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COVID-19 and the Shifting Economy: How to Adapt through Digitization and Technology

It’s been several months since COVID-19 disrupted our daily lives, and we are just now beginning to see its economic impacts. While much about the future is still unknown, it is clear that many of the Coronavirus’ effects on the way we do business are here to stay. We sat down with Chief Economist Evelina Roseman to discuss the pandemic’s impacts on the global economy and AEC businesses, and what we can expect moving forward.

Digitization is a Permanent Adjustment

So, what’s here to stay? It’s no secret that the business world has gone digital, and that, in most cases, it has been out of necessity. In the earlier stages of the virus, the notion of many companies was to conduct their work virtually just for the time being, until the world re-opened and in-person contact was safe again. According to Roseman, this return-to-normal date is not coming. Even if there is a return to normalcy of some kind, AEC firms must completely embrace digitization in terms of marketing, workflow, e-commerce, etc. for the long-term. In fact, the companies that do not fully establish themselves in an online environment will be weeded out from the rest of the industry.

If you’re a business owner reading this and are concerned your company isn’t there yet, don’t worry. One of the beauties of digitization is its convenience and expediency (once you become fluent in how to use it properly). There is no reason to feel limited by the lack of face-to-face interaction, you simply need to know what tools are at your disposal.

For instance, you can replace your company’s annual tradeshow attendance with a LinkedIn campaign. You can still effectively engage with strategic clients and target audiences – and you don’t have to pay to put half your staff up in a hotel. Many owners and subject matter experts spend months waiting on an invitation to the next major conference or industry event to deliver a presentation. Now, you can put on a virtual webinar and discuss the topics that are most important to you whenever it fits with your schedule.

Basically, your customers are online, and they aren’t going anywhere. So online is where you must meet them.

Trends to Expect and Embrace

The trends we are witnessing now have been in the works for some time, but, as Roseman puts it, COVID-19 has “rear-ended” many cusping social and economic traits into the spotlight. If any one thing is certain, it’s that technology is king – now more than ever. If one industry has benefited from the pandemic, it’s definitely technology and innovation. It has served as the lifeblood of the economy since social distancing went into effect, and professionals will only rely on its tools increasingly as we move into the future. We can expect the coming years and decades to show even bigger shifts towards careers in technology. For those of us who don’t speak the language, we either need to learn it or master our creative service offerings that can’t be replaced by machines. The truth is that the majority of companies would have withered and died without this crux, and it’s changing the way we do business.

Like globalization, for example. We asked Ms. Roseman whether being a local firm still carries the same weight when it’s just as easy to conduct digital business transactions with clients half a world away. Her answer? It does not. And it’s not a bad thing.

Local firms haven’t lost the reputation and relationships on which their companies were built – they just now have an opportunity to reach an even broader audience. With strategic marketing and a significant digital presence, small local firms can connect with new clients across the globe and grow their businesses.

Takeaways for AEC / B2B Companies
  • Make an effort to become fluent in technology
  • Embrace digitization of marketing and operations
  • Use online tools to your advantage and connect with clients
  • Plan for the long-term, not a temporary solution