For many brands the coronavirus crisis has disrupted their digital strategies and forced or accelerated their plans for digital transformation. Even the EU is having to rethink its digital strategy, according to the Financial Times an EU official was quoted saying that the coronavirus outbreak had highlighted the importance of gaining access to high quality data in a timely manner.

I recently came across a brilliant mind-boggling article on how much data is generated each day. The amount of data we generate is hard to comprehend, it is believed that the digital universe is made up of 44 zettabytes which means that there are 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the universe. I had never heard of a zettabyte before, but it is almost double the size of a terabyte which even I know is rather big.

Due to advances in technology there is no limit to the types of digital data that brands now have access to. But how do brands make sense of all of this overwhelming data? Google’s Eric Schmidt famously noted that every two days, we create as much information online as we did from the dawn of civilisation up until 2003.

Dr Geraint Evans is an award-winning marketing practitioner, academic, writer & speaker. His main areas of interest are emerging technology, innovation and trends in customer experience, digital transformation and social media. I wanted to speak to him to see how he thinks brands should be approaching their digital strategy during this time and how they should be using data to improve their marketing and communications.

For brands that have had their digital transformation forced by coronavirus, what advice would you give them?

That there is no going back! Seriously, I was amazed with how few companies were investing heavily in growing their digital capabilities even before the pandemic, but Covid-19 really has changed everything forever on this front. If brands do not begin their transformation journey right now they will continue to lose market share, revenue and their best people.

How can brands access AI and Big Data and what should they do with it?

I think AI and Big Data is wrapped up in a lot of mystery, but it is actually much more common than we think – and is already around us everywhere. I think similar to ‘digital transformation’ as a topic, while they can be slightly intimidating at first, the depth of available online learning and content around them means there is no excuse not to engage and learn more about them.

What new emerging technologies do you think we should watch?

As well as the ones we’ve talked about, I think the connected technology of Speech is really interesting – as more and more homes have devices like Alexa it will be fascinating to see how that develops. Another thing I’ve been writing and talking a lot about is Blockchain, again it will be very interesting to see what happens next with that technology.

Are there any brands that you feel are using AI and big data innovatively?

I think you are seeing really interesting developments from everyone, from the biggest companies in the world such as Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Alibaba, to really exciting start-ups growing in the space. It will be so interesting to see how this evolves as this technology continues to improve exponentially.

What impact do you feel the pandemic will have on innovation and customer experience in the future?

First of all, my heart goes out to all of those affected by Covid-19. I think the future is uncertain, and it is very hard to predict right now. For all of those saying things will never be the same again, there are as many voices now saying it will all get back to normal. I think that one thing that is becoming clear is that consumers will continue to demand seamless and frictionless customer experience more than ever – and those companies doing that in new and innovative ways will win.

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