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Digital Lifelines, the Weakest Link and True Personalization—Debrief of Digital and COVID-19 (Wk 1)

What COVID-19 has taught us about the value of data

Tremendous change continues to happen daily as COVID-19 forces all of us into a new reality. As people practice social distancing and are forced to work from home and stores along with other gathering places close, digital channels become a critical connection to the outside world for us as social creatures. Trends are already emerging online to support their business, communities, customers, and employees. Here’s a look at how digital businesses have pivoted in the last few weeks.

Delivery Models Are Surging/Changing

The world is quickly adding new terminology to its lexicon as it combats COVID-19. Terms like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” are ever-present and businesses are quickly adjusting to align (and in some cases comply) to efforts to help deal with the virus. Food delivery firms were quick to pick up on the need to respond to fears and social responsibility implementing contactless services during the pandemic. Local restaurants and businesses and those who depend on them are viewing gig economy delivery options as a lifeline during these times when brick and mortar locations are forced to temporarily close.

Online purchases have surged in recent days and the need for local, last-mile delivery is struggling to keep up with demand. Big names in grocery stores, restaurants, and eCommerce are all hiring to respond to the increase in demand, with Amazon getting the most eye-catching headline – Amazon has looked to increase staff by 100,000 to handle the increase in demand during this time

The ability to effectively pivot to reach the end customer has proven to be vital to the viability of businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Businesses that are not enabled to change their delivery and eCommerce fulfillment demands are currently under significant threat while others continue to provide for the end consumer in these uncertain times. Long after this crisis subsides, businesses will be forced to look at how their digital relationship with their customer and their ability to deliver during times of crisis and disruption will support them in the future.

Supply Chains and Fulfillment Are Being Disrupted

There will be a “massive” shuffling of supply chains globally after coronavirus shutdowns. The initial wave of the virus within China has created shortages of products, equipment and parts from suppliers that were felt even before other regions of the world reduced operations. Border closures, factory shutdowns, and quarantines have shown some businesses just how fragile some supply chains have become. “Single-point-of-failure” within the supply chains are made visible during times like these, and those that fail to develop diversification within supply chains will continue to suffer disruptions in the future.

Businesses that participate in marketplaces and fulfill through third parties and dropping-shipping across their supply chain are seeing resiliency as traditional touchpoints with consumers are frozen. However, even those businesses that warehouse and fulfill through Amazon have faced disruption in Europe as Amazon EU Closes Supply Chain For Most Merchants Amid Covid-19 Pandemic to prioritize essential products for customers. 

Retail meat purchases surged to almost 70% in a week due to the outbreak in North America. The ability and agility for food producers to route delivery from foodservice to food retail is helping restock shelves that would create panic if left empty. Even the #ToiletPaperApocalypse has caught suppliers off guard and demonstrated that even everyday items with ample supply can be a challenge to inventory and manage logistics. Limits on products have become necessary to stem panic buying and hoarding in an effort for businesses to show care and compassion to their customers. Businesses will look to broaden their supply chain, react more quickly to demand with faster scalability in production, and provide earlier analytics and real-time data to remain informed and react to panic.

Robust and diversified supply chain and fulfillment systems that provide real-time analytics and the ability to respond to events as they happen are not just needed today – they are critical. We should be thankful that some of the most critical products and services we depend on already flow through such systems. Businesses can take lessons from them and quickly respond to be a healthier, more resilient organization going forward.

Marketing and Personalization is Actually Becoming Personal

In times like this, brands and businesses want to appear relevant and reflect a compassionate, human tone. Collections for local charities, community programs, and hiring programs for those laid off are appearing in local news daily. Even large companies are striking a humanitarian tone with firms such as Netflix doing its part to support those who have helped them be so successful. 

As a Canadian, I am proud to share stories of our businesses both large and small that are helping respond to disrupted and limited supply. Labatt’s Canada is mobilizing its Disaster Relief Program to produce hand sanitizer and small businesses like Top Shelf Distillers are producing hand washes to help supplement. Some are even donating their products to hospitals, emergency crews, and the military.

Large companies across the board know that there will be fallout in the months to come and people will face hardship. Ford recognized the need to change its message and offer help to its customers with short-term relief during the uncertain weeks ahead

Businesses have to be mindful that critics will find efforts like this as opportunistic and hollow attempts to prey on fear. However, those who focus on delivering real value and help to customers and communities will be long remembered for their actions and have an obligation to make their example known so that others may follow suit. 


There is no doubt that COVID-19 has disrupted everyday life and business as we know it. The changes we have seen serve to highlight how critical digital is during not only pandemics, but all crises and disasters that we will experience and overcome. Although it may feel like this pandemic is here to stay, it will pass. The effects on how businesses plan and operate digitally will ripple on long after COVID-19.

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Mike Rabbior

With 10 years at Perficient, Mike possesses deep expertise in nearly every business vertical and technical domain.

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