Tech Projects on Hold? What To Do In The Meantime
If COVID-19 put your web migration or digitization plans on hold this year, don’t dust off that Gantt chart just yet. Ecommerce has dramatically changed this year, and 2020’s best-laid plans may need a makeover before you put them into action come next year.
What can you do when your tech projects are on hold?
Perhaps not since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone has the adoption of digital technology changed as much as it did in 2020. With a record number of people either working from home or laid up at home, ecommerce traffic has soared. And the number of people in their pyjamas shopping online will not be slowing down anytime soon.
Expectations have changed, and whatever the “new normal” will look like next year is anyone’s guess.
So, what has changed?
According to a July survey by Stanford University, only 26% of American workers continued going to work as usual this year (primarily essential workers), while 42% were working from home. The remaining third was at home without work, likely watching Netflix and browsing Amazon at some point in their day.
The result of this massive shift, a McKinsey report estimated earlier this year, was that consumers and businesses compressed five years of digital adoption into a period of just eight weeks. With that in mind, there are six key takeaways from this that you should compare to your current website strategy plans:
- Your customers are more sophisticated than they were.
- Your employees are still mobile and plan to stay that way.
- AI is smarter and more pervasive than it was.
- Big data integration is no longer optional.
- Chatbots are no longer optional.
- Voice search is growing in importance.
- Cloud. Cloud. Cloud.
Ecommerce has changed for the better
Any brand that sells any product or service has now adopted ecommerce, and neither consumers nor brands plan to go back. In fact, McKinsey surveyed people who had never used ecommerce before, and a whopping 75% reported they will continue to use it when life returns to “normal.” What does that mean for your digitization plans and the consumers you’re targeting?
Customers are more sophisticated
Ecommerce is no longer a novelty. Consumers know if they order a product tonight, Amazon can deliver it by morning. They have been using apps, browsing websites, reading highly-targeted ads across multiple platforms. Even if they don’t know the nuts and bolts behind it all, they know what works for them and what doesn’t. Expectations have changed.
If your UI still looks like it was designed in 2017, there’s a good chance your audience is going to notice. If they need to go to your website to create an account before they can access your iOS app, they’re likely to delete it. If your product page doesn’t have the familiar markings to tell them your site is secure, they’re going to give their credit card details to someone else. While only the tech die-hards are playing with augmented reality, a growing number of consumers are using voice search to find what they need. These are all becoming even more necessary features than they were before.
What to do: Before putting any plans into action, review your website strategy to ensure it can accommodate changing customer expectations.
Remote workers are more productive
In the early days of the pandemic, remote workers actually increased their productivity, with the average employee logging in three to four more hours each day. Then, most companies began to fear productivity would slide if employees began to feel disconnected from management, invisible, and unheard and with no obvious path to advancing their careers.
Now, companies are readjusting and gaining back most of the productivity they lost half-way through the year. There’s plenty of research to show that remote work doesn’t sink productivity in the way many employers fear. However, employees need to be supported with the right tech and tools to do their jobs efficiently.
What to do: Ensure you have a flexible remote working policy in place that empowers your employees — and permanent infrastructure to support it securely.
AI has gone to summer school
By the end of next year, 80% of businesses are projected to integrate chatbots into their ecommerce platforms. For your customers, the experience will be faster, more intuitive, more informative and more human. Companies have already started integrating client feedback with social media data into their AI to make chatbots seem friendlier than they were a year ago.
Fortunately, big data and AI are accessible to any business, provided they have a reliable method of gathering these vast amounts of unstructured data and integrating them into their own systems. Of course, chatbots are just one example. AI is about to become more pervasive throughout business. As the McKinsey report noted, companies are continuing to integrate AI throughout their organizations. For example, one automotive supply company started using third-party data to predict problems with its supply chain and to take proactive measures to prevent it.
What to do: Ensure you have the ability to integrate third-party data into your platform and to keep up with the continuing evolution of AI.
Technology is more agile
Every ecommerce business should be prepared for more traffic spikes and subsequent lulls this year. Across the board, ecommerce businesses are re-examining their website plans to take advantage of these new opportunities while reducing daily operational costs. Some of the items that should probably be on your to-do list include:
- Reassess your utilization of third-party data.
- Develop a rightsizing plan to use a variable cost structure.
- Reassess cyber risks and contingency plans for 2021.
- Integrate a cloud-based data platform into your architecture.
- Automate software delivery pipelines.
- Get early access to skilled consultants before you have an emergency.
What to do: Start building a relationship with someone who can help you plan for this evolution. The consultants at Acro Media are familiar with this changing landscape and have the experience you need to help ensure your plans will set you up for success without incurring extra costs and costly delays.