Many Americans already consider technology an important enabler. From online banking to powering a “smart” home, people use their phones and other devices to manage significant aspects of their lives.
The COVID-19 pandemic raised the technology reliance bar even higher. Suddenly, working from home is the norm. Schools moved from the classroom to the living room. Medical visits became remote, and online grocery order and delivery surged.
Everybody’s doing it. Because of health concerns and social distancing policies, consumers stayed in more during the beginning of the pandemic. This spurred significant growth in the use of some apps and services.
Video conferencing soared. According to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, video conferencing apps attracted 1.4 million new users the first week of January 2020, but a record 6.7 million in the first week of March 2020. As the pandemic intensified, so did video-conferencing app installs. In June 2020, Zoom was the second-most installed non-gaming app worldwide, with close to 71.2 million installs — 34 times its downloads in June 2019.1 Growth will continue, with 90% of North American businesses expected to spend more on video conferencing in 2022.2
Food delivery apps surged. Uber Eats was the most downloaded app worldwide for May 2020, with more than 8.2 million installs, followed by McDonald’s with more than 6.6. million installs.3 Walmart, DoorDash and Foodpanda rounded out the top five most downloaded apps for the month of May. In five years, food app revenue will increase by 39% to $42 billion from 2020 levels.4
Overall, both app revenue and downloads showed “outsized quarter-over-quarter growth in 2020 compared to past periods.”6 And it was fast. “We may have accelerated five to seven years’ worth of [app] adoption behavior,” says Wayne Kurtzman, research director for social and collaboration at market intelligence firm IDC. “Everyone was forced to do a seven-year plan in two weeks.”7
The impact quickly grew beyond digital-first businesses. As consumers became more accustomed to trying new services online, traditional in-person businesses saw their technology adoption accelerate as well.
For example, banks have been pushing customers toward online and mobile banking for years, but the pandemic forced digital holdouts to try banking in a new way. Customers are now conducting more “high-value, high-risk” banking activities through digital channels.8Mobile deposits in March 2020 increased dramatically, similar to the growth typical during the holiday season.
Similarly, grocery shopping moved online in a big way. A whopping 78.5% of U.S. consumers reported shopping online for groceries after the COVID-19 outbreak, up 39% from before the pandemic. Online grocery shopping has increased to 83% in 2021.9
New technology needs will persist
What was driven by a need for health, safety and social distancing is continuing. Customers have become accustomed to doing business in new ways. And it’s not just consumer-facing companies that had to adjust their technology efforts. All businesses — including B2B companies — learned valuable operational lessons, many involving efficiencies and cost savings.
A recent article in Forbes asked, “How can automation accelerate our recovery and protect us from future pandemics?” The short answer: “People empowered by automation will bring us out of this crisis.”10
The article notes that prior to the pandemic, automation was sometimes regarded as the reason for future massive job losses – that people would be replaced by technology. “Now there’s evidence that technology protects humans,” the article states. Logistics automation protects warehouse and delivery workers. Digital payments protect customers and clerks, and so on.11
Among the changes we’ve seen: Continuity plans were reformulated to accommodate not only the possibilities of natural disasters and cyber incidents, but also widespread travel restrictions, quarantines and extended school closures. Crisis management and responses were finely tuned to respond to situations that previously seemed to be remote and unlikely.12
Supply chains were remodeled for redundancy.
An “everything is global” mindset now drives strategy, even for small companies. Flexible, resilient business models are a must, along with an increased focus on cash-flow forecasting. Cash-rich businesses have opportunities for mergers and acquisitions.
And when it comes to technology itself, optimizing internal efficiencies, employee and customer experience are paramount. Can your company use technology to improve productivity and cost-savings? If you’re not sure, ask yourself these questions:
What opportunities can technology foster relative to expanding our products and services?
How can we use a positive technology experience to boost customer loyalty?
How can technology bolster employee efficiency and satisfaction?
Would technology help to foster better communication and community among a remote workforce – with remote customers?
Can we improve internal financial systems to improve cash flow and expense management through automation?
Getting started on what’s next
As we manage through and beyond the pandemic, optimizing technology will come down to prioritizing your organization’s efforts to implement efficient and profitable solutions.
A good first step is to create a cross-functional team to brainstorm opportunities. This calls for blue-sky thinking, opening the door to innovation and even extreme retooling of processes and realignment of key performance indicators.
What is your company learning from the pandemic relative to technology? The key to success is finding the right ways for your organization to exploit technology to promote convenience, product and service availability and real, bottom-line returns.
Important disclosure information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
You are about to leave the Synovus web site for a third-party site
Third-party sites aren't under our control, and we are not responsible for any of the content or additional links they contain. We don't endorse to guarantee the goods or information provided by third-party sites, and we're not responsible for any failures or inaccuracies. Third-party sites may contain less security and may have different privacy policies from ours.