Many Americans already consider technology an important enabler. From online banking to managing a “smart” home, people use their phones and other devices to manage significant aspects of their lives.
COVID-19 has raised the technology reliance bar even higher. Suddenly, working from home became the norm. School moved from the classroom to the living room. Medical visits became remote, and online grocery delivery surged.
Everybody’s doing it.
Because of health concerns and “shelter-in-place” policies, consumers are staying in more. This is spurring significant growth in the use of some apps and services.
Video conferencing soars. 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 2020.1 As the pandemic intensified, so did video-conferencing app installs. In June, Zoom was the second-most installed non-gaming app worldwide, with close to 71.2 million installs — 34 times its downloads in June 2019.2
Food delivery apps surge. 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.
Photo and video apps balloon. TikTok’s revenue was up 10.6 times year over year in May 2020, with user spending topping $95.6 million around the world.4 TikTok was the most downloaded non-gaming app worldwide for June 2020, with more than 87 million installs — a 52.7% increase from June 2019.5 YouTube came in second with $78.3 million in gross revenue, representing 77.2% year-over-year growth.6
Overall, both app revenue and downloads showed “outsized quarter-over-quarter growth this year compared to past periods.”7 And it’s been 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.”8
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 has forced digital holdouts to try banking in a new way. Customers are now conducting mo re“high-value, high-risk” banking activities through digital channels.9 Mobile deposits in March 2020 increased dramatically, rivaling the typical holiday season.10 Similarly, grocery shopping moved online in a big way. A whopping 78.7% of U.S. consumers reported shopping online for groceries after the COVID-19 outbreak, up 39% from before the pandemic.11
New technology needs will persist
What was driven by a need for health, safety and social distancing will no doubt continue, if only for convenience. There’s no question that customers will have become accustomed to doing business in new ways, even after the pandemic fades. And it’s not just consumer-facing companies that will need to adjust their technology efforts. All business — including B2B companies — will have 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?”12The short answer: “People empowered by automation will bring us out of this crisis.”
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.13
Among the changes we’ll see: At the most basic level, continuity plans will be 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 response will be more finely tuned to respond to situations that previously seemed to be remote and unlikely.14
Supply chains will be remodeled for redundancy. An “everything is global” mindset will drive strategy, even for small companies. Flexible, resilient business models will be a must, along with an increased focus on cash-flow forecasting. For cash-rich businesses, opportunities for mergers and acquisitions will become available.15
And when it comes to technology itself, optimizing internal efficiencies, employee and customer experience will be 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.
KPMG suggests an infrastructure review and capacity planning, maximizing current technology capabilities, developing support plans and identifying critical security concerns.16 Opportunities exist for every business. But as Roland Busch, the new CEO of Siemens recently warned, “The more digital our world becomes, the faster we need to learn.”17
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.
Would you like to learn how automation can help streamline your business’s operations and financial systems? Contact your Synovus Relationship Manager.
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