For brands and marketers, 2021 will be a year of recovery, a year of making decisions and turning the lessons of 2020 into growth plans. The more than 13,000 participants in the 2021 Digital Trends Survey view their business as a customer focus, their employees as integral assets, and the customer’s digital experience as the engine of growth and strategy.
- Digital, unpredictable, and easy to lose
For brands in all sectors, 2020 brought a loss of predictability. Customers of all types are turning to the Internet at a rate five to ten years faster than expected. This change is an opportunity for new (often digital) customers. Almost half of the consumer-oriented companies report an explosion of unknown customers, and almost two-thirds of these companies report unusual growth in digital/mobile traffic. At the same time, the shift from previously offline buyers to websites and apps reinforces the lesson that the customer has more power in a digital relationship. More than a third of respondents said that customers are less loyal to products or brands, and half said that existing customers are exhibiting new buying habits, with changes in the average size of the shopping basket and new interest in the products. At the same time, it is the existing costs
- 2020 provided proof of the customer experience proposal (CX).
Previous editions of the Digital Trends series showed an increasing difference between companies based on a focus on customer experience. In 2020, this distinction will be emphasized, demonstrating that companies with strong CX are not more likely to generate long-term growth than their competitors, but are also more adaptable to changes in customer behavior, markets, and external conditions. The changes vary considerably by sector and strongly by brand. While change is seen as an opportunity by most companies, it leaves some behind.
- Reaching the customer
The turmoil of 2020 taught companies to understand and respond to data more quickly. A quick understanding was essential to reduce losses and promote growth. Looking to the future, senior executives at the Mainstream Group (VP +) consider the ability to “act quickly and agile” as the second most important quality of the business they wish to build in the coming years. Of course, it only makes sense if you are informed. Most companies today are rich in data volumes, but only 23% of executives consider their organization “very strong” in the speed with which accurate information is obtained.
- The Client Brought Marketing to the Board
While marketing responsibilities have steadily increased over the past three decades, since the start of the digital revolution, the trend has not always resulted in a seat at the leaders’ table. But last year was a turning point: three-quarters of senior executives (VPs and above) said that the role of marketing in determining strategy had expanded by 2020. Analysis of several hundred responses to the text on why this expansion occurred identifies the reasons but also suggests that it may not be expensive for some. In most cases, the question is whether the marketer checks the data to understand the first digital customer.
- Bring your office
Probably working remotely is probably the most profound and lasting effect of the pandemic. In March 2020, 28% of marketers said they work remotely for at least a day or two a week. When asked to project their post-pandemic situation in September, the number rose to more than 80%, with 46% planning to work remotely three or more days a week. At the same time, one in three marketers said, “I can’t wait to get back to the office.” 2 These conflicting forces will determine the progress of the work and allow companies to gain a competitive advantage. Managers’ opinions have already changed dramatically, driven by surprisingly positive results from night shifts to remote work.
- Telecommuting, culture, and competition for digital talent
About two-thirds of respondents believe that their organization is increasingly offering a hybrid approach to work, both at home and in the office. These broader preferences are generally limited by the organizational culture. Traditionalists with hierarchical structures and market-oriented cultures are the ones who want more employees in the office. Flexible companies that prioritize individual responsibility and those with a collaborative culture that values the individual are more open to employees’ remote work.
- Skip two of the first three obstacles for an incredible digital experience.
Speed of observation and action is the key to success in an ever-changing business environment. On the other hand, the top three obstacles to a great digital experience are workflow problems, outdated technology, and a lack of digital skills. The workflow is often confused with the processes themselves and is a collection of methods for making processes more efficient. The move to remote work has forced organizations to focus on productivity in the context of distributed teams, providing the opportunity to assess all major workflow improvement processes, with an emphasis on bottlenecks, repeatable tasks, and dependencies.
- Changing times call for flexible technologies
In all businesses except CX leaders, traditional technology is the most common obstacle to effective CX and CX marketing. For some companies, the solution is to reboot (or restart) a new platform, but for most companies, the obvious way to improve is to combine existing technology with a cloud-based data management layer.
Ultimately, progressive companies see privacy as more than an obligation; half of CX leaders and a third of conventional business leaders agree that transparency in the use of customer data can differentiate their brands.