If there was ever a doubt that deep integration of digital technology was not a business imperative, the pandemic has squashed that notion. The nearly instantaneous conversion to contactless interactions with customers and employees has led to a paradigm shift in the way we work, live, travel, shop, and use healthcare services — a shift that will no doubt outlast the current crisis in both obvious and unforeseen ways.

The global consulting firm, McKinsey & Company, has termed the first days of the global lockdown in the spring of 2020 as the “quickening” in which e-commerce experienced 10 years of growth in just 90 days. In a Global Survey of nearly 900 C-level executives and senior managers, McKinsey found that globally the share of customer interactions that were digital jumped from 36% in December 2019 to nearly 60% by July 2020, and from 41% to 64% for North America.

Note: 58% increase in digital customer interactions globally from December 2019 to July 2020. Source: McKinsey & Company

When it comes to digital transformation (DT), a survey by Dell Technologies of 4,300 global business leaders in the summer of 2020 showed that 80% have fast-tracked at least some DT programs during the pandemic, including cyber security, work from home/remote capabilities, and reinventing the way they deliver digital experiences to customers and employees.

In fact, IDC reports that global spending on DT programs will hit about $1.3 trillion in 2020 and reach $6.8 trillion by 2023. According to the Enterprisers Project, “digital transformation is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers. It's also a cultural change that requires organizations to continually challenge the status quo, experiment, and get comfortable with failure.”

Despite the fact that DT is probably one of the most overused terms in use today, it does not make it less important for business survival. Organizations must move as quickly as possible to adapt and adopt existing and emerging technology, software, data, and services.

While many aspects of DT may represent future goals for many organizations — such as robotics, automation, virtual and augmented reality, edge and cloud computing, and internet of things (IoT) — the optimization and personalization of B2B, B2C, and D2C digital content must become a priority.

In the current contactless world, your organization’s digital presence is one of the primary pathways to success. The question then becomes how can you ensure that your investment in an upgraded content management platform will support your DT journey over time?

One way to ensure the long-term relevance of your DT efforts is to choose a hybrid headless CMS — like Sitecore Experience Platform™ (XP) — that offers the flexibility and extensibility to meet even the most demanding enterprise needs. Here are a few ways that a hybrid headless CMS can help future-proof your digital transformation investments:

Personalize everything

You’ll never outgrow the need for personalization. No matter where your DT efforts take you, customers crave the personal touch when it comes to digital interactions. From social media preferences to targeted likes and dislikes, customer loyalty and trust grows with familiarity.

According to Gladly’s 2020 Customer Expectations Report, a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults, 79% said personalized service is more important to them than personalized marketing. Respondents said the three most important things that a brand should know about them is who they are, what you talked about previously, and their purchasing history.

Not surprisingly, 84% of consumers surveyed indicated they are willing to spend more on brands that provide a superior experience. On the flip side, more than 50% surveyed said they would switch brands after one or two bad experiences. 

With Sitecore XP and the power of Sitecore Experience Database™ (xDB) within the platform, powerful personalization is enabled by tracking key information and delivering targeted, relevant content to your customers and contacts based on their characteristics, location, and behavior. With personalization, you can ensure that the right content reaches the right contacts, for example, by showing, hiding, or adjusting content.

Among other things, you can use personalization to:

  • Show different content to contacts based on their geographic location.
  • Hide a registration form from contacts who have previously filled out the form.
  • Change the text in a website banner based on a contact's referring site.

The Sitecore AI Auto Personalization option is now available to help Sitecore XP users deliver on the promise of personalization at scale by fast tracking time to value and significantly reducing manual efforts. Sitecore AI is a SaaS solution that does not need any software installed.

Sitecore AI analyzes behaviors to segment customers and determine where they are in their journey, then presents optimized content for unique digital experiences — all automatically. As behaviors and trends change, Sitecore AI refines its models.

Customers visiting your website expect to see relevant information. When they do, the reward is increased conversions. Research shows that organizations that personalize see an average uplift in conversions of 19%. The potential that a truly connected customer experience can generate is exciting.

