Covid-19 has revolutionised the way companies operate, forcing them to completely rethink the way they work. What with home working, the digitalisation of tools and the redesign of internal processes, digitalisation is no longer a strategic issue. It has become a real matter of survival for some companies.
While some businesses have quickly adapted to home working and the digitalisation of their services, others are struggling to adapt their operations to the new challenges brought about by digital technology and have been forced to limit their activity, or even cease it and close down.
What are the digitalisation challenges for companies during Covid-19? In this article, we look back on the challenges of the digitalisation of companies – which is not merely a priority, but a question of survival in an increasingly uncertain economic context.
COVID-19: THE FORCED DIGITALISATION OF COMPANIES
At a time when the world is affected by a second wave of Covid-19, forcing companies to switch to home working and to review their operating methods, the issue of digitalisation has never been as crucial as it is today.
To carry on working and allow employees to work safely etc, companies have gone digital, with start-ups leading the way. This is in response to the unprecedented health crisis which is turning our working, production and sales methods upside down.
Digitalisation is no longer an option: to avoid shutting up shop, companies, especially retail companies and shopkeepers, have to be able to digitise their services and continue their sales activities remotely on the Internet. Thanks to new acquisition channels, increased visibility, home working and fresh, more collaborative working methods, business models are adapting to the current situation. They are based on the development of omnichannel to multiply sales media and channels. Thus, the digitalisation of activities is now inevitable for them to continue, especially in this unparalleled pandemic.
WHY HAS DIGITALISATION BECOME A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT SOLUTION?
Some companies have managed to “take advantage” of the pandemic crisis to grow. This is especially true for Zoom, which has become the world leader in videoconferencing solutions since global lockdowns. Amazon, the e-commerce giant, has also experienced unprecedented growth in turnover with a record stock market valuation. At the same time, some companies have decided to review their way of operating by adopting more flexible methods based on the use of new information technologies (such as videoconferencing and remote collaborative work), like Maif, a major insurance group in France.
Maif has given its 7,500 employees the option of working remotely as they wish (three days a week). According to an article on siecledigital.fr, since the compulsory switch to home working during lockdown, the insurance group has chosen to continue this way of working. “We will provide out staff with the necessary equipment (...) we will of course support them; our managers are always present (...) it’s important,” explained Pascal Demurger, CEO of the insurance provider based in the commune of Niort. Moreover, this new operating method will be accompanied by a reshuffle in information and project management systems in all the group’s entities.
THE DECISION TO OUTSOURCE: ADDED VALUE FOR THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF COMPANIES
Outsourcing can be a helpful response to the digitalisation issues raised by the Covid-19 crisis. Entrusting service providers with specific technical and/or strategic tasks has several advantages. First of all, outsourcing saves time, as service providers specialising in a particular subject can deal more quickly and efficiently with the tasks assigned to them.
Secondly, it is also an opportunity to save money; pooling the tasks outsourced by service providers means they can reduce implementation costs, which is reflected in the budget allocated to outsourcing. Finally, the objectives set are reached more quickly as fewer financial and human resources are used by the company. Outsourcing also goes hand in hand with the digital transformation, since it involves services for the digitalisation of activities and the redefinition of new digital processes that can be entrusted to specialists in a field.
RETHINKING SALES PROMOTION ACTIVITIES THROUGH DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY
To maintain the operations and efficiency of their sales teams, companies no longer have a choice: they have to digitise their sales promotion tools. Thus, sales promotion activities have to be carried out remotely while continuing to observe two main objectives: keeping teams motivated as they perform their tasks remotely, but also preserving the quality of the data entered in CRM tools.
CRM tools centralise all the information inherent in customer relations. Most sales strategies depend on information gathered in the front office and are based solely on the rate of orders received, overall turnover or sales volume. This raw information is necessary for decision-making, and must be part of measures to collect more nuanced and precise information on customer buying behaviour to be fully effective. Furthermore, in-depth exploration of all its components is essential to get the most out of each lead recorded by each CRM tool.
Identifying the sales channels that are popular with customers is key to optimising the effectiveness of sales functions. The omnichannel customer experience brings together data from the Internet and different apps, but also from customer services, after-sales and physical points of sale. Collecting and comparing this data enables companies to set the course in terms of commercial efficiency and to develop omnichannel in parallel with the use of digital tools.
OMNICHANNEL: THE LAUNCH OF A MARKETPLACE TO SAVE RETAIL BUSINESSES AND SHOPS
The Covid-19 crisis has led to an unprecedented number of businesses going bust. Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, fears tens of thousands of independent businesses in France could close following the coronavirus crisis.
Faced with the current second wave and the measures preventing “non-essential” businesses from opening up to the public, some business managers and local authorities are resorting to digital technology in the hope of saving economic activity.
Many local authorities, for instance, are relying on omnichannel for operations and are developing marketplaces for shopkeepers. A marketplace is a website or smartphone app made available to independent retailers who can then sell their products online in return for commission on each sale or a subscription.
Marketplace services go hand in hand with the digitalisation of the whole commercial offer and can thus offer lots of additional services, such as delivery, GPS tracking, online bookings and loyalty cards etc.
The use of “digital” marketplaces provides many advantages for independent businesses. These include pooling the costs of developing and running a platform, improved image, strengthening the attractiveness of an area, more direct communication with customers (promotions, events and commercial offers), and above all a turnkey digital solution with the possibility of businesses continuing their activity, establishing a loyal customer base, and acquiring new customers in other areas insofar as the digitalisation of the offer enables a wider distribution of services.
Digital technology can be a means of creating new organisational and commercial opportunities (such as retaining customers and winning new ones). Turning to outsourcing to initiate an effective digital transformation is therefore a real business lever, as long as businesses support their teams as these new tools are acquired.