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Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-Copia-di-CoPaul Attard, co-founder and CEO of multi award-winning website design and software development agency wearegoat, discusses Malta’s potential for developing a robust digital future in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As human beings, we crave certainty and safety. The ability and desire to survive is coded into the very depths of our DNA, our fight or flight response being triggered on a continual basis. Business survival is part of this. The year of the COVID-19 pandemic has demanded that we all take a closer, more critical look at the health, efficiency and longevity of our businesses.

This enforced survival mode presents an inconvenient duality. On the one hand, companies, service providers and brands will, and should, be looking for ways to embed innovation and future-driven strategies into their one, two or five-year business plans. On the other, many of them will feel the weight of a looming post-COVID economy and feel hesitant to spend proactively in the same way they would during a secure and cash-rich period.

Businesses are not racing to spend money right now but still want to build business solutions that will ensure they don’t get swept away with the pandemic debris. Digital agility and adaptability are crucial to staying afloat in any market, this is something we’ve been able to learn from working with global business of different sizes – from sole practitioners to large household brands. Invariably, the logical answer to the double-edged problem of cost versus progress seems obvious: businesses need to get digitally smarter.

Obvious doesn’t always mean easy. The option of going for quick and cheap solutions that address current needs rapidly is attractive. But creating digital systems that are only superficially functional, or that don’t work at all, is buying into a false economy. It may be a tough conversation to have with yourselves, or your finance department, but developing a hardy, smart and ultra-functional digital presence will be the most important investment for any business hoping to thrive in 2021.

It’s important to note that not every business will need to invest in a complete digital overhaul. Some simply need to take a good, hard look at what they’ve already got and understand where there are gaps and recalibration needs. For example, if you are a retailer, your opening hours must be available to users on your landing page. Any office, shop or establishment open to the public has to show their contact details readily for mobile viewing. A Google map or equivalent needs to be immediately accessible for anyone getting into their car and needing to know instantly how to get to you. Your images may be taking too long to load, your phone number might be hidden behind countless clicks or your website copy may not be telling users exactly what they need to know. For many companies, ‘tweaking’ may be the answer to radically upping their digital game.

Locally, investing in rushed digital solutions seems to have been the trend for the past 10 years or so. This means that Malta’s current digital landscape is not where it should be. But this can change and if business owners are smart about it, Malta’s digital offering can adapt itself to a world that, realistically, will not go back to normal past COVID.

By way of example: even before the pandemic hit, the demand for online shopping had seen exponential growth. Despite this, shopping online using local merchants’ websites remains a cumbersome, off-putting challenge. And it’s not just about e-commerce either – current, digitally-led audiences are looking online for more than just consumption, they are looking for information. Yet accessing information from local institutions in an easy intuitive way still feels like a huge and thankless expedition. These are not realities audiences and customers should be facing in 2021.

Now for the good news: getting up to digital speed need not be as hard or expensive as one might think. It starts with having the key fundamentals in place: online speed, responsiveness and usability – these must all become defaults.

The next step is working with developers and designers to forecast what audiences, clientele and customers might want and need from both present and future platforms. This means not just looking at what exists and replicating it. It means taking a close look at what your business can offer specifically, how it can differentiate and, crucially, how it can make people’s lives better in both the short and long term.

The truth is that user behaviours change, so the cost of financing a future-driven digital presence should be thought of as insurance. It should be considered in balance with what may happen if your business falls behind; history has shown that changing user patterns don’t wait for anyone to catch up, often taking swift and unrelenting hold of markets and transforming them completely.

Having worked across varied international clients with hugely diverse scopes, our own advice to any business owner would be to seek out experts who can help you anticipate the right trends and can offer guidance around those findings. The answer isn’t always to build a new system or implement new functionality. Sometimes it’s to pivot on to something that is already proven to work, using an existing third-party solution. A digital future will, and already is, dominating – it’s now up to business owners to decide whether they will form an important part of it or get left behind.




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