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AdWeek 360: 5 Questions to Reset your Digital Strategy in the Wake of COVID-19

Good Thinking | October 2, 2020 | 4 min read

This article originally appeared on

Yuliya Mycka, Senior VP and Digital Director at Preston Kelly

COVID-19 has no doubt been devastating to most businesses, its impact likely to last for years. One of the few positives, however, is that it has also sparked massive strides towards digital transformation across many companies and industries. It didn’t look pretty, but it forced organizations to scramble, improvise and adopt new ways of doing business within weeks or days instead of what normally would have taken months or even years. Within our roster of clients, I’ve seen internal silos come down, business agility rise, and important work getting done at an astonishing speed.

It’s clearer than ever that our future is digital. Now that we are (hopefully) nearing the start of the recovery, it’s time to take a deep breath and a close look at your pre-pandemic digital strategy. If you haven’t yet, re-write your plans to protect and build on the things that worked well for you over the past few months. Whether it’s business agility, cross-functional collaboration or something else, avoid reverting to the old ways of doing business and find new opportunities that a time of great change inevitably brings. Here are the five questions worth asking yourself and your teams as you revisit your digital strategy:

1. Have you shifted your priorities to meet the demands of a suddenly digital world? Are the underlying objectives and assumptions that informed your strategies still relevant in today’s world? Your audiences, their media habits and purchase behaviors have more than likely changed. For instance, mobile usage increased 215% from last year, close to 80% of consumers shopped online for groceries, and 70% are now tackling new home improvement projects. Chances are you have new markets to enter and new customers to engage in. And perhaps what used to be a sliver of your business pre-pandemic is now one of the biggest pieces of the pie. Now is the time to pivot and reset your goals and priorities in a way that responds to the new reality with digital channels at the core.

2. What matters to your customer in this new reality? Those carefully crafted consumer journeys steeped in the pre-pandemic reality are now likely wrong or irrelevant. The economic crisis resulting from the virus prompted 65% of the US population to postpone big purchases and travel, with 52% saying they intend to continue to curb spending after the pandemic is over. Moreover, many consumers simply don’t want to be marketed to right now, but they do want genuine help and support from their brands. Each category is different, but for many the best support a brand can provide, and the best retention strategy, will revolve around offering goodwill, better value for the money, and excellent customer experience. Despite the financial downturn, now is the time to boost – not cut – your digital experience since digital is now the primary channel for many.

3. Could you pilot fresh ideas and delivery models? Mass digitization and disruption have meant that consumers are more open to new ways of doing things. Behaviors that once seemed ingrained and impossible to change might now be evolving — whether it’s shifting from branch visits to online banking, ordering groceries online, or trying new subscription services. The same is true with organizations previously resistant to investing in digital, technology, and experimentation. Now is the perfect time to pitch your innovative ideas and proposals to leadership, backed up with data and packaged as a test-and-learn opportunity. At a time when a lot of traditional strategies have been upended, this pandemic has opened up a door to trying new things and evaluating brand-new approaches, value streams and delivery models. Especially as many consumers are looking to cut costs, could you test offering scaled back, the tailored options of your services or products? Adopt new digital self-serve tools or memberships? Or forge a new value-add partnership that responds to your consumers’ needs?

4. Is your digital roadmap solving the right challenges? Now that your digital strategy had its biggest test drive, you have much to learn all across the organization. How are the various departments doing their jobs now, what are they hearing from customers, how is your sales team doing their job remotely? With no in-person events like trade shows, how are you launching new products and nurturing relationships with prospects? Talk to your colleagues to understand what’s working, what can be scaled, what needs optimizing, and what needs a complete overhaul. No better time than now to take an honest look and re-prioritize your technology investments or develop newly inspired digital plans rooted in clear priorities and fresh insights. Another useful exercise is to audit and grade your digital capabilities, infrastructure, and experience. Understand how you stack up against the competition and where the urgency is the greatest.

5. Can you boost your focus and agility? We’ve all seen what can be done, and how quickly, with the sharp, do-or-die focus brought on by COVID-19. One of our clients developed and executed an enterprise-wide telehealth plan in less than 15 days. Another launched its first direct-to-consumer campaign in a matter of five days. Granted that’s not a sustainable pace, but large enterprises, in particular, could benefit from having better clarity of focus and alignment around business-critical “missions.” It will help you break down silos, empower agile teams, and inspire your best people.

In a year that many of us would like to forget, the coronavirus pandemic doubles as an unprecedented challenge and a tremendous catalyst for change. Let’s keep all the good things that we’ve seen come out of it — not the least of which is the speed of digital transformation — as we get to work on re-setting our strategies, roadmaps and our focus.

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