Beyond Digital Transformation: What Are Businesses Doing to Thrive During COVID-19

6 min readMar 30, 2021

Digital transformation for the post-COVID-19 era means more than just digitalising business communication and operations. It has now become more of a complete reinvention of your company’s operations so you can thrive against all odds.

It’s official: we are now in the digital-first world.

Long has digital transformation been a long-term aspiration for businesses worldwide, but it wasn’t until the global pandemic suddenly sent shockwaves through the industries that it became reality.

From health services to dine-in restaurants, traditionally offline industries are moving to online. Just days ago a comic book giant has also made moves to shift their main focus to streaming. That means everything goes digital first and their traditional comic medium is just a supporting role.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, industries have been forced to navigate the disruption and not only rethink their digital strategy but entire operations.

At maaiiconnect we’ve been hearing from our global network of trusted partners about their journey these past few months, and put together some key takeaways on the latest pivots. As it turns out, this transformation has been more than just a digital transformation, but in many cases a complete reinvention.

What is digital transformation? (Let’s start with what is NOT!)

Digital transformation may be a buzzword commonly synonymous with “digitalisation of operating processes”, but it is NOT just that.

It is NOT just about adopting the few latest digital technologies.

It is NOT just about setting up an online store or app.

It is NOT even just about building your presence on social media!

After decades, the concept has evolved way beyond that with bigger ambition. Essentially it takes on a digital and fundamental change, redefining the business from the core of its philosophies and models to streamline processes, increase gains and achieve a long-term competitive edge.

Still, however we describe it, digital transformation is not about technology! Smart technologies ENABLE the change, but the true DRIVER behind is evolving consumer expectations in the digital world.

Ever since the pandemic pushed the “reset” button on our daily life in 2020, the rapid shifts in global consumer behaviours have signalled important implications for industries to re-package offerings and add new elements through digital transformation:

What Are Businesses Doing to Thrive During COVID-19

01. Knowledge sharing for connected communities

The majority of campuses over the globe are physically closed to avoid being a breeding ground for infection. A long overdue digital change is thus forced upon the education sector.

As an initial response to COVID-19, schools and universities scraped by on free video conferencing and digital communication tools at hand to continue lessons with homebound students. However, digital technologies mean more for the sector to rethink education in a digital world. Instead of spoon-feeding education, new edtech advances such as learning apps and VR field trips enable dynamic and experiential learning with support to cater to students’ various needs.

Meanwhile knowledge sharing is how non-educational businesses remain connected with communities. With (free) online learning courses springing up to offer lessons for lucrative skills and professional certificates, the trend spreads through all industries and businesses.

Gone are the days when knowledge is siloed and a privileged treasure to a select few of people. Under the lockdown, it is insightful to see businesses getting creative in inspiring their communities with the help of digital communication technology: from Google featuring arts & culture content, virtual tours and online exhibits of over 2000 leading museums and archives in the world, to zoos bringing safaris to children at home.

02. Technology meeting traditional in-person services

While traditional in-person services are almost impossible during the rapid spread of COVID-19, some sectors expand access to their services by telecommunications infrastructure.

From diagnosis, medication to health monitoring, telemedicine lets patients seek consultations without leaving the comfort of their own home, especially for those with physical disabilities and family responsibilities. While telehealth has already caught on in some countries, the demand spiked in the wake of the pandemic to reduce social contact and possible infection.

Patients and registered therapists can schedule online therapy sessions via live chat. Video-based therapy allows them to communicate face-to-face and demonstrate symptoms without any misinterpretation. A variety of telehealth technologies also enable hospitals to monitor health remotely such as wearable devices that instantly record and transmit information such as heart rate. A digital copy of prescription can then be sent to your nearest pharmacy following an online consultation.

Dine-in restaurants also turning to digital as their saviour, giving rise to adoption of food-related technologies and partnership with online food delivery platforms. Technologies such as voice/gesture-activated menu kiosks and food-handling robots maybe the next moves for automation in the industry. Since the lockdown, restaurants also turn to takeaway initiatives by cooperating with digital food delivery platforms to provide contactless “leave at your door services”.

Still, for Michelin-starred restaurants, technologies may not be able to give a close equivalent for the luxury dine-in experience and unique ambience. Until the lockdown is lifted, restaurants will have to develop new, innovative services to keep wooing their patrons.

03. Evolving digital native brands

The fintech industry has its roots in digital, being a digital native industry, but COVID-19 has hastened digital transition across the full banking and financial services industry, improving customer experience and enhancing digital convenience with higher security.

In the initiatives the Hong Kong Government has ushered to level the playing field and introduce smart banking, virtual banks are now available and regulatory frictions are also minimised for customer digital experience such as online finance and wealth management.

Insurance companies with digital platforms are also favoured. This year a local insurance company launches the first digital agency sales platform in Hong Kong. Insurance agents can virtually meet their clients through secure video calls, screen sharing and e-signature technology tool. Agents can also connect with clients using their proprietary call and chat links.

More commercial real estate businesses are revolutionising the way people buy properties — such as virtual tours to bring their sites to life.

04. Riding Customer Experience to Growth

Nowadays businesses, in order to stand out from the crowd, need to transform digitally to keep up with changing expectations of increasingly tech-savvy customers.

Personalisation is a top priority of e-commerce. Unified shopper profiles are especially helpful — with customer transactions, site journey, and enquiries being recorded, businesses can provide consistent experiences across multiple channels and uniquely curated recommendations based on their preferences.

Live streaming is also a booming trend especially after COVID-19. Cosmetics and beauty as well as retailors now take to social media with live broadcasts promoting their products. Fitness centres also provide live classes and personal training advice on social media and websites, as fitness-minded consumers turn to at-home fitness during the pandemic.

Watch our video on how to offer live consultation on your website with maaiiconnect

Virtual events are up 1,000% since the COVID-19, says Forbes, emerging as a top trend for businesses to engage with their prospects. Many established businesses are using video conferencing tools with advanced interactive features as a close equivalent for their annual general meetings, symposiums and expos.

05. Digital communication quenching human needs to connect

Up till now you may have noticed the integral part that digital communication technology plays in the post-COVID-19 era. After all, it is our innate crave for human interaction under the lockdown that drive these digital transformation trends. From video call and live chat to engage with customers, to virtual spaces for team updates and collaboration, cloud-based digital communication technology enables it all.

Still, confidentiality is one aspect that you need to consider when delivering better digital experience and services. Client communication and record-keeping on digital platforms should be encrypted to protect against cyberattacks. Data protection remains an area that businesses have to ensure.

Read our article on What is Data Protection and Why is it Important? — maaiiconnect


When the pandemic first broke out, its paralysing effects initially caused many businesses to react on their feet and keep their business running with digital communication. In the long term, businesses need to rethink the entire way they operate and devise a comprehensive digital transformation strategy to make your business more resilient, and thrive against all odds!

maaiiconnect, your all-in-one customer engagement solution, builds its best-in-class calling and messaging capabilities on M800’s robust IT infrastructure to high levels of security. Sign up for maaiiconnect today to start your digital transformation strategy!

This article was originally published on the maaiiconnect blog, by Emily Shu.