Digital transformation has saved businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak

  • Digital transformation has become even more essential during the COVID-19 lockdown, with some iconic local businesses now being saved by their online presence.

    We've talked a lot about digital transformation in the last few years, with several NI tech companies specialising in taking traditionally offline or low-tech businesses and updating them with modern technology and a web presence. We heard some great local success stories on digital transformation before the outbreak, such as local cancer support charity Hope House Ireland that saw a significant spike in donations via a new website.

    A large number of face-to-face businesses in Northern Ireland have been forced to shut their doors during the pandemic, but the ones doing the best right now are those that have adapted to a new online dynamic. Belfast's fruit markets and coffee roasters have now started offering delivery services, and some jobs have adapted to a new remote-working dynamic.

    Hillmount Garden Centre is of those busineses that's reached out to us with a story of how digital transformation has saved their business during this crisis. The 80 year old garden centre in Castlereagh took its traditional business online and saw a 66% year-on-year spike in sales. Everyone being stuck at home right now has encouraged a 40% rise in their barbecue sales and sales of seeds and bedding plants have doubled, but most people wouldn't have bought if the business wasn't online.

    The centre had started implementing an e-commerce service before the lockdown, but redoubled its efforts to upload products to the site in early march when footfall began to decline. The majority of their orders are now done online or by phone, and people can even place orders via facebook messenger. They can also be found on Instagram and Twitter, where they post photos of new plants and products.

    With the digital transformation now complete, they're even finding useful new data on customer preferences. Managing Director Alan Mercer explained: "We are learning interesting facts too about our customers with each new day. The time of day that most of them think about their gardens and place an online order, which days they prefer to place orders in preference to others, and their tastes gas versus charcoal barbecues."

    Alan also commented on the success of their digital transformation: "When we closed the doors to the public three weeks ago we honestly thought that our 80 year old family business would not survive until the end of April. [...] We have been able to transform our business to operating predominantly online but we still offer the older generation who may not be online the option of phoning our store and placing their orders."

    Source: Written based on press release

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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