How digitising your offline product can extend your reach
- Lauren Ellis
When we all left the office on March 20th 2020, none of us could have anticipated where the world would be today. COVID-19 has disrupted every step along the supply chain, locked down entire countries and permanently changed consumer behaviour. But these collective challenges have also spurned innovation.
While many traditionally non-digital organisations are now scrambling to reach their consumers, others have been flexible and creative, empowering them to grow and operate in uncertain times. Everything from products and services, to the infrastructure and processes they’re delivered through, is evolving. And as is in the way in all evolution: you need to adapt or you may fall behind.
To give you a little more motivation for digitising your offline offering, we’ve collected some industry trends and examples of where we’ve seen organisations enhance their online model to match their new circumstances. So, read on if you want to see what seeds you can sow today that will help your organisation to not only survive, but thrive, during this pandemic, and long after.
Capitalise on captive audiences with new technologies
Almost as soon as lockdown began and our calendars emptied, organisations turned to new technology to meet us exactly where we were. We saw an influx of virtual fitness classes pop up through channels like Instagram and YouTube. Suddenly every restaurant in our area appeared on JustEat. Supermarkets delivered groceries through UberEats and, to feed our brains, virtual tours of art galleries and museums were made available online.
Meanwhile, musicians and artists took to performing on livestream. Plenty of events and conferences – including ours – had to explore new ways of communicating to audiences now confined to their respective homes. This is where video conferencing platforms have really come into their own, while other events have chosen to broadcast live straight to their attendee’s devices.
Subscriber numbers skyrocketed and newsletters for long-form content even came back into fashion. One study found that our already weighty daily online content consumption doubled from 3 hours 17 minutes to 6 hours 59 minutes in 2020. This means there’s a massive, insatiable and ever-growing appetite for video, audio and written content.
To pull back the curtain on our own marketing strategy, we’ve responded to the pandemic by making our conferences not only virtual, but five days long and absolutely free to attend. We also launched monthly webinars, Twitter Q&As and new whitepaper content (not to mention a YouTube channel brimming with past talks) to keep us all learning and improving.
Don’t stop innovating
Many organisations are downsizing or limiting their capabilities until the worst is over, and understandably so. Back in the depths of lockdown in 2020, Econsultancy and Marketing Week found that 47% of UK organisations surveyed said they were delaying or reviewing their strategic activities, like redesigning their website or restructuring digital processes, due to COVID-19.
Of those companies who chose to hunker down, some may have suddenly found that barely functioning but still passable ecommerce journey is now a blundersome blocker to profits. Maybe their infrastructure can no longer keep up with demand or find their customer support teams are inundated with frustrated users.
The same survey found that 91% of companies expected a significant increase in the use of their digital services in the coming months. So, despite scaling down themselves or hoping to just skirt through without making any major changes to the way they operate, in reality, consumer demand remains high and best met digitally. So, if you haven’t been paying due attention to your digital presence, you need to now.
Keep your doors (virtually) open
A few years ago, Nomensa worked with the National Trust to create a virtual reality walkthrough of one of its properties. This immersive 3D, 360 experience gave people with impairments – in particular, those living with Alzheimer’s – a chance to explore the properties they loved in an immersive, realistic way. It tore down accessibility barriers and meant everybody, regardless of impairments, could enjoy these historic sites.
This National Trust project remains one of Nomensa’s proudest creations, and it feels particularly timely now. Museums, galleries or theatres that embrace digital channels will be rewarded with loyal visitors excited to get a chance to see and experience the real thing again. Some art galleries have released apps that allow for similar VR walkthroughs of their exhibitions, along with supplementary educational resources.
Moving onto digital channels also presents an opportunity to receive donations in a time where traditional funds, e.g. ticket sales, aren’t available. For example, the Old Vic theatre in London has started streaming previous performances. Given the tight emotional bonds people often feel for their favourite theatre, bringing the stage into their audiences’ homes will only solidify that connection.
Use the time to rebuild
Right now more than ever, organisations need to look internally for ways to build up business resilience through improved process. This could mean assessing their infrastructure, fixing vulnerabilities or pushing through your development backlog. This may not be as enticing as revealing shiny new website designs, but given that data from the ONS found that in January 2021, online sales accounted for 35.2% of all retail purchases, it’s essential that we get the basics right.
Equally, as this crisis has forced vulnerable populations to stay indoors and rely directly or indirectly on digital services, some of our clients have taken this as an opportunity to ensure their websites are accessible. You can access and improve the inclusivity of your service through a number of channels. This could be through automated or remote user testing, or coupled in a programme of work with training and consultancy.
Embracing a digital future
KPMG research predicts that by 2022, 80% of revenue growth will depend on digital operations. But with the world moving online almost overnight, this is likely to be pulled further forward as users get accustomed to doing things digitally. So, the real question isn’t whether or not you should plough ahead with your plans, but rather: can you afford not to?
We undoubtedly have a tough time ahead, but from the dot-com implosion of the late nineties to the 2008 financial crisis, we’re no strangers to disruption. And out of adversity, creative solutions emerge. And some of these digital solutions may last long after lockdown ends.
UX will continue to be a key differentiator post-pandemic and given there will likely be a built-up customer appetite once this all over, it’s worth getting your foot in the door while you can. So, use this market lull to reassess your digital strategy. Maybe it’s time that website redesign finally happened or you ironed out those bumps in your customer service offering.