For many industries, COVID-19 has been a lesson in rapid change. Last week at DX3, Canada’s retail, marketing, and technology expo, a roundtable discussion explored how four companies are staying relevant – and resilient – by accelerating projects, iterating roadmaps, and more. 

Here’s a look at how four companies accelerated change during the pandemic. (Hint: it’s all about their frontline employees!) 

Mastermind Toys launched a digital platform in 5 months

Sarah Jordan joined Mastermind Toys as CEO in January 2020 – and within two months, her stores were shut down coast to coast. “We were a retailer who did not have a contactless curbside option, and our website, our web experience was severely lagging our competitors,” explained Jordan at the DX3 roundtable. 

To catch up, Jordan and her team focused on the customer experience. “In the middle of a pandemic, we launched a brand-new digital platform. We did it in five months, from scratch, including all of the ecosystem around it, including a customer service platform, review platform; you name it. Everything was overhauled.” By Christmas, they were offering one-hour curbside pickup – with signature wrapping paper, no less. 

How they did it:

“Progress over perfection,” says Jordan. “Also, the employee experience drives the customer experience, and so for me the employee experience mattered in all of this.” For Mastermind, a big component of that was bringing employees into the decision process, and giving them space to collaborate and share ideas. 

“We want everyone to co-create with us; it’s one of the reasons why we rolled out Nudge. The biggest change is how empowered our frontline feels to provide ideas and best practices, and it’s been game-changer for us.” 

Nudge veered off its product roadmap to give brands what they needed

Nudge has spent a decade building the complete digital solution for empowering frontline workers and driving better business outcomes for companies – but when COVID-19 hit, the needs of Nudge’s customers changed. Fast. 

“We took our product roadmap, put it all out on the table and reoriented around our customers’ needs,” said Brennan Wilkie, Chief Revenue Officer at Nudge. “Courage means doing the right thing even when it’s hard. Or especially when it’s hard. And we saw a lot of businesses doing that, putting people before profit – their employees and their customers alike – but it changed the way they operated. So we reacted to this change.” 

The result? Nudge found new ways to help brands communicate and engage with their frontline workers, and stay nimble in the ever-changing pandemic reality. 

How they did it:

With so many of Nudge’s customers representing retail, food service, and other essential businesses, they refocused the product roadmap to focus on tools that would help teams navigate the rapidly-changing protocols and restrictions. For example, automated onboarding was developed to get employees ramped up quickly when businesses started reopening, and a task management feature was fast-tracked to help managers reinforce new, one-off and recurring tasks. 

“What do they need to strengthen their business, and how do we reorient what we do to best serve them?” said Wilkie. “It was a great challenge for us and one we’re proud of. It was the right, reactive move at the right time.” 

Sobeys did a last-minute overhaul of a launch two years in the making

The early days of COVID-19 were a flurry of activity for grocery stores. “The grocery industry became an essential service effectively overnight,” said Sarah Joyce, Senior Vice President of E-Commerce at Sobeys Inc. “Everybody just moved immediately in the same direction with agility and velocity in a way we never have before to react to the change around us.” 

But while they were implementing plexiglass, one-way aisles and senior shopping hour, the company was also prepping something else: Voilà by Sobeys, a large-scale robotic automated warehouse grocery home delivery service. “We were preparing for two years for the launch of a new business, and pretty much the entire launch plan changed in the final weeks,” said Joyce. 

“We had to talk to our suppliers about what product was actually available for us, given the constraints that they were facing. We had to change our delivery protocols so that we could have increased sanitation, contactless delivery, and all of the new important emerging safety protocols in that field. And then we had to change our entire marketing launch plan – the messaging, the channels – to reflect the mood of the nation and the state of the reality of where everybody was in and how we were going to reach them now compared to how we might have prior to the pandemic.”

How they did it:

“It was agility and it was empathy,” said Joyce. “Everything we were doing was on behalf of the customers and the teammates – and everything we were doing was as quick as humanly possible.”

In other words: investing in their people was a crucial component to accelerating change. “Our teammates were the real heroes of the last year, and they continue to deliver exceptional customer experiences to the customers that are still coming in our stores or receiving our deliveries. They make all the difference.”

Marriott stayed relevant with new COVID-relevant offerings

When travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders brought occupancy from 80% down to 2%, Marriott International quickly shifted their focus from luxury events and corporate travel to creative new products geared toward current needs. For example, Work Anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy offers room packages for remote workers who need a break from their home office. They also focused on the contactless experience, like mobile check-in and mobile keys. “We needed to make sure we were keeping travellers feeling confident that, if they needed to travel, they would be safe. Or if they were considering travel in the future, we’d be ready,” said Laura Pallotta, Regional Vice President of Sales and Distribution, Canada, at Marriott International. 

Marriott also has an eye to the future. “We know the luxury segment is pent up,” said Pallotta. “We’ve already seen it in the U.S. with our luxury brands. They have missed major milestones in their family: birthdays, graduations, weddings, that kind of thing. They’re buying out suites; they’re spending a ton of money. So we’re definitely looking at how to make sure that we’re out in front of that customer.”

How they did it:

For Marriott, accelerating change started with listening closely to what’s actually needed, both now and in the future. Now, that means bleisure and staycations; in 2023 or 2024, that means a luxury boon. But beyond that, it goes back (again!) to the employees. “Mr. Marriott always says that if you take good care of your associates, they will take good care of your customers, and the customer will come back. So I think that’s really the foundation of our culture,” said Pallotta. 

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The biggest takeaway from this DX3 roundtable? Success starts with your employees. Especially during unprecedented times, investing in the employee experience is the first step in next-level customer experience, loyalty and more.  

Proven ROI of 484%

Forrester Consulting's Total Economic Impact™ study found a 484% ROI with Nudge!*

*over three years.