The speed at which things are changing today is only going to increase.
Businesses of all kinds have been compelled to accelerate their digital transformations at unprecedented speeds over the past two years. And the speed of change is predicted to only get faster. In fact, most senior executives surveyed in Adobe’s Digital Trends report believe we've now transitioned in a ‘new environment’ that we need to adapt to fast.
What’s the driving force? For once, it’s not COVID.
Many of us have been in crisis management mode for 2 years and have had to pivot and adapt to survive. It’s imperative for businesses to reposition themselves for marketing-at-speed as we migrate from digitally-led innovation driven by crises into planned innovation, in order to remain competitive and agile in our more uncertain world.
Agile methods of working outside of crisis 'war rooms' away from one-off special projects and into everyday practice is a challenge facing many organisations. According to the Adobe/Econsultancy Digital Trends Survey in Q4 2021, many businesses are struggling to implement such a large cultural and operational shift. However, only 31% of marketing practitioners believe that their organisation's agility to respond to opportunities and disruptions is at an 8 out of 10.
Shifting the mindset and process from crisis management to business-as-usual is the first key to growth. The second is focus. There needs to be a focus on the customer experience, above all else
1. Think Customer Experience rather than User Experience
Recovery from the pandemic can complicate how we meet customer needs. From retail to entertainment, world-class digital experiences set the bar and drive ever-higher expectations.
Customers want businesses to remember their choices across all touchpoints and offer outstanding experiences at every stage of their journey.
Businesses must reconfigure to capture hybrid interaction data to fulfil customers' needs. So today’s businesses are called to build compelling, value-added experiences at each crucial stage of the buying journey. Moreover, they must do so while building trust. That implies engaging in ways that aren't invasive or surveillant.
CEOs are starting to see the importance of driving the focus back to their customers , with a more nuanced and holistic perspective of behaviour, preferences, and requirements. They're developing a more comprehensive understanding of human behaviour, interests, and requirements.
They're also putting plans in place to turn data into insights and then act quickly on those findings. They're prioritising personalization, innovation, and openness to risk. To close the gap, senior executives recognise the whole business must gain a greater knowledge of their customers' changing needs.
As customers' demands, motives, expectations, preferences, and behaviours change continuously, the implication is that businesses need to reorganise and rebuild systems and culture to reflect this.
Just look at how Walgreens in the US are evolving the intersection of strategy and experience.
2. Data-driven businesses can better test, learn, and manage uncertainty.
Inflationary pressures, varying pandemic threats, a tight labour market, and global supply chain issues keep everyone on their toes. What we learnt these last 2 years was that protracted waterfall procedures couldn't keep up with the COVID-19 issue, and they continue to fail to serve us well now.
Data-driven businesses allow for incredibly agile marketing. One that is based on iterative learning, supported by a rapid testing cycle. Team members should be pushed to experiment, fail quickly, fail in modest increments, and fail openly. It can be challenging to implement true test and learn procedures since data, insights, and empirical evidence are scarce and can't be reliably assessed. This limits the ability of organisations to conceive and plan strategically, putting creative thinking and innovation at risk.
Disruption, uncertainty, and change will be harder to handle if you don't build an environment that encourages experimentation, exploration, and creativity. In light of the rapid changes that have occurred in the last two years, a company's inability to keep up could be disastrous, as evidenced by the many businesses that failed because they were unable to adapt quickly enough.
Yet, customers are questioning their trust in the data-value exchange because of a rise in privacy awareness and a slew of high-profile hacks. So, in addition to protecting customers' data to the greatest standards, organisations have an obligation to utilise the data respectfully to create value for customers. Because of the increasingly fragmented and complex regulatory landscape, businesses must verify that they are compliant by utilising technology. The consumer must always be kept in mind when collecting data. A great question to ask at the outset is “how will today's data add to tomorrow's responsible, meaningful, and useful experiences for that individual?”
3. So how do you drive sustained success when we're in a constant state of flux?
Adobe’s Digital Trends report offers a starting point for business leaders.
What jumped out to us was that anticipating people’s needs and understanding why people think and do what they do is more critical than ever for the whole business.
While the majority of senior executives questioned recognise that ‘customers are now digital-first’, what does it mean in practice? At The Zoo Republic, we believe there needs to be a sharp focus on the entire buying journey regardless of where customers are and focusing on removing friction for them as they move between digital and physical experiences.
Particularly given that 88% of smartphone users in Australia turn to their smartphones at home to search for information when buying online.
In fact, PWC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey reports that, on average, 41% of respondents use their smartphones to buy daily or weekly, up from 39% six months ago. Not a big leap at first glance, however, the important context is that five years ago it was just 12 percent and today mobile shopping is only six percentage points behind in-store shopping.
Adobe notes that 87% of businesses are increasing their investments in customer data technology and experience management solutions in order to keep up. Without these in place, you risk being left behind.
What These Three Lessons Tells Us
For businesses to thrive in this new digitally-rewired post-lockdown world, there is an opportunity to adopt the crisis management processes into business as usual so you can retain your competitive edge, no matter what challenges come your way.
From focusing on the customer experience, becoming more data-led, and working to be more agile, businesses can better position themselves for sustained growth in a world that’s now standing steadily on its new ever-shifting landscape.