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By David Jenkins, founding partner at Mickey Llew, a specialist performance marketing and SEO agency

Digitisation and moves to online and away from brick and mortar have been touted as the new reality for a few years now, although adoption in South Africa has been slower and more staggered than elsewhere. However, COVID-19 or ‘Coronavirus’, has changed that, faster than we could ever have imagined.

Digital is Now a Necessity, Not a Choice

With South Africa’s shift to full lockdown at midnight on 26 March 2020, after the preceding period of recommended social distancing, many companies are now having to rethink how they conduct business – in a hurry.

Companies who had been housing their IT infrastructure in-house, on their own on-site servers instead of easily accessible cloud computing, are faced with the most adaptation, and dare we say it, expense, and their businesses stand to will suffer the most.

For those companies which had partially begun to adopt a more remote style of working, now is the time to double-down and better their efforts for employees in the future. Many aspects of daily workflows can now be handled collaboratively online.

People can meet using Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype; workflows can be managed online by a number of different tools such as Monday.com, Asana, JIRA and more; communications can be conducted through Slack, Microsoft Teams or Discord.

Search is Still the Driving Digital Force

The case for search is stronger than ever.  Since COVID-19 hit our shores, search in South Africa for ‘corona virus’ has increased by more than 35,900%. The average search volume for ‘Dis-Chem near me is at all-time high of 22,200 searches per month, while ‘pharmacy near me’ has seen a sharp increase to 40,500 per month. Searches for ‘Ampath near me’ spiked during February.

Even though there is a national lockdown, meaning delivery services are suspended except for essential goods such as food and medicine, if the curve is flattened to the government’s satisfaction, the lockdown may be relaxed, and businesses can start operating again. But this won’t mean that social distancing will be a thing of the past.

Right now, if you are a retail chain store or you sell other goods like appliances, it’s a difficult time. But people’s lives still continue. Washing machines continue to break down. Toasters reach the end of their lifespan.

People look for more comfortable desks and chairs to work from home. They want faster laptops for better efficiency now that they’re working remotely, and they want faster internet connections too. These are some of the things people will be searching for as time goes on and businesses must optimise their online presence to cope with the traffic they need for future success.

Although people are being forced to stay at home for their own safety, people will always be people – and they want to stay home comfortably as well. Making sure you are ready to help them do this once lockdown relaxes is part and parcel of an effective marketing strategy in a post-COVID-19 world.

SEO is Our Business. Adding Value is Our Cause.

This is not a time for cash-grabs or COVID-19 profiteering and we, above all else, know that. However, we know that one of the outcomes of this epidemic is that people will be working online more, and likely shopping there too.

The key to business success in an online environment is to make sure that online workers and shoppers get the information they want as quickly as possible. For example, how do we make sure that we don’t add to their frustration when they search for something which could save their businesses in the coming months? Issues that could negatively impact the best possible search results include bad site structure, lack of focused content, and even no contact details!

The digital sphere continues to make strides forward in leading the way for better ways of conducting business, and the current environment could be the catalyst that kicks the move to digital into high gear.

*Mickey Llew makes no attempt to downplay the severity of COVID-19, explain or advise on any medical or statistical aspect of the virus. Anyone with an internet connection should search for information about the virus from reputable sources such as The World Health Organisation, which updates its data daily regarding cases all over the world; and make use of country-specific websites and other resources. South Africans can use the official National Department of Health COVID-19 WhatsApp Chatbot on 060 012 3456 or call the COVID-19 hotline on 0800 029 999 throughout this period.