As Singapore embarks on a gradual three-phase approach to exit the circuit breaker, the effects on consumer purchasing behaviour in various industries remain to be seen. According to a Accenture’s report on COVID-19’s impact on the digital behaviour of Singapore consumers, different scenarios are likely to emerge depending on the industry, evolution of the virus and the social response.
The report finds that consumers can expect circuit breaker trends to continue and persist due to consumer cautiousness and the continuation of existing restrictions into phase one. As organisations prepare for the next normal, here are three actions they should consider:
Action 1: Accelerate digital transformation and adoption of AI, automation and cloud
The technological infrastructure of many companies has suffered under the weight of the online surge. Organisations are advised to be prepared to redesign their technical infrastructure, processes and systems to withstand future pressures. Faster adoption of cloud platforms is predicted to provide resilience, reliability and the scalability needed to cope with traffic surges and volatility from the increased demand in digital services.
Automation must be combined with AI, especially in essential services such as food, supply chains and logistics, to free up time for more complex decision-making. Firms are encouraged to deploy virtual agents to handle routine customer enquiries, particularly in the finance, travel and tourism sectors which have seen an influx of calls since the outbreak.
Action 2: Gain deeper customer insights and trends
As more consumers go online, they leave larger-than-ever digital footprints such as purchase patterns, online interactions and digital content consumption that can be collected and analysed to gain a deeper understanding of their behaviour. It is more important than ever that organisations harness AI, data and analytics to monitor market trends, needs and sentiments in real-time or near real-time in order to seize opportunities quickly, the report said.
For example, organisations are encouraged to leverage internal data, external data and machine-learning to generate “Zero Moments of Truth” – that point where the customer is at the very beginning of the decision journey – and identify consumer needs more rapidly in order to roll out relevant products and services earlier.
Action 3: Be a responsible business
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies in Singapore have stepped forward to help communities cope. Grocery retailers set up mobile stores to bring essential items closer to selected neighbourhoods, and supermarkets and banks launched priority hours for the elderly and disabled. Banks provided liquidity relief support and loan moratoriums to small and medium-sized enterprises, while telco companies distributed laptops to lower-income students for home-based learning. About more than 280 organisations on-boarded onto the SGUnited Traineeships Programme under Workforce Singapore to equip graduates with relevant work experience as the market recovers. Organisations that take a leadership role in positively contributing to society will become trusted and respected brands in the longer-term, and ultimately emerge as winners in the eyes of the consumer, the report added.
Meanwhile, five months after Singapore’s first COVID-19 case, the economy is starting to show signs of a slow recovery. Businesses are re-opening and people are adjusting to the 'next normal' as the circuit breaker restrictions ease. While COVID-19 has caused dire economic consequences, the report's analysis of data from 13 industries has shone a spotlight on the digital economy, and how consumers and businesses have adapted to the pandemic.
The chart shows a summary of the findings, which compares the percentage change of online transaction and browsing metrics during COVID versus preCOVID.
Accenture Applied Intelligence analysed 20 million online transactions and three billion online browsing sessions from its data partners, news articles and social media data. Accenture then used this data to identify industry trends and shifts in digital consumer behaviour in Singapore in order to help businesses prepare for a post-circuit breaker era. Overall, as brick-and-mortar business activities slowed, businesses in some industries such as Investing saw up to three times their normal growth in online transaction volumes and/or revenues.
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