COVID-19 has fundamentally changed business in Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the business landscape around the world. Many businesses are struggling to determine what the future holds. Will they be able to stay in business? How will they future-proof their business? Most importantly, how will they get there? As the future comes into focus — and the ‘new normal’ is established — companies need to accelerate their digital transformation to emerge from the crisis more resilient and shift towards growth.

Salesforce researched Canadian businesses, supporting a program called Path to Growth, to better understand the national story about building business resilience for Canada’s new normal and help businesses get back on the #PathToGrowth. The Salesforce national survey was developed to uncover Canadian’s perceptions of the pandemic’s impact on business resiliency and technology’s role in helping businesses recover. Over 1,500 survey respondents included 400-plus business owners/decision-makers across several industries representing small to medium size businesses and enterprises. Here are the key findings of the survey based on Canadian businesses and their preparedness toward a path to growth in the next normal. 

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Canadian businesses are re-opening safely during COVID-19 pandemic.

MANY BUSINESSES STILL FEEL UNPREPARED TO OPEN

When asked if ready to reopen their business next week, nearly a third (30%) of businesses say they would not feel prepared to do so. The top three reasons for businesses not feeling prepared:

  • Almost half (44%) say they don’t have a health and safety work plan in place
  • A quarter (24%) say they don’t know where to start when it comes to reopening their business
  • Another 1 in 5 (20%) say they have been unable to adapt in today’s environment, due to not having the right technology in place 

Salesforce Framework / Response Playbook and the three phases: Stabilize, reopen, and grow. 

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  • The first step is to stabilize operations and buffer against short-term risks. We recommend setting up a dedicated crisis response leadership team to define options, risks, and courses of action. Then execute based on your top priorities. Taking care of employees and customers should be first on the list. At Salesforce, we are delivering access and analysis of trusted COVID-19 global data from our community of experts to all of our stakeholders using Tableau.
  • The second phase is safely reopening, which we are continuing to enter now. I’m very proud to be part of a company that has quickly pivoted to help our customers manage through this unprecedented time with solutions like Salesforce Care and Work.com.
  • And as the future comes into focus – and the next “new normal” is established – companies can shift toward a growth phase to accelerate their digital transformation, and ultimately emerge from the crisis more resilient and relevant than before. 
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TECHNOLOGY HAS BEEN ESSENTIAL IN HELPING CANADIAN BUSINESSES ADAPT AND THRIVE

According to Salesforce’s Third Edition of the Connected Customer Report, 64% of Canadian customers expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences. I think it’s important to note that with these changes in the experience, consumer expectations are also shifting in lockstep, both for the immediate future, but also long term.

Technology also plays an essential role in the future of business, as it relates to the employee experience and expectations. In the same omnibus survey, over a third (36%) of Canadians indicated that technology will be more important in their current or future job, and over half (51%) of Canadians expect employers to support those who want to work remotely.

  • Eighty-three percent of businesses agree that technology has allowed their business to quickly pivot and adapt in today’s business environment
  • Six in 10 businesses who were prepared to reopen felt ready to do so because they were able to use technology to quickly pivot

According to the same Salesforce omnibus study, three quarters (76%) of businesses feel a sense of urgency to implement the right technology to help their business in the future; and as we’ve been discussing today, much of this has to do with the fact that technology has been essential to helping Canadian businesses adapt and thrive during these times.

CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS AND BEHAVIORS HAVE CHANGED, WITH A GREATER IMPORTANCE PLACED ON AN EXPERIENCE THAT IS RELEVANT, MORE CONVENIENT AND ALIGNS WITH THEIR VALUES

When purchasing brands online, Canadian consumers say that a brand’s values and the online experience are more important to them now, compared to before COVID-19:

  • Thirty-four percent (34%) say brand loyalty is most important now (compared to 43% before COVID-19)
  • Half (48%) of Canadians want to be served relevant ads that provide product recommendations and brand updates they will care about.
  • A third (32%) are willing to share their personal data if it improves their online shopping experience
  • Half (48%) of Canadians want to be served relevant ads that provide product recommendations and brand updates they will care about
  • A third (32%) are willing to share their personal data if it improves their online shopping experience

THERE REMAINS A LACK OF UNDERSTANDING OF HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN HELP

The Salesforce omnibus study found that nearly a third (30%) of businesses said they would not feel prepared to reopen their business next week if they were allowed to do so. Within that, 20% of those businesses said they have been unable to adapt in today’s environment, due to not having the right technology in place.

  • A third (31%) of businesses still don’t understand how technology will help their business remain competitive. 
  • Over half (53%) of businesses say they know they need technology to help their business stay competitive and relevant in today’s business environment, but they don’t know where to start

AS WE ENTER A ‘NEW NORMAL,’ BUSINESSES WILL NEED TO ADOPT TECHNOLOGY TO MEET THE CONSUMER AND EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS 

    • Eighty-five percent of businesses can’t see a future for their business without technology
    • The top 2 areas where businesses see technology helping them succeed in the future: 1. Personalized customer experiences (ie. service, marketing, engagement) (46%), 2. Workplace preparedness (29%)
    • Seven in 10 (75%) of businesses agree that to succeed in today’s business environment, they need to invest in reskilling their employees
    • As the future of work has shifted due to COVID-19, Canadians have new expectations of their employers, that prioritize their well-being and prepare them for the future:
      • Support those who want to work remotely (51%) 
      • Have a clear plan for any future crises (46%)
      • Have a clear plan in place for person-to-person interactions (42%)
      • Have modern technology in place to create a better work experience (34%)

RE-SKIILLING EMPLOYEES MUST REMAIN A TOP PRIORITY FOR BUSINESSES

  • Seven in 10 (75%) of businesses agree that to succeed in today’s business environment, they need to invest in reskilling their employees
  • As the future of work has shifted due to COVID-19, Canadians have new expectations of their employers, that prioritize their well-being and prepare them for the future:
    • Support those who want to work remotely (51%)
    • Have a clear plan for any future crises (46%)
    • Have a clear plan in place for person-to-person interactions (42%)
    • Have modern technology in place to create a better work experience (34%)

    I had the privilege to join a panel with some of the most influential Canadian business, venture capital, and technology trailblazers to discuss the survey results. This amazing panel included Arlene Dickinson, Dragon, entrepreneur and author, Amber Mac, president of AmberMac Media, James Connell, chief commerce and customer experience officer at Roots, and Jacob Pat, technology and business executive, futurist and CIO. 

To learn more about the Path to Growth survey research, you can visit here

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