Since the pandemic erupted, we’ve witnessed a digital revolution, with a shift to remote work and more digital access to services than ever before – a trend likely to continue post-pandemic. According to McKinsey & Company, we leaped five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of just a few weeks. More than 90 percent of executives expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the coming five years, with almost as many highlighting the pandemic will have a lasting impact on customers’ behavior and needs. Indeed, 75 percent of consumers who adopted digital for the first time since the pandemic plan to continue post-COVID-19. They join a growing army of Connected Customers, who solely interact with brands through digital channels such as websites and apps.
Connected Customers, spanning every generation, are hyperaware of the overall brand experience and have grown accustomed to superior online services. These customers compare good and bad experiences, not directly competing products and services. They will judge the experience of Uber with that of Amazon, and the most delightful experience will become their minimum expectation for the next. Pressure is continues to mount for companies to pay close attention to brands outside of their space and keep pace with the latest innovations. An HBR report cites the number one reason more than half (52 percent) of the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000 is their failure to achieve digital change. Ensuring digital channels are on par with, or better than, direct and indirect competitors will be key to sustainable growth.
Enhancing the Customer Journey
Today’s hyper-connected environment, coupled with the impact of the pandemic, has accelerated consumers’ expectations for the role digital plays in the physical brand experience. For many companies, the online customer journey is often broken and outdated, as it has become particularly challenging for consumers to have a positive experience when engaging with a brand digitally.
COVID-19 has also surfaced some uncharted customer pain points that digital can help solve. Elements of the customer journey that caused frustration pre-pandemic, such as waiting in line and payments, must now be made as contactless and safe as possible, calling for a digital intervention. The bar for excellence has now risen exponentially; long-term shifts in consumer expectations for limited staff interaction will persist.
For an organization to embark on change for their digital future, it’s imperative to move with speed and purpose, and remove silos. Brand marketing, customer experience, loyalty and operations must all integrate in support of common goals. To fix a broken customer journey and achieve growth objectives, everyone in the organization must unite around a common digital vision. This vision must then be translated into action by developing digital programs – rather than digital projects – with a relentless focus on the customer. Organizations burdened with short-term project mindsets and siloed teams will typically create uninspiring customer experiences and leave significant growth opportunities on the table. On the other hand, action on the common vision for digital excellence will yield promising returns. It will be those companies with integrated teams – using, learning from, and actioning on data insights – that will be able to move quickly and future-proof.
How can an organization realize its digital vision?
With a long-term vision in mind, defining strategic, measurable company-wide growth imperatives is pivotal. These imperatives may relate to differentiation, value, quality, or leveling the competitive playing field, and should tie to the company’s overall digital vision.
While specific to each company’s journey and current level of digital maturity, here are some key principles every business should be considering to be digitally ready for the new normal:
- Simple, memorable, streamlined experiences – allow customers to quickly and easily do what they want to do
- Leverage personalization whenever possible – use technology to best serve consumers’ individual needs
- Encourage frequency and drive loyalty – leverage the power of data to understand behavior and incentivize actions
- Integrate existing technologies and harness their collective power – the only way growth will scale is through a well-orchestrated and powerful tech stack
- Break down the silos – find ways to intentionally collaborate for the greater good
The overarching piece of advice any business can take on board in this current climate is to plan for tomorrow, not today. Every brand should be striving for and maintaining a holistic digital roadmap to drive sustainability and revenue growth. If the crisis has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no better time to plan and innovate for an increasingly digitalized world.