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How Businesses are Manoeuvring Coronavirus Effects by Going Digital

You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

Rahm Emanuel

The phrase ‘digital transformation’ is nothing novel. It first gained popularity in the late 1990s – a little over a decade after computers were introduced to the public. After the Great Recession of 2008, the phrase really took off when businesses started realizing that digital was going to go big. Fast forward to today: companies far and wide are riding the wave of digital transformation.

Trending of the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’.

Graph: Trending of the phrase ‘Digital Transformation’. Source: Google Trends.

What’s new, is the rapid pace at which present-day businesses are undergoing (degrees of) digital transformation. In the wake of the Covid-19 crisis and the imposed rules of social distancing, companies are finding themselves compelled to rethink processes in order to survive – and are increasingly taking steps to go digital.

Surely, not all businesses have the possibility to turn virtual. Still, on social networks there seems to be a constant flux of videos with people using inventive solutions to keep their offline services going. From hairdressers getting crafty with umbrellas (pro tip: they use them as makeshift Covid-19 shields) to nail salons having their customers put their hands through the letterbox (yes, that actually happened). 

Aside those who are fighting to stay afloat by keeping their usual activities going, there are businesses that have chosen to explore digital means. Here are three examples of how businesses show creativity and resilience in times of crisis.

Shifting from (star rated) dining to delivery

Before the Coronavirus, some restaurants were already gently exploring the possibility of digitalizing operations. Currently facing an indefinite period of closure, countless of restaurants are making the necessary switch to takeout or delivery in order to maintain revenue.

Even some Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurants have pivotted to delivery, converting their typical menus to simplified versions. It’s a solution for both restaurant workers and customers. Employees who would normally lose their jobs are able to keep them – instead of waiting tables they deliver dishes to their customer’s doorstep. Likewise, foodies craving Instagrammable snapshots of high-quality dishes get to take them from the comfort of their homes. 

Sport clubs offering online workouts

As you have probably noticed from the steady flow of promotions on social media or in your inbox, a great deal of fitness, yoga, and other sports-related studios are offering a selection of their classes online. Posted on platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube, these videos are stimulating people to hop on their fitness mats and sweat out any built-up tensions induced by lounging inside all day, every day. Of course, not everyone has a fully equipped home gym at their disposal, so the workouts are mostly doable with just a mat and the occasional dumbbell.

One big player in the fitness industry has taken things up a notch by fast-tracking the development of their video product. ClassPass is a fitness platform that sells monthly memberships allowing members access to over 30,000 health clubs in 28 countries worldwide. Due to the new regulations, many of these clubs had to close up shop indefinitely. However, since March 25 all of ClassPass’s partners have the possibility to participate in the brandnew home-workout market, using the video feature. The system allows them to set the price and availability for a given workout, after which they can share a link to the workout on a streaming platform.

Virtual house tours in real estate

Following government directives of social distancing, real estate agencies are increasingly cancelling open houses and ordering their agents to work from home. This makes it understandably difficult for agencies to reach prospective buyers. Cleverly though, besides offering private tours with strict sanitary rules, many agencies are now working to organize 3D virtual tours and open houses via various digital platforms, including Google meetings, YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Facetime. Already being more widely adopted in the luxury housing market, the idea of 3D viewings is nothing new, but it’s definitely a powerful step to save the spring market in real estate. 

So, for those of you realizing it’s high time for an home upgrade after spending significantly more time at home than anticipated: you can luckily continue to shop online for a worthy alternative. 

It’s great to see how online tools can form solutions when physical options are limited. Increasingly woven into our daily lives, they are facilitating and connecting us.

The way we use digital tools might just have permanently changed by the end of the crisis, seeing that some of these short-term solutions might also be suitable for the longer term. For instance, would it be completely outrageous if we would continue to keep working from home after the crisis, be it on a lesser scale? We would cut commuting time and ultimately spend more time with our families. And if implemented globally, what effect would the decrease in commute have on air pollution levels? At the least, now we know that the (digital) tools are in place to allow for such a scenario. 

In crisis, we find ourselves forced to carve out new paths. With new paths come new opportunities. Opportunities to improve, opportunities to rethink the status quo. It will be interesting to see how much of our new, digital way of life will stick in the long run.

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