Embracing the New Role of Technology in Business Post-Pandemic
Between the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ripple effects through the economy, 2020 was a transformative year for businesses in the US. Companies across industries had to adapt to new challenges quickly, highlighting the important role of technology in business, from the marketing of goods and services to the oversight of supply chains and workers.
As the wholesale changes took root, the rules for survival—and success—shifted, as well. If your business isn't well-equipped for the road ahead, it could fall behind quickly. This makes it all the more essential to invest smartly in tech solutions that drive results.
Reconfigured sales channels
To recover from the abrupt economic shutdown in spring 2020, companies need cash to start flowing again. However, numerous local and state laws continue to limit face-to-face interactions. In response, businesses have ramped up online sales efforts, including many instances where companies that previously sold goods through retailers and wholesalers have started selling directly to customers instead.
Continued benefits from broader e-commerce efforts require investments in targeted marketing, sales and customer support technology that coax customers to buy. Plus, for companies newly exploring the direct approach, shoring up logistics systems to handle shipments and returns is a must. Meanwhile, for any company selling online, customer service applications, such as chatbots that can respond to customers at any time of day, are invaluable.
Contactless connections preferred
Though online sales soared during the pandemic, a desire to minimize contact in brick-and-mortar outlets increased demand for touch-free payment options. Additionally, as delivery efforts have expanded, many companies are experimenting with alternative methods that require little human interaction, such as designated drop-off spots or drone deliveries.
To accept a broader range of digital payment methods, consider investing in platforms and processing capabilities beyond traditional systems. You might also expand delivery options to more effectively meet customer demands for reduced face-to-face interactions.
Resilient supply chains
The pandemic's global reach wreaked havoc on companies that relied on overseas suppliers for raw materials and finished products. Some factories shut down, whereas others saw export opportunities severely restricted by governments prioritizing their own country's citizens.
Going forward, effective supply chains will feature layers of redundancy, improved recordkeeping and heightened communication efforts between manufacturers and suppliers. Plus, connections will no longer be solely driven by cost as the value of proximity soars.
To capitalize on the new supply landscape's depth, companies must build up their systems' computing power and commit additional human resources to oversee and manage more complex relationships. Alternatively, 3D printers may reduce reliance on certain suppliers by providing select finished goods on demand.
With office workers relegated to working from home and line workers' hours juggled to minimize or eliminate close contact, communication efforts have been completely overhauled during the pandemic. From videoconference meetings and appointments to staggered shifts, jobs have become less about face time and more about accomplishments.
To optimize such connections, many businesses have discovered they needed to bulk up broadband capacity company-wide. Hardware upgrades for home-bound workers have helped further, as have shop-floor networks and advanced software that tracked progress and shared updates between distanced workers and shifts.
As elements of the revised workflows will likely stick, remote connection security becomes paramount. This requires an expansion of cloud-based resources and greater use of virtual private networks, or VPNs, and secure voice over internet protocols, or VoIPs, as well as additional protection measures to counteract more sophisticated snoopers.
If your business is rooted in a shop floor or production line, you've likely long relied on employees to keep attuned to the state of the company's equipment. As the pandemic has shifted workers' focus to distancing and personal safety, automated machinery monitoring and sophisticated sensors have assumed the role of the watchful eye.
The data generated by such applications may inform machine learning that feeds artificial intelligence systems, along with advanced analytical assessments that may refine practices and processes. Next-generation tools—such as smart sensors that can collect data that's fed into an analytics platform or remote work tools built on virtual and augmented reality technology—will be critical in meeting the rising demand that will accompany the anticipated post-pandemic economic rebound.
Connecting in a hyper-connected world
As the role of technology in business grew by leaps and bounds in 2020, any shortcomings in a company's digital capabilities became abundantly clear. Inadequate bandwidth, outdated network infrastructure and overwhelmed mobile devices are immediate areas of need.
Going forward, your company's success may be closely tied to its ability to adopt and utilize the right technology. To better prioritize your investment and spending plans in the coming years, consider developing a technology adoption model to guide the way.
Financial insights for your business
This information is provided for educational purposes only and should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. First Citizens Bank (or its affiliates) neither endorses nor guarantees this information, and encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.