It would be tough to overemphasize how radically–and how fast–COVID-19 is driving new behaviors. And since so many of these changes are taking shape in the digital realm, companies in the telecom, media and technology arena are in a unique position. They can accelerate initiatives that were already underway, as well as launch new products, services and experiences that only months ago would have seemed unthinkable.
Here’s how companies can build on these six important trends, finding new ways to keep customers connected and engaged.
Trust matters more
Even before the pandemic consumers were demanding more integrity from the companies they do business with. They want brands to protect data and information, tell the truth and operate transparently. A recent barometer reports that 81% of Americans say they must trust a brand before they consider it for purchase. The current crisis has intensified that expectation, and consumers will look to brands that are adapting to reflect new cultural standards.
Organizations need to act in new ways. Businesses are re-evaluating organizational behaviors to ensure all employees are clear on the best way to show up. By doing this, brands stay consistent and have more impact.
It may be time to: Buy or build products and services that keep customers safer, adding data protection and privacy for voice, messaging and video services. And so customers know you have their back, communicate these protections clearly and often.
This is the golden age of radical open-mindedness
While the shift toward digital products was well underway before the pandemic, few could have predicted the velocity of change. Consumers are buying perishables online, downloading new apps, devouring podcasts and signing up for MOOCs at record levels.
Tools or services that would ordinarily take years to be adopted can gain traction in a matter of days. Since the national emergency started, Zoom has gone from 10 million users to 300 million. And overall, two-fifths (43%) of consumers may now pay for a subscription service that they didn’t have before the outbreak. This peaks at 57% and 56% for Gen Z and millennials.
It may be time to: Take advantage of this radical open-mindedness, offering new tools like digital bill pay or servicing accounts. Develop offers that acknowledge the new preference for remote and digital interactions. Ramp up new content to connect with customers, using it to strengthen relationships. And make offers available in more channels, to stay relevant and helpful.
Monthly bills mean mounting stress
With about half of U.S. small businesses and nearly a third of U.S. consumers not paying rent in April, recurring payments for voice, messaging, cable and internet plans are ongoing sources of pressure.
As the global crisis challenges customers, brands that can find new ways to play an important role in this aspect of their lives will win. Leading companies are responding strategically, taking the time to understand customer and community needs, helping them stay afloat in challenging times.
It may be time to: Implement a range of payment and service offerings, like billing relief, free hotspots and eliminating data caps. Expand tiered offers and diversify into other products and services.
Remote workforces are struggling
As more companies announce they will continue remote working for months–and even indefinitely–technologies like virtual private networks (VPNs), voice over internet protocols (VoIPs), virtual meetings, cloud technology, work collaboration tools and even facial recognition are becoming staples.
Companies that can continue to innovate are not only reviewing the tools and resources they have to do so, but also the processes and workflows needed to get the most from their teams. While larger, longer-term responses are critical, strong brands are simultaneously developing quick responses, actions and solutions to improve remote productivity.
It may be time to: Create comprehensive “workplace-as-a-service” solutions, including value-added support to assist B2B customers’ employees with set-up and troubleshooting, and even productivity checks with remote experts. This provides the opportunity to serve additional markets, as well as further bundle existing TMT solutions.
Rebuild music, fashion and sports events for the metaverse
For millennia, people have flocked to sporting events, concerts, theaters. But even as markets reopen, consumers will likely stay wary of attending them. Many are already opting for virtual tours of museums and heritage sites. The digital release and financial performance of “Trolls World Tour” proves the paradigm has shifted.
Companies are winning by asking themselves how their brands can play a meaningful role in this digital-first environment giving customers the information and entertainment they need while delivering on the brand experience. Fortnite recently attracted 12.3 million in-game viewers to a Travis Scott concert. Done well, brands can use these events to drive traffic, stoke customer enthusiasm and build brand awareness
It may be time to: Dedicate a team to reimagining large events, finding new ways to move the live experiences people crave onto digital platforms. With new advancements, like 5G and Edge, look for strategic activations with gaming, entertainment and experience producers.
Digital readiness will dictate who leads and lags
The strongest companies in TMT are those that entered the COVID-19 era with the highest digital IQ. But as the on-demand economy gathers steam, with consumers expecting all products and services to be a click away, there is little forgiveness for service flaws. Customers expect a direct-to-consumer friendly level of service. Without it, they’ll cut you loose.
While coronavirus may limit budgets, the need for innovation and growth is still important to address. Leading businesses are strategically re-evaluating their innovation pipelines to mitigate further disruption and shifts in consumer mindsets. Brands should conduct consumer and trend research, define new concepts and structure an innovation portfolio.
It may be time to: Make sure investments in necessary infrastructure are sound. Enhance, extend and accelerate strategies to quickly capture more value.
Remember that the most successful companies are charting new directions while using their most authentic brand voice. Without being either overly optimistic or despondent, they’re staying true to their purpose. And they’re developing playbooks and materials that make sure their voice is heard–both internally and externally.
*In addition to the authors listed above, Jorge Aguilar, Eunice Shin and Susan Etlinger also contributed to this article.