In 2021, customer engagement has become one of the driving forces behind digital business transformation across the globe—and it’s not stopping any time soon.
Naturally, the need to stay safe was the primary driver behind most major business transformations, such as remote working. Those same public health concerns fueled a number of other megatrends, such as the shift towards online shopping.
Here are two examples of how COVID-19 shifted customer spending and behavior:
- During the second quarter of 2020, Amazon’s net income doubled compared to Q2 in 2019
- Walmart’s e-commerce sales grew almost 100% in the same quarter
These trends that are being accelerated by the pandemic are simply compounding shifts in the marketplace that have already been in motion for years.
What this research suggests is that a large part of modern digital transformation efforts should be centered around the customer experience and customer engagement.
5 Ways to Drive Customer-First Digital Business Transformation
If customers are moving online and to touchless payment systems, businesses that interact with their customers in physical environments must be ready to adapt.
Here are a few steps to take when investing in customer-first digital transformation programs:
1. Understand present and future trends
It is easy to look back at the past year with perfect hindsight and acknowledge the importance of omnichannel customer experiences.
At the time, however, the companies that fared best were those that had already prepared for incoming customer trends.
Prior to their growth in 2020, trends such as contactless payments and online shopping had already been inbound for years. Though adoption of these processes had been slow for a variety of reasons, that shift clearly accelerated as a result of the pandemic.
When developing customer-first digital transformation initiatives, it is imperative to understand what technologies will inevitably reshape the business landscape in years to come.
Digital wallets, location-based marketing, augmented reality (AR), online shopping, and artificial intelligence (AI) are just a few trends that have already begun to transform the customer experience as we know it―if you haven’t already, now is the time to invest in these technologies for your business and your audience, rather than waiting until another disruption occurs.
2. Stay agile and resilient to prepare for uncertainty down the road
Organizational agility and business resilience can help the organization withstand unpredictable events, regardless of their nature.
Staying agile and resilient will often mean rethinking core aspects of the business, such as how business processes are designed, the speed at which those processes can be executed, the role data plays in the organization, as well as the organization’s structure.
An agile organization, for instance, prioritizes speed over legacy-influenced plans and processes, which can often slow down the business and reduce responsiveness.
In an environment where customer sentiment changes constantly, and digital innovation fuels continual economic change, agility isn’t just beneficial, it is mandatory.
To foster an agile organization, it is necessary to make agility a priority, invest in change, apply the principles of change management, and rebuild strategies and processes around agile principles.
Have an omnichannel offering
The rise of eCommerce has not slowed for a second, and it will continue to become an increasingly permanent part of the shopping experience.
Rather than viewing eCommerce as “offline vs. online,” however, it is important to understand that today’s customer experience revolves around both. This is what many call the omnichannel experience, or a non-linear customer experience that spans multiple devices and contact points, both online and offline.
For inspiration and ideas on how to approach omnichannel customer interaction, look to leaders in this space, such as Walmart and Starbucks, both of which are effectively blending the digital and physical customer experiences.
Simplify the digital customer experience
It is no exaggeration to say that a shopping experience can make or break a customer relationship. This is even more true when it comes to the digital world, where customers can simply switch apps or brands in a matter of seconds.
According to PwC, 32% of customers would stop doing business with a brand they loved after even a single bad experience. After several bad experiences, that number jumps to 59%.
Creating an ideal customer experience is paramount and it directly affects everything from the brand’s reputation to customer retention to marketing budgets.
Unfortunately, there is no “magic ingredient” that can be used to create an excellent customer experience.
Instead, it is important to dedicate resources to designing, analyzing, and optimizing the digital customer journey.
One good place to start: take a structured, data-driven approach to customer digital adoption, customer onboarding, and customer care.
The digital era has completely changed the way we interact with customers, and many of those changes accelerated significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet there are more technology-driven innovations still to come which may lead us to experience economic uncertainty in the years ahead.
Customer behavior will both influence and be influenced by megatrends such as these, so any business that wants to stay competitive will need to adapt accordingly.