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COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Transformation (CADiT) – 10 Digital Trends That Changed Everything & Everyone In Kenya During The Past Year

One year ago in March 2020, everything and everyone as we knew it in te world was irrevocably transformed due to the global onset of the COVID-19 or Coronavirus Pandemic.

Millions of people have either died or been directly affected by the virus and the world has changed in so many ways. In so many ways, digital media and platforms have become essential for modern living and even as we gradually come to terms with the long-term implications of living with the virus, the journey is far from over.

In Kenya, most significantly, many businesses and organisations still encourage employees to work from home as part of one of the basic measures to ensure safety for all. Schools are more or less open but we are hearing of many cases of both students and teachers getting infected by COVID-19.

There is still a bias for people to conduct meetings virtually and many places of worship are still not operating at full capacity. In many ways, the coronavirus or COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital mediums across a myriad of scenarios. Indeed, COVID-19 Accelerated Digital Transformation or CADiT is a fact of modern life in Kenya and beyond.

As a digital services professional for many years, what has happened due to the pandemic in Kenya and beyond has been nothing short of astonishing. I have following with keen interest the major trends that have emerged locally and globally that have fundamentally transformed everything and everyone to-date. One year since the COVID-19 pandemic unleashed its global tsunami of digital transformation upon us, here are the 10 major trends that have taken root in Kenya:

Trend 1: E-Commerce Becomes Commonplace in Kenya.

In Kenya, and globally, e-commerce has become a strategic imperative for all businesses and organizations lest they fail to serve their customers as required and become irrelevant. E-Commerce has become a must-have, and not a nice-to-have anymore! However, consumers will also mix traditional and e-commerce shopping depending on what is most convenient or preferred at any given time.

Trend 2: Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) Internet Goes Truly Mainstream In Kenya.

Affordable and ‘always-on’ Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) broadband Internet has become ubiquitous in Kenya as consumers worked from home and went to school for almost 12 straight months and continue to do so under the current scenario. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Kenya like Safaricom, Jamii Telecom, and Zuku have seen a massive spike in data usage and service uptake since the pandemic started and this continues to grow a year later.

Trend 3: On-Demand Video & Audio Streaming Explodes In Uptake & Usage.

The uptake of video and audio streaming on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, ShowMax, Apple Music and recently launched Spotify has exploded as consumers stayed at home and needed to be entertained, educated, and inspired.

The ‘on-demand’ aspect of streaming has altered consumer behaviour at scale to the detriment of traditional TV, radio and print media. Everyone has become a streaming aficionado whether they like it or not and this is a permanent change as far as consumers are concerned!

Trend 4: Digital Advertising Became The Main Thing & Not The Usual Side Thing For Many Marketers.

During the pandemic, businesses of all sizes adopted digital ads to drive sales and reach consumers at all times. It’s affordable, targeted, data-driven, and highly effective.

Advertising spend has increasingly migrated to digital media from traditional media at scale and this trend will continue in 2021. The most important long-term transformation will be media choices for advertisers will be made from a far more performance-driven perspective underpinned by data-biased insights rather than historical nostalgia going forward.

Trend 5: Direct-To-Consumer (D2C) E-Commerce Gained Traction In Kenya.

D2C E-commerce refers to selling products directly to customers, bypassing any third-party retailers, wholesalers, or any other middlemen. D2C brands are usually sold online only and specialize in a specific product category. Examples include Art Caffe, Banana Box, Tanafo Foods, Davis & Shirtliff, etc. D2C is a growing trend globally and in Kenya during the pandemic and is essential for CADiT aligned businesses for the future context.

Trend 6: Social Media Became The Focal Point For Our Pandemic Induced Digital Lifestyles.

The explosion of social media during the pandemic and beyond as consumers used it as an avenue for entertainment, information, conversations and e-commerce. This trend will continue to grow.

Social media platforms like TikTok in particular gained massive traction, as did social gaming. We essentially started using social media as a replacement for many of the activities we previously used to do in-person with other people pre-pandemic.

Trend 7: Virtual Meetings & Webinars Became How Everyone Met Online In Every Conceivable Context.

Virtual meetings and webinars have become the way in which we work, play, school and pray in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going on Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams has become essential for working and schooling remotely as offices and schools remained closed for almost all of 2020 and in many cases even in 2021.

We no longer rush to have physical meetings when we know we can all meet online for any one of a myriad of reasons including weddings, funerals, job interviews, and training workshops. The future of meetings is finally here and it is very evenly distributed from this perspective thanks to CADiT.

Trend 8: Digital Content Creation, Production & Curation Is Now Something That Everyone Does In Kenya.

Every organization and individual is now a digital media operation that creates, produces, and curates digital content whether they realize it or not. Digital content in a myriad of forms from video, text/copy, audio, blogs, webinars, live streams, etc has become a key driver of how organizations and individuals show up online to connect with their stakeholders, as well as being a clear aspect of differentiation.

This has led many to invest in digital content creation capabilities, facilities, and technologies as part of their core operations. This trend will continue to accelerate as digital content becomes a major aspect of individual and organizational positioning on digital platforms in Kenya and beyond.

Trend 9: The Importance Of Creating, Nurturing & Being Part Of Digital Communities Is Finally Appreciated.

Engaging digital communities has become essential during the pandemic given that face to face engagements are largely limited due to social distancing safety measures and concerns. Building and sustaining digital communities will become a best practice going forward for organisations and individual success via the leading digital platforms in the world.

This means no longer always trying to do a sales pitch online but genuinely trying to understand what digital communities actually need and value in their engagements with individuals and organisations – and doing everything possible to meet them at their point of need. This shift in focus has seen many changes in Kenya where businesses and brands are concerned already during the pandemic.

Trend 10: The Rise Of First-Party Data As Strategic Resource For Long Term Business Success.

Organizations and individuals in Kenya have started investing substantial resources and building up their capabilities around their first-party data to better understand their customers and markets by leveraging that data to make them more successful in their business operations.

Data is undoubtedly the (new) king for many Kenyan businesses since the pandemic closed off many traditional customer channels which then highlighted how digitally inadequate many of them had been. This new understanding of the importance of data across organizations is making them more efficient and effective for long-term success.

What Does CADiT Mean For Everyone & Everything In Kenya Going Forward?

Content: Never before has content been so fundamentally important in establishing an authoritative digital presence that matters locally and globally for individuals and organisations.

Commerce: It is now essential that everyone and every organization has a commercial and global footprint within a digital context enabled through channels such as e-commerce integration, logistics, and digital advertising.

Consumers: Consumer behaviour has been irrevocably altered for a digital-first paradigm where everything must be available on-demand across multiple touch points.

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