“An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage” —Jack Welch
As Covid-19 continues to reshape how we do business, everyone from tech companies to ice cream shops has been “given the opportunity” to adapt. More than ever, digital solutions have become not just a short-term strategy for survival, but a long-term strategy for success.
For companies that believed they could cobble together a quick fix or simply close during the height of the pandemic and reopen, business as usual, they’re finding that even if they can open their “doors” again, their customers have changed, and our collective use of and expectations for technology have also changed.
We’ve also seen that weathering a pandemic has exposed our weaknesses, our opportunities and our company cultures in a way that rarely occurs for everyone all at once, all over the world.
Companies that have a natural culture of learning and innovation, regardless of size, have been able to pivot faster and build sustainable long-term digital solutions, in contrast to those aforementioned companies that “cobbled together a quick fix” (posting a lot on Facebook and updating their website) and are now finding that it’s not quite enough.
In this new era of business, digital solutions are not merely a way to stay “relevant” but rather, a push to adopt a culture of learning and create solutions that position you to grow. Here are a few things that we’ve learned from building digital solutions for others that influence our culture of learning.
As a company that designs and builds digital products, we approach projects with the mindset of building in stages, launching an MVP, assessing, iterating, making adjustments, learning from users, and then deploying those updates, ie. one of our values is “always learning.”
Apply this to your own digital presence and products. And notice here that we’re not calling for radical change over and over again (chances are that means you didn’t use strategy the first time around!) but that we’re acknowledging the need to keep the products we design and develop nimble, looking at data and listening to user feedback.
In the wake of COVID, companies like Zira, an automated workforce solution that assists with shift scheduling and team communication for the service industry, created an extension offering called “Bounce Back”.This technology allowed Zira to continue serving its existing customers who had been laid off while still building relationships with new ones through providing free information. As a resource and service provider for those in service industries, Bounce Back is now a strategic asset for their company as a whole.
Long-term, using a process that’s iterative reminds us that not only are people consistently growing in their needs and goals but that smart, intuitive technology should, as well.
Strong products and companies are always asking “what’s next?” Though we might not always nail the “what,” this mentality keeps us ready to implement the next stage, whether it be forced by a pandemic or brought about through accelerated company growth.
If you’re positioned to adapt, chances are, you’ll be more likely (and able) to when the need arises.
One of our favorite examples of a company intentionally positioned to adapt in a non-tech vertical is Jeni’s, an ice-cream company based out of Ohio. Jeni’s ice-cream started in scoop shops (that have delightfully spread all across the country) and can now be found in retail grocery stores or shipped directly to your home as a part of their Pint Club membership. Take one look at their website, line-up of flavors or social campaigns, and it’s clear that Jeni’s is a company committed to learning and innovating.
Enter COVID-19 and the forced closings of eateries—Jeni’s was in a position to “weather the storm” through their retail sales and local deliveries while they waited for the chance to reopen. Instead, they expanded from their existing “Pint Club” monthly subscription into a full-fledged online retail store. New ice-cream releases kept happening, and suddenly there were new collections to enjoy at home with exciting things like their summer State Fair Collection or Street Treats, their “ready to roam” Party Collection to look forward to. For their State Fair Collection, Jeni’s created an online virtual event complete with interactive digital fair games, engaging graphics, and social campaigns.
Technology teaches us that learning is tied to listening. Keep asking questions. Listen to your customers and clients. Create a responsive culture that prioritizes innovation and view your technology as the means, not the goal.
Being ready, nimble and adaptive isn’t about company size, it’s about company culture.
Are you implementing the best digital solution for your company and customers? Simply being “present” on a social platform or having an app isn’t the answer.
There’s no need to name names, we all know a company that has a social media platform, app or website that clearly isn’t utilized. Or worse, it’s being “updated regularly” but it’s not intuitive or current to the customers who are using it.
For a great example of an app that is intuitive and responsive to customer needs, we feel inspired by companies like Dominos (yes we would love to voice order a pizza through our TV and we’ll watch the great commercial you just posted on YouTube of kids delivering pizza while we wait).
When you pursue apps that keep your customers’ needs at the forefront of development and design, you end up with apps that serve your customers, carving out a spot in their life and on their device. As companies attempt to keep up with technology, it’s important to remember that just like billboards or fancy displays and customer programs in your physical place of business, if you’re not creating value for your client, you’re wasting your time (and money).
Before building a product simply because your competitor did or launching a new social campaign, pause and evaluate what your customer needs, or might want in the future. Listen to them. Look for ways to serve them and then creatively and strategically apply technology to help make that happen.
As we approach the fourth quarter in our businesses and look at a new year on the horizon, we’re given the opportunity to look at what we’ve learned from having to adapt so quickly. We’re given the chance to note that we can’t predict or control what might unfold in the future, but we can stay nimble if we’re listening and learning.