For brands, 2020 was all about survival of the fastest.

Being quick and flexible was necessary when dealing with wholesale changes in the way we all live, work, and shop. Employees began working from home, for one, which meant that new systems and swift integrations became top priority.

A recent KPMG report highlighted that, perhaps unsurprisingly, “companies that were agile, responsive and digitally enabled were able to better navigate the effects of COVID-19 and lockdown.” What is more interesting is the fact that the same report shows a 3% uplift in the perceived quality of customer experience (CX) across the world – despite the pandemic and the shift to digital.

Competition is really heating up. But, as always, it will be those with the CX edge that come out on top.

Now, it’s time to start focusing on the future. If brands are to succeed, they’ll have to embrace change and use the momentum they built up over 2020 to continue transforming at pace.

 

Customers expect businesses to keep up with their desires and needs – and even predict them. Demand is rising, and organizations are feeling the pressure to capitalize on current conditions and increase speed to market.
Todd K. Harris Senior Vice President, Strategic Alliances, Valtech – USA

Discover the change

To plan for the future of customer experience, you must understand how your customers have changed. What you find may surprise you.

While it has always been important to listen to your customers, it is even more so now that dynamics and expectations have evolved. Of course, you could ask customers to complete surveys or provide feedback in the form of reviews, but these don’t always give you the best picture. A response rate of 5%-30% is typical for surveys, and many of these are likely to be from loyal or especially frustrated customers. Hardly a representative sample.

A much better way is using analytics to paint a data-driven picture of your customers – where they click, how long they focus, and so on - which can give you a real understanding of their behaviors and expectations. Truly successful brands have known this for some time now.

But simply collecting data won’t take you far enough, fast enough. Today, businesses should take advantage of the new breed of customer data platforms (CDP) with built-in data decisioning. Such platforms account for the fact that customers don’t always go through a journey as we might expect them to. They will probably stop, go back, or jump to a different channel at various points on their path to purchase.

Modern CDPs give marketers automation with real flexibility, ultimately providing customers with an experience that adapts to them as they search, pivot, query, and buy. This technology can, by analyzing patterns in their online behavior, guide them to the next, best experience automatically.

Enterprises across many industries have accelerated the pace of transformation to make the most of increased customer presence in digital channels due to COVID-19. For example, at least one utility company we know of is shedding its conventional fossil fuel business and assets to become a “consumer solutions company” providing end-to-end energy needs for customers. 
Kunal Purohit Senior Vice President and Head – Digital and Analytics, HCL – UK

IT and Marketing – the customer experience dream team

One of the long-standing obstacles to CX success is the separation of IT and Marketing. Each team has its own view of what makes a good experience, and each team will have different ways to deliver them. And yet, both are ultimately working towards the same goals for their business.

Aligning just makes sense. Working in silos makes it much harder to establish the processes and techniques that are working (or holding you back), while collaborating suddenly brings CX goals into view.

Aligning teams takes more than just redrawing the organizational chart. Of course, both teams should have shared goals and incentives for delivering good customer experiences, but that’s only the beginning – what is called for is a real cultural realignment.

Encourage teams to have regular “stand-up” meetings, maybe once a week or even daily, where members can catch up, share their successes and struggles, and work on a plan of action. These teams should also get used to presenting to the Board together, perhaps under the organization of a cross-functional program steering committee.

We’ve said it before: Marketing and IT are your CX dream team. Take full advantage of them.

 

IT and Marketing can no longer operate on two different planets.  Establishing a common purpose works wonders and should come before all operational efforts. We all need a curious and open mindset to leap existing gaps and build a phenomenal digital experience - together.
Jasmin Guthmann Global Partner Marketing Director, Valtech

Embrace change and adapt

As the saying goes, “the only constant in life is change”. Businesses need to take this to heart.

Fostering an agile culture – both in the sense of acting fast and following an Agile framework – will be crucial for the future. That means iterating quickly, learning from customers and colleagues, not being afraid to fail, and working together to overcome roadblocks. In general, businesses need to build more "elasticity" into their plans.

Cultural change is usually the hardest to bring about, but the one that ends up bringing the most long-term benefits. Aligning teams and making sure they’re working closely towards the same goals is obviously a great start, but there’s more to be done. One of the main barriers to transformation is entrenched viewpoints and resistance to change: 26% of organizations cite this as a challenge.

 

The pandemic has shown us how fast and unexpectedly disruptions can hit the economy. As the saying goes: ‘innovate or die!’. It’s clear we are in great need of talent, skills, and a corporate culture that increases the speed of innovation.
Markus Dietrich Managing Director, ecx.io (IBM iX) – Germany

Facing the future

While digital transformation is nothing new, the pandemic really changed how businesses go through their journey. And now, as we look towards a post-pandemic future, it will be those businesses that embrace the lessons learned that will lead the market.

Your customers are changing. The market has changed. And so has your business.

Your success will depend on how well you keep up the momentum.

If you’re looking to accelerate, or kick-start, your digital transformation in 2021, be sure to download our guide, featuring more insight, trends, and recommendations from our partners.

You can also get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you create a stand-out digital customer experience.

Jill Grozalsky, Product Marketing Director for Experience Platform at Sitecore, is part of a Sitecore Symposium session selection committee. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.