15th April 2021

The end is close; the best digital initiatives will outlive the pandemic

Image from Brewdog

After more than 12 months of uncertainty, the opportunity for businesses to regain a bit of control over what comes next is a welcome one. As an extrovert, I won’t lie, I have found the snakes and ladders of lockdown iterations enormously frustrating.

For some, it’s been a year of disruption and adaptation. Others have discovered fresh opportunities in the situations thrown up by the pandemic.

A recent report from Twilio makes it clear that digital communications have taken on new importance for all businesses.

As many as 87% of those enterprise decision makers surveyed for the 2021 State of Customer Engagement report said that digital comms have been critical to their survival over the course of the pandemic; while almost everyone (96%) admit that not digitising would have negatively impacted their business.

Furthermore, when it came to the build, 46% of respondents said it look LESS time to implement during the pandemic.

Pivoting in the pandemic

When pubs were shut last year, BrewDog – which has steadily grown its network of franchise branches since purchasing its first bar in 2009 – was faced with a huge problem.

The brewer could still sell in supermarkets and off-licenses, and it had already established a fledgling online direct-to-consumer (D2C) operation in 2018, but these relatively small parts of the business were now responsible for supporting the entire company.

So, while the beer brand used its distilleries to produce hand sanitiser at the beginning of the pandemic (and later offered its pub spaces to serve as vaccination clinics), it also ramped up its D2C operation to compensate for losing 70% of its business overnight.

Having been a relatively small part of the business’ offering, the ecommerce arm has grown exponentially – with hundreds of thousands of new customers opting for the service in 2020.

Key to this expansion has been BrewDog’s efforts to make the online purchase process as easy and accessible as possible. The positive customer reception opened up more direct sales opportunities, with the brewer opening drive-thru collection points.

Now, having weathered the worst and with the reopening of bars in sight, BrewDog is in the enviable position of emerging from the pandemic with a strong, growing multi-channel sales offering to go with its established brick and mortar bars.

Building on unforeseen successes

Closer to home, specialist motorcycle insurance provider Bennetts found itself in an urgent position after being sold by Saga in 2020.

The sale meant the company would need to migrate its entire customer service operation (a vital part of the business) onto a new digital platform – and fast.

Starting in October 2020, Zing was able to migrate the insurer’s 100-strong agent team in time for the new year. But that was just the beginning.

The beauty of a custom build solution is that it’s possible to keep developing new complementary additions.

That’s a trend that bears out in Twilio’s research too.

Nearly all (94%) of the EMEA respondents to Twilio’s Customer Engagement survey say they plan to increase, or at least maintain, their investment in customer engagement after the pandemic.

Businesses plan to add an average of three new channels in the next year, with live chat the most popular option (closely followed by video, in-app chat, and interactive voice response).

Maintaining a digital-first approach post-pandemic

However, further research reveals that even those businesses embracing the digital challenges and opportunities thrown up by the pandemic aren’t always utilising developer teams to their full potential.

Fewer than half (47%) of the respondents in a separate Twilio-commissioned survey said that they involve developers from the beginning stages of a project.

This approach limits opportunities to build on your existing digital communications offering, or anything that you’ve newly created (whether as a result of disruption or not).

With more clarity about what the future holds, it’s important that businesses continue to prioritise the digital-first approach that’s seen so many able to survive – and in some cases thrive – during an unusually challenging 12 months.

At Zing, we have not had the year we expected, but like many of our customers, we’ve moved forwards despite everything that’s thrown at us. If you asked us pre-pandemic if a discovery workshop could be done remotely, we’d have scoffed. But that’s exactly what we’re now able to do, and actually for some situations now believe it’s actually a preferable way of working.

If you would like to learn more about how we help businesses large and small to digitise their communications and move to the cloud, get in touch with me at julian.hucker@zing.dev

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