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Four Lessons Brands Should Learn From The Accelerated Digital Revolution That Happened In 2020 2020 has been a ride into the future, and the future is here to stay.

By Karl Escritt

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With 2020 undoubtedly going down in history as one of the most challenging years we've seen in a while, we cannot ignore how important and disruptive digital has been in our day-to-day life.

Of course, the digital revolution isn't new news, and pre-COVID-19, many businesses were already either on a digital transformational journey, or at the very least, in the phase of developing a roadmap that would see them enhance their digital offerings, and put them at the center of every customer experience.

Of course, we can talk at length about why and how we got to where we were in 2020, but, in short, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated every business' digital transformation journey by several years, in a matter of weeks and months.

Without warning, brands with no e-commerce capabilities had to architect and deliver e-commerce solutions in record time, simply to stay operational, while governments around the world developed COVID-19 mobile apps to manage the need of a completely unique and multiplying problem. In addition, we must not forget how schools and workplaces were forced to embrace video streaming technology in order to keep children's education alive, and the world's economy moving.

Related: Sustainable Transformation Should Inspire Post-Pandemic Business Recovery

Taking stock of this, it's worth noting that if COVID-19 had happened ten or even five years ago, it would have been impossible to deliver many of these digital lifelines on an individual level, let alone on a mass global scale.

So, what can businesses learn from the accelerated digital revolution we saw in 2020, and what do we need to do to succeed and thrive in 2021? Here's a primer:

1. Social first, and everywhere 2020 has told us that social is a part of our everyday life, touches every moment, and influences almost all consumer decisions. It has been, for many, the only way to keep in touch with their customers/audience during the lockdowns, but it has also been at the center of an enormous increase in e-commerce transactions. For millions of consumers, social is the first thing they check in the morning (fumbling for it by the bedside at 6am), it is the go-to channel for researching, and it is the "show-off" channel for life events and any purchases. With the introduction of social commerce in 2020, it is even more essential that brands and businesses put social first in their digital strategies for 2021. No longer is it okay to just have an Instagram page and post once a week, success is now daily and hourly communication with your customers, which, on top of all this, must strive to be authentic, timely, and relevant to your audience.

2. We must be quicker and quicker to market Speed to market has never been so important, and with it brings both opportunity and risk for businesses. With the world's economy and consumer behavior shifting at such a rapid pace, businesses can no longer afford to take months and months to decide if they need to adopt a new tech platform, or add a new payment gateway provider, or create a TikTok campaign. These decisions must now be taken in hours, and executed in days. Yearly digital roadmaps are no longer relevant or an option; instead, we must adopt weekly and monthly agile execution plans that focus on what is the minimal viable product for business success and consumer usability, then build on top of the success with daily enhancement plans. Digital is now about quick planning, rapid delivery, usability, and experimenting. It is no longer about roadmaps, drawn-out processes, and inflated budgets.

3. Omnichannel to omnipresent We have talked heavily over the past few years about businesses needing to be omnichannel, focused in order to reach consumers. The year 2020, however, has transformed this idea into an omnipresent focus, but why? Because consumers are not only consuming digital content on a wider range of devices than ever before, but they are now connected to an evolving digital ecosystem constantly, regardless of where they are and what time of the day it is; for instance, Alexa, 5G, smart devices- the list goes on. Businesses and brands must be at the heart of this ecosystem, and be available and visible to customers at all times.

Related: Six Tactics To Improve Collaboration For Remote Teams

4. Understanding Gen Z We cannot talk about 2020 without looking at the role Gen Z have played in this chapter of digital's "accelerated" growth. It is important to understand that 2020 is a year where we are targeting many young consumers who are only digital-first, in the sense that they do not know any other medium other than shopping on a mobile phone, and business must keep this front of mind when creating content and experiences across digital channels. We have seen the importance of brand values and authenticity in messaging that is demanded for the Gen Z audience. The questions they ask around sustainability and its deciding factor on purchasing is something that will grow further in 2021. As businesses become rapidly omnipresent and social-first, understanding this new and emerging customer and their needs cannot be ignored.

2020 has been a ride into the future, and the future is here to stay. No doubt there will be challenges still to come, but one thing is certain: this journey has changed the world and businesses forever. This time next year, the way we previously conducted business will be unrecognizable. That is what a revolution does.

Related: Keeping It Real: Lessons From 2020 (Through The Lens Of Dubai's Startup Ecosystem)

Karl Escritt

Co-founder and Chief Experience Officer, Like Digital & Partners

Karl Escritt is the co-founder and Chief Experience Officer of Like Digital & Partners.

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