UK-based Triumph Motorcycles is using an integrated suite of Sitecore solutions (including XP and xDB) to provide better customer connections and personalize content to make real the dream of owning and riding a motorcycle. The site transformation has made it easier and faster for customers to find the right bike based on their preferences and motivations. The upgrade has reduced web page response times by 91%, enabled better understanding of customers, eased the transition from physical to digital during the pandemic, and increased customer retention, upsell income, and repeat purchases.

Omnichannel by design

Omnichannel marketing refers to the use of both digital and traditional marketing channels to deliver a seamless message and consistent experience. Ideally, the experience should automatically adjust based on the customer’s journey and should be consistent regardless of the point of engagement.

Omnichannel communication is critically important to consumers. In the Gladly survey, 86% of respondents expect to be able to interact seamlessly with a brand no matter how many times they change channels or devices. The top channels were phone call, email, chat, text, help center, Facebook, native in-app chat, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Note: 86% of people expect to be able to interact seamlessly with a brand regardless of how many times they change channels and devices. Source: Gladly

Instead of just receiving an email, imagine customers browsing products on your mobile app later in the day and seeing content related to the content they engaged with in the earlier email. A few days later, they visit your website and see additional suggestions and promotions based on what they browsed in your app.

To increase the frequency and effectiveness of your customer engagement, your digital experience platform should, for example, allow customers to initiate a purchase from a social channel on their mobile in the morning and then complete the transaction from an app on their tablet later that day.

Sitecore XP enables you to deliver personalized experiences across whatever channels are most important to your customers, including social, web, and mobile to point-of-sale, kiosks, IoT, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality. Sitecore facilitates headless development and the tracking of engagements across headless applications.

The New York Road Runners, the world’s largest running organization, transformed its custom-built legacy e-commerce platform to a comprehensive Sitecore solution in order to centralize the customer experience, integrate third-party record sources, provide personalized digital experiences, and provide a flexibility in building products, bundling, and pricing. The organization can now tailor interactions based on different runner personas and create a continuous buyer experience across any channel or device.

Consolidate and collaborate

In a survey of more than 1,500 global senior and C-level executives of industrial companies conducted by Accenture in early 2020, 75% said different business functions (e.g., R&D, engineering, production, marketing, operations, and sales) are competing against each other instead of collaborating on digitization efforts.

The Accenture study notes that one key to achieving cross-functional collaboration is to “ensure that all your digital solutions and platforms are interoperable. Champions (top DT performers) know how to harmonize different tech platforms in the cloud, ensuring that they work together seamlessly toward mutual outcomes. Champions are more likely to have their digital platforms work and communicate well together.”

Sitecore XP enables collaboration from the ground up by providing the tools and integration needed to optimize the efforts of marketers and developers as they work toward common goals. Because Sitecore XP has been a decoupled system since the beginning, we understand that content is best managed by marketers with centralized control over brand standards, regional localization, and personalization.

And, the technical front end is best managed by the IT professionals responsible for your infrastructure, be it on-premises, cloud-based, or both. With the recently released Sitecore XP 10.0, your developers can now benefit from software containerization, which provides a more flexible approach to deploying and running software.

Renowned Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, is using Sitecore XP and xDB to achieve a content creation model that is more nimble and makes it easier for marketers and developers to work together to provide important COVID-19 related information. Since its transformation to Sitecore, the Johns Hopkins’ site has seen more than 38 million visits in seven months, 4x the expected traffic. The Johns Hopkins team uses taxonomy, state-of-art profiling, content scoring, and personalization structures to reinforce a patient-first approach.

A new beginning

Demand Gen Report’s 2020 Content Preferences Study found that 67% of respondents said they rely even more on content than they did a year ago to research and inform purchase decisions. The same report also notes that more than 70% of B2B buyers review an average of 3-5 pieces of different content while making their purchase decision. Clearly, personalized content delivered when and where the customer wants it is critical.

The pandemic has reinforced the need to move more of your business to online channels and deeper online connections with customers and to support effective remote work situations. A critical part of every DT effort is directed toward taking greater advantage of online opportunities. Organizations are seeking to develop a more agile and effective online presence that is flexible enough to take advantage of current and future devices and channels.

To learn more about the benefits of a headless CMS, explore the hub.

Jill Grozalsky is a Product Marketing Director at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter.