For many businesses, “digital transformation” has been somewhere on a long list of priorities for quite some time. It was important but somehow got easily buried under the urgency of today.

Maybe, we told ourselves, we would move on it after the seasonal rush or, even better, research what our competitors were doing. That seemed to work — until the day our customers needed to interact with businesses almost solely online. This was the moment when digital operations became less a matter of efficiency and more one of survival.

Until The Day Things Changed Forever

Some early adopters have taken this change in stride. These businesses already had cloud-based business operations, a robust online customer experience and mature global supply chains that could manage the seismic switch from online browsing to online everything.

Many creative businesses managed quick turns to online consultancies or a mix of online operations and one-touch interactions such as curbside pickup. The most successful quickly transformed traditional in-person services (such as going to the gym or shopping for new clothes) into app-based platforms that consumers could easily access from their homes. Continued access to these services gives people a way to maintain some sense of normalcy in their day-to-day lives.

We’re Not Going Back

Sheltering in place and social distancing will create fundamental changes in the way we interact and do business in the future. Even after the current pandemic is officially over, some changes will be here to stay.

Now, digital transformation is essential to a company’s survival. Going forward, companies will need to meet their customers wherever they are. As McKinsey’s Kevin Sneader recently pointed out, this is likely to reshape the economy as well. Questions over a company’s resiliency and ability to quickly pivot despite social upheaval, and the digitization of services will be critical to how we determine a business’s economic success and risk.

That’s why we’re not going back to the normal we had before.

Tomorrow’s Business Model — And The One After That

While digital transformation may no longer be optional, it does not necessitate abandoning an entire business model or a brand that customers like and trust. Rather, this is the time to employ creative technology solutions that allow us to connect with (and delight) our customers on the digital channels they rely on now.

Banks are a good example of this. To meet the immediate emergency, almost overnight, banks closed most branch operations, moved to drive-through transactions and beefed up their digital banking operations. Now the agile ones are taking steps to further promote mobile check deposits, balance transfers, peer-to-peer payments and online customer support. Even the opening of entirely new accounts can now be safely and securely handled through apps and websites.

In an emergency — including the type of convulsive economic transformation we’re experiencing now — many major companies have the digital infrastructure to create an online offering that customers can trust. The next challenge is to build resilient companies that can thrive long term in this new digital-first world.

Staying True To Your Purpose

Say your company runs a chain of gym facilities. Your mission is still to help people improve their health, but now you have to rethink how you fulfill that purpose. Pivoting to an online approach to provide online fitness training or at-home exercise programs offers value for customers while providing a new, viable business model for the digital economy.

Transformation will look different for every company, but successful efforts must enhance an organization’s core purpose. Medical practices will likely expand their telehealth consultations even further. Retailers may roll out digital dressing rooms to engage customers online. Almost all retailers will likely have to beef up their online purchasing systems.

To succeed, successful companies across our global economy will develop their own new ways to meet customers where they are and increase accessibility for everyone.

Don’t Forget Security

While most innovations will contribute to a company’s final product in some way, not all need to be customer-facing. Digital transformation that sets up a company for long-term success will also include organizational or behind-the-scenes changes that ensure an offering is reliable and secure.

With more consumers transacting online than ever before, companies and their customers face a greater risk from fraudsters looking to steal account information, credit card details and more. In fact, there’s already been a marked increase in scams related to the coronavirus specifically. Now is the time for businesses to invest in back-end security tools, as well as customer-facing identity verification measures, to prevent users from falling victim to fraud. These security layers provide peace of mind by ensuring consumers’ true identities online.

Across the world, people have faced unprecedented changes almost overnight. Some of the changes will be temporary, but many will form our new normal for years to come. We have seen the human spirit rise to the challenge, even in the face of this upheaval, and I am confident that companies that fully embrace digital transformation will thrive in this new era.