The COVID-19 Dividend: Crisis Accelerates Digital Transformation, Study Finds

If there is one little piece of good news in the COVID-19 crisis for brands, it’s that 97% believe the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated their digital transformation, with 68% saying it has been sped up considerably, according to COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report, a study released Wednesday by Twilio.

And brands are spending more on it — 26% have inked in significant budget increases for digital transformation, and 53% for moderate improvements at least.  

Of the firms surveyed, 41% say the crisis has sped up their digital rebirth by one to four years, and 27% have sped it up by five to nine years. Another 19% believe COVID-19 has cut 10 to 24 years from the process and 4% estimate it has cut 15-plus years.  

The average number of barriers broken down is 2.7. They are: 

  • Getting executive approval — 37%
  • Lack of a clear transformation — 37% 
  • Reluctance to replace legacy software — 35%
  • Insufficient budget — 34% 
  • Lack of time — 34%
  • Lack of skills and know-how — 34% 
  • Lack of engineering support — 34% 
  • Bureaucracy — 29%
  • Not applicable, the firm has no barriers — 6%
  • None of these — 2% 



In fact, 28% in the U.S. report a significantly lower lack of progress in devising a clear transformation policy, 27% in overcoming lack of skills and know-how and 24% in achieving engineering support. U.S. firms have broken down 2.4 barriers — below the average. 

Meanwhile, 24% of the brands polled have started using email for the first time as a result of COVID-19.  

This pales beside the 35% that are first using live chat, and the 33% turning to interactive voice response (IVR). But email was probably being widely used prior to the pandemic.  

Among the sectors first turning to email are: 

  • Technology — 35% 
  • Finance — 28%
  • Healthcare — 22% 
  • Construction — 23% 
  • Manufacturing and automotive — 14%
  • Professional services — 11%
  • Energy — 39%

Overall, 50% will very likely add communication channels as the world reopens, and 42% are somewhat likely to do so. Firms have also started using video (29%), voice (28%), in-app chat (28%), SMS (26%) and web-based chat-bot (24%).  

What’s more, 76% agree they will find new ways to engage with customers following the crisis, and 19% feel they probably will.

The theory that most businesses were already using email is given credence by the fact that 50% of firms have dramatically increased their use of email during the crisis, placing email second only to live chat at 54%. 

Among the industries using more email:

  • Technology — 68%
  • Finance — 49% 
  • Retail & ecommerce — 50%
  • Healthcare — 45%
  • Construction — 40% 
  • Manufacturing & automotive — 42%
  • Professional services — 54%
  • Energy — 41%

How have firms adapted their communication strategy overall? 

  • Increased their focus on omnichannel or multichannel digital communication — 54%
  • Added new channels used for digital communications — 53% 
  • Sped up the implementation of their digital communications strategy — 52%
  • Increased the volume of interactions with channels — 51% 
  • Increased the budget for digital communications — 51%
  • Increased the employee time dedicated to digital communication — 50%
  • Refined digital communication to focus on retention of customers — 46%

“Over the last few months, we’ve seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of COVID-19,” states Glenn Weinstein, chief customer officer at Twilio.

Weinstein adds that firms in “nearly every industry have had to identify new ways to communicate with their customers and stakeholders -- from patients, to students, to shoppers, and even employees -- essentially overnight.” 

Twilio, working with Lawless Research, surveyed 2,569 enterprise decision-makers in firms with 500 or more employees -- including 225 to 300 each from Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, the UK and the U.S. -- in June.

They included directors and higher levels in several disciplines, including corporate communications, customer experience, customer or technical support, data analytics or business intelligence, executive leadership or Administration and IT.



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