and we’ll have them to thank for helping us get through this crisis.
Similarly, our predicament has been immeasurably improved by countless distribution and delivery people, farmers and food service employees. They are not only keeping food on our tables, but they are also supporting and sustaining our now crippled economy. These courageous workers and the companies they represent are on the front lines supplying Americans with what they need to survive. At the same time, they are inadvertently demonstrating what is possible with technology and wiping out any doubt that the future of business is digital. As such, digital marketing has never been more relevant and necessary for businesses of all sizes to ensure they can be found by consumers online.
I’ve worked in digital marketing for over a decade now, and during this time I’ve helped countless clients overcome a wide variety of challenges. However, the challenges created by this crisis are unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Brick-and-mortar stores have been forced to close their doors as social distancing and self-isolation have taken priority over traditional business and shopping practices. This reality has rapidly accelerated e-commerce transactions, and millions of people who were previously reluctant to purchase goods or services over the internet are now dipping their toes in the digital commerce waters. As such, the consumer landscape will likely never be the same again.
People are learning that shopping in a physical store isn’t always necessary. In fact, a “fingertip society” is emerging, and almost anything is just a click away. This disruption is making companies realize that if they are not findable on the web, they will have a hard time getting in front of the modern consumer. We are entering an era in which the importance of online traffic is more significant than foot traffic for most businesses.
B2B companies are now recognizing the power of digital and are rethinking their business models. As an example, I have many clients who rely heavily on expos for business development. However, social distancing has paused those industry conferences and increased the importance of conducting business digitally. Now sales and marketing departments have to learn how to utilize new technologies to create digital brochures, automate email marketing campaigns and connect via virtual meetings online.
The traditional sales and marketing paradigms have already been steadily changing over the past decade. But these events have undoubtedly exposed many companies’ vulnerabilities, and as I mentioned on a recent podcast, brands that were slow to evolve can now see how vital it is to make a digital transformation. The silver lining could be that these changes may very well end up being a good thing for humanity. People can now visit their doctors and pharmacists from the comfort of their homes, through the virtual visit model, for medical needs that are not life-threatening. Therapists and academic tutors are following suit by transitioning their practices to video chat platforms, instead of relying on face-to-face encounters. These digital solutions have been utilized by many professionals for years, but now more consumers are participating in this innovative virtual experience.
Today, we live in a society that places convenience high on the priority list. The Amazons of the world have already proven that most people prefer internet-based communication and e-commerce over more traditional methods. With the increased exposure to virtual experiences brought upon us by this pandemic, the demand will likely elevate consumer expectations even further and accelerate the pace of adoption. Digital transformation is here to stay.
Just as the online world has become more relevant and necessary to the functioning of our society, digital marketing has become essential to success for businesses that operate within that society. It’s hard to believe, but up until recently, some companies could still get away with neglecting their online presence and digital brand. For better or worse, this crisis has been a wake-up call for many businesses around the globe.
As millions permanently transition to purchasing products and services online, businesses must ensure they are digitally visible and accessible. The greatest organizational risk isn’t losing market share; it’s becoming obscure to the point of irrelevance.
We are in the middle of a major cultural disruption, and it is changing how we function in our personal and professional lives. The lessons we draw from this experience are hard to predict. But one thing is certain: The role technology and digital marketing are playing in commerce, communication and healthcare is proving to be a critical part of our success. And businesses that have resisted the digital transformation should take note of its tremendous power and efficiency. Companies that embrace these changes will add the most value to their customers’ lives, be in the best position to grow and perhaps make the world a better place.