The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a lot of uncertainties. Right from working from home, going digital, employee engagement, cross-training, and eliminating siloed work environments, companies across the globe leaped into doing things that were merely on the agenda. However, 2021 looks promising and CEOs need to focus on digital-first acceleration to become successful.
According to IBM, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the need for e-commerce by five years. So, business leaders and CEOs have to be agile to respond to the change while managing the current priorities especially security threats.
Here are five priorities that CEOs must comply with if they want to succeed in 2021.
1. Embrace a digital-first approach
Regardless of how CEOs were prepared to go ahead in 2020, it was the pandemic defining the business strategy for most businesses. However, if you see that the pandemic was pushing companies to shift towards digital-first.
Disney, for example, modified its operations under its streaming content in 2020 making it seem like a bold move. However, Disney was already headed in the direction after the launch of Disney+ in 2019 and the pandemic only accelerated the move.
In 2021, it is recommended that businesses must focus on a digital-first approach as the pandemic uncertainties are likely to remain even when the vaccine becomes available.
2. Work from home culture
With Zoom and Teams replacing the in-person conference room culture and digital collaboration tools such as MURAL as the new whiteboard, it can be said that remote working is probably here to stay.
While many companies have adapted to remotely working culture, it is harder to keep people connected, to sustain and build a culture. To make matters worse, many employees are struggling with the daily stress of the pandemic and they’re cut-off from their support network.
To ensure smooth working, CEOs will have to leverage every digital tool at their disposal, whether live-streaming meetings or using social media more aggressively to uplift employees.
3. Reconsider audience engagement
According to a survey of CMOs by Gartner, businesses across the globe changed the way they communicate to their audiences. Be it advertising or events, everything went online. According to Gartner, more than half of CMOs either canceled in-person events, postponed the events, or transitioned to virtual events. While the winners remained engaged with their clients and customers, CMOs who canceled or paused their communications outreach faced a tough time.
So, in 2021, CEOs will have to ensure they ramp up their digital-first engagement to become successful. CEOs must focus on maximizing the benefits of digital engagement such as more content and more events at competitive costs and scale.
4. Focus on analytics
Unfortunately, businesses that invested heavily in artificial intelligence fared badly in 2020. This is because their customer behavior models were built on past data which did not take into account the unexpected shifts in consumer behavior that took place in 2020. Few businesses that performed well with analytics used digital tools efficiently.
For instance, the travel and lodging industry faced major roadblocks as people shunned densely populated urban areas. However, Airbnb’s data scientists noticed a surge in people browsing its site for lodging options in smaller towns within driving distance of travelers’ homes. Airbnb used this to its advantage and revamped its website to feature lodging options that were in line with what people were looking for. Airbnb benefitted largely with this move and launched its public offering in December.
5. Security matters
Before the pandemic, CEOs hardly considered security as an important topic. They expected their IT department to deal with the issues. However, it's not the same now. There is a rise in hackers disrupting and destroying businesses.
According to the FBI, 2020 saw a 300% rise in cybercrimes in comparison to the same time in 2019. That said, proper measures can help thwart cyberattacks. However, all businesses need to be vigilant and take steps to protect themselves. Simply put, it's high time CEOs treat cybersecurity as a business threat and not just as an annoyance.
In 2021, CEOs will have to let go of the days when they and their teams would set the yearly strategies and budgets and act on them. CEOs will have to constantly check in with their teams and get direct feedback on performance metrics. The idea is to understand how customer behavior is changing and be agile.