When it comes to digital transformation, each organization faces unique challenges. But some of the biggest roadblocks are common across the board – from siloed and misaligned departments to personalization paralysis to the content crisis. Fortunately, we’re learning ways that marketers, in particular, and organizations, in general, can push through them.

In the last 10 years alone, great customer experiences have gone from a nice-to-have, to mission critical.

During my keynote at our first ever Sitecore Experience in London earlier in April, I was happy to be joined by digital transformation leaders from Volvo Cars, Carter Jonas, and British Red Cross. Each leader offered unique examples of how they dealt with these obstacles during their successful digital marketing transformations.

But before I dig into the wisdom they shared, I want to highlight a couple of things that our research has revealed about the current state of the market and the affect this has on modern marketers.

The modern marketer’s struggle, by the numbers

The way customers buy goods and services, and the way companies interact with them has fundamentally shifted in a remarkably short timeframe. In the last 10 years alone, great customer experiences have gone from a nice-to-have, to mission critical.

According to research carried out by Sitecore and our partners, 9 out of 10 companies see customer experience (CX) as a competitive differentiator, and 89% linked it directly to commercial success. However, 95% say their customer experience is in critical need of improvement, and only 11% of businesses have achieved a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of “Promoter” – the highest level. And this has a direct impact on revenue: 61% of businesses say they're losing revenue because they have a disconnected customer experience.

In the UK alone, this lost revenue equates to roughly $48.4 billion (USD) each year. Worldwide, the figure is around $131 billion (USD) each year.

One key issue is that brands struggle to leverage the data they have and are therefore unable to apply personalization adequately. This problem is compounded when you consider that around two-thirds of businesses say they don't feel “very mature” when it comes to understanding what their customer base actually wants. And this picture gets worse when you consider the split between marketing and IT – 73% of company executives say there’s a lack of collaboration between the two groups.

The last point to note here is that the role played by the CMO has gone through a major shift. The CMO always had a stake in the customer experience, but that stake seems to be growing. In fact, 40% of company executives say the CMO is now directly responsible for driving CX, and a further 66% agree that the CMO is heavily involved.

40% of company executives say the CMO is now directly responsible for driving CX.

For me, these stats lead to an obvious question: what do we as marketers need to know to lead the CX charge? I hoped to get answers to this question during my on-stage discussions with three digital transformation leaders at Sitecore Experience. I wasn’t disappointed.

Volvo: Driving digital cohesion with team work

Rowan Holloway, Senior Product Manager at Volvo Cars, has been able to achieve impressive results in his role at Volvo Cars. Reflecting back on our conversation, Rowan’s story is a great example of how focusing on the customer is a powerful way to overcome common barriers and silos.

“[Our teams] focus on each stage of the buyer's journey and work together in a cohesive way.” Rowan Holloway, Volvo Cars

“[The changes were led by] our CEO,” Holloway said, “who played the role of a Chief Digital Officer, with the CIO and CMO reporting to that structure. That really brought the alignment between marketing and IT.”

Another way Volvo addressed the split between marketing and IT is by considering the entire customer journey and “getting teams to focus on certain sections.”

“We've set up our teams to focus on each different stage of the buyer's journey,” Holloway said, “and work together in a cohesive way. That was a big change from the traditional waterfall [methodology], where things get passed over the fence and one team says, ‘That’s not my problem anymore.’ Instead, you’re focusing on just working together to improve the customer experience.”

The results? In 2018, Volvo Cars experienced a “massive increase” in online sessions, up 58%, bringing them to around 30 million web visitors globally. They also saw a 13% growth in sales, an impressive feat in the automotive sector.

Carter Jonas: AI-infused personalization at scale

While we’re all (rightfully) excited about the potential of AI, many marketers see AI in an unrealistic light. AI is often talked about as a silver bullet, with the assumption it will automate all the processes we do manually today. But it’s not that simple. Before marketers can use AI, the right foundations must be put into place.

Brands need the right data, and the right data structure, to be able to feed AI technologies, which is a huge lift. Forty percent of brands, for example, don't trust the data they have. And 67% say they're not capturing the right data or don't have access to the data they need to drive personalization. In other words, most brands are nowhere near ready to take advantage of the benefits AI can provide.

But for the brands who have done the groundwork, AI is already providing impressive results.

Take Carter Jonas. When it comes to implementing AI for personalization, Daniel Fulbrook, Head of Digital Marketing at Carter Jonas, has the right approach – customer centric, performance driven, and focused on the right moments of the journey.

At Sitecore Experience, Fulbrook began by explaining that Carter Jonas has “over 100 and extended services for both B2B and B2C clients, which would make a traditional website incredibly cumbersome in terms of the user journey and the user experience.”

“We avoid personalizing based on just one interaction.” Daniel Fulbrook

To bypass the complexity of their services and target audience – which ranges from first-time residential property bidders to industrial real estate moguls – Carter Jonas “placed the customer at the center of the [strategy], and focused on what the objectives of the customer were, like buying a property, for example, regardless if they wanted residential or commercial.”

“We avoid personalizing based on just one interaction,” Fulbrook explained. “Instead, customers are assigned points as they move through the website and visit different pages. And when you reach a certain [point] threshold, the website begins to personalize content pieces and case studies.”

Fulbrook’s team uses AI to do the heavy lifting: “For instance, following the launch of our new website, we’re seeing tremendous amounts of data coming in, and we’re using AI to help us collect that data from various sources, and analyze it through reports and graphs.”

Similar to Volvo, Carter Jonas’ proof is in the digital pudding: tripled conversion rates, doubled qualified telephone calls coming in from the website, and a 15% increase in their Net Promoter Score.

The British Red Cross: Data trust and privacy by design

Data makes adopting AI possible, but it’s essential for so much more. In fact, data is the centerpiece of any properly executed digital strategy. It’s the key to understanding your customers, what content needs to be created, how content is performing, and more.

“Data is a powerful way for us to understand what it is that our supporters expect from us.” Rosie Slater-Carr

While gathering, aggregating, and understanding customer data is increasingly essential for success in all industries, these are not the only challenges, let alone the biggest. The biggest one is ensuring you keep your customer data safe and secure. Nothing is more important than customer trust today, and nothing will lose trust quicker than losing your customers’ data.

And this is part of why I enjoyed speaking with Rosie Slater-Carr, CIO of British Red Cross, on stage at Experience so much. Our discussion focused on the charity’s approach to sensitive data and information management.

“We take data very seriously,” Slater-Carr said, “and our data strategy is very important to us. Data is a powerful way for us to understand what it is that our supporters expect from us, and what motivates our supporters.”

“We hold very personal – sometimes medical – data,” she continued. “People are trusting us. We have information about them that could be very powerful in the wrong hands.”

Which is why British Red Cross puts “data privacy and privacy by design at the heart [of our digital strategy]. It always has to be the first thing we think about.”

It’s high time CX became a company-wide priority

If there’s one thread that ran through all of these digital leaders’ experiences, it’s this: a commitment to their customer. It’s a simple shift of focus, but it can require changing organizational structures, workflows, and even teams.

As marketers, we have a tough but manageable road ahead. We know the path we need to be on – running toward personalized customer experiences. And we know the focus that will help us drive our organizations there – customer focus that borders on obsession. But the delta between the brands that thrive versus those that struggle to survive in 2019 and beyond isn’t knowledge alone; it’s knowledge coupled with action.

Ready to move forward on your path to personalization? Get our ebook, “The path to personalization: The 9 keys driving stronger relationships – one customer at a time,” and discover where you’re at and how to get moving forward.  

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