Don't let forced digital progress due to COVID-19 distract you from long-term goals. Make changes now to bring your business into the digital age.

Change comes with the territory in business. Fail to adapt, and your company can quickly shutter. However, the pace of change in the digital age has become exponential and is disrupting even large, successful companies that might seem secure. In fact, more than half of Fortune 500 companies have gone bankrupt, been acquired, or shuttered due to digital disruption — and researchers predict that 75 percent of S&P companies will be replaced by 2027. COVID-19 has only accelerated shifts. Reshaping your business to accommodate the new virtual realities overtaking the globe will be necessary to endure throughout this ongoing progression.

Reshaping Your Business to Meet the Digital Age

Nigel Vaz, author and CEO of global digital business transformation company Publicis Sapient, talked with me about how companies are reinventing themselves to stay open. He noted three industries where changes are especially dramatic:

  • Car-buying. When the public health crisis paralyzed the industry, car dealers had little choice but to embrace the disruptive changes they’d been resisting for decades. Digital Automotive marketplace, TrueCar, rolled out a buy-from-home feature that allowed car shoppers to complete their entire auto transaction without any in-person contact at a dealership. Something that dealerships thought would never become standard — people configuring car features online and happily getting vehicles delivered — quickly shot up in popularity. “The companies were seeing, initially, percentages of 15-20 percent,” Vaz asserts. “And now it’s well over 30-40 percent of cars.”
  • Grocery shopping. Thanks to the pandemic, more grocery shoppers are using downloaded apps, are trying new services (e.g., curbside pickup or delivery), and explore the conveniences associated with online shopping. According to Bain & Company, these changes have bumped up online grocery spending from 3-4 percent to 10-15 percent.

“[Some people] may go to the grocery store, but then they’re going to buy it on their mobile device because they don’t have to carry it back home,” says Vaz. “And now they’ve got a list. And the list is showing them very clearly all the stuff they bought last week. It’s extremely convenient. If they want to wander around the store physically, the app will navigate them across the store and show them where everything is. But they may still want to avoid heavily trafficked places or standing in line and might opt for the curbside pickup.”

“There were a lot of people who thought that older people would never bank online,” Vaz claims. “However, COVID-19 branch closures and call center backlogs pushed many of the senior / other people to a digital threshold they’d never crossed before. Banks have been forced to rethink what to offer in physical locations. Post-pandemic, banks are reconsidering their branch strategy in light of changing consumer behaviors.”

How to Reinvent Your Company in an Increasingly Digital World

With such clear instances of how technology is changing the face of companies worldwide, business leaders are acknowledging they need to begin doing things differently to stay relevant and competitive. And, although every business has its own goals and circumstances, the following three adaptation strategies are universally applicable, regardless of business size or industry:

1. Make room for the new normal.

“Leaders have to get past what can be the hardest choices we make every day to move towards what will drive our future success,” points out Vaz. “Often this means letting go of things that made us successful in the past, to make room for new skills, relationships, ways of working and opportunities.”

2. Learn from digital natives.

Digital natives are companies like Amazon that were conceived and designed from the beginning to operate within a virtual or technology-driven space. They have built-in “digital DNA” as a result. These companies are capable of incredible innovation and adaptation.

Established companies that are not digital natives can still do well against those that are. But if they want to transform, they must develop their own digital DNA. A key component of digital DNA is organizational agility, which powers employees and creates a pervasive mindset of experimenting, learning, and adapting.

Agility can get better if you anticipate instead of waiting and reacting, focus on core, influential projects, and leverage the individual skills of workers to achieve the best total value. Acknowledge both stability and dynamic capabilities in regards to your people (e.g., resources, culture), processes, and structure.

3. Build capabilities for the future of business in the digital age.

“Digital transformation is very simply something that is an ongoing, continual evolution of your business capabilities,” says Vaz. “And the way to think about it is, you're in constant beta. Businesses will need a set of capabilities to identify and realize value through digital. While the strategy might help find opportunity areas and markets, when combined with product, experience, engineering, and data, it will allow companies to go from identifying to rapid prototyping / bring to market.”

The Time to Create Your Digital Transformation Plan Is Now

Companies will not be in a position to respond to the speed, scale, and significance of the change that’s happening unless they first acknowledge that those shifts are taking place. So, while you do not necessarily have to abandon everything you’re doing, don’t stick your head in the sand, either. Be proactive and initiate your own digital transformation plan because only businesses that implement well-designed digital strategies will escape extinction.

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Reshaping Your Business to Meet the Digital Age