2021 megatrends: digitisation
Many organisations were already digitising their core processes and moving operations online well before the pandemic. However, the disruption created by Covid-19 has accelerated this shift in every sector, from food to pharma, logistics to learning. Estimates suggest digitisation increased by two years in the first two months of the global lockdown.
The benefits of digitisation
The benefits of this increased digitisation are clear. For some sectors, the shift to digital was a necessity forced upon them by lockdown; retailers, for example, expanded their online presence to maintain customer contact as physical stores were required to close. To meet this increasing online demand, warehousing and logistics providers made large investments in IT, while construction companies rushed to build new warehousing as demand outstripped supply.
According to the Office for National Statistics, in-store sales were 10% down in September 2020, while online sales were up by nearly 50% compared to the start of the year.
Not going away
This trend won’t reverse once the pandemic passes. Many businesses have re-engineered their procedures and built IT infrastructure so daily operations could be done remotely from home. Others have invested in automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to minimise physical interactions in manufacturing processes – and this has had knock-on effects on cost and efficiency that will encourage business leaders to continue their investment.
With greater digitisation comes more data to analyse, and businesses are now calling on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to spot patterns, trends and opportunities; to gain greater insight into how their organisations work, and how they could work better. Again, giving a reason for continued investment.
The IDC predicts that the cost savings created by investing in automation, as well as enabling technology like the cloud, will see more spending diverted to AI and robotics; plus emerging technologies like augmented and virtual reality, and blockchain. The next-generation security required to protect these new technologies will also drive significant investment growth.
The impact on marketing
For marketers, this shift means that all brands need to be fully participating in the digital channels that matter to their target audiences. In doing so, they need to consider that their customers’ presence across these channels may have shifted dramatically in 2020 as they themselves have digitised. Engaging content will be key to cutting through the noise created by competitors.
Marketers should also prepare themselves to answer more searching questions (from customers and the media alike) on the impact of digitisation in their organisations. Technologies like AI are under increasing scrutiny, cybersecurity breaches are on the rise, and there are rising concerns about privacy, use of data, and bias in algorithms. All must be addressed for organisations to reap the rewards of greater digitisation.
Time to re-assess
As businesses navigated unprecedented events in 2020, technology came to the fore as a way to continue operating. Long-term efficiency, insight, and financial benefits mean that increased digitisation will not be a flash-in-the-pan event. Marketers should re-assess their communication strategies in the wake of this.
More like this: 2021 Megatrends – Sustainability
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The Henley Group is a B2B integrated communications agency, based in Henley-on-Thames, UK. We specialise in public relations, content marketing, corporate communications and strategic consulting for clients in the UK and overseas. We advise, plan, produce and deliver engaging communication programmes for clients across a range of B2B sectors.