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Almost half (45%) of businesses rank content and customer experience management as a top priority for 2018, according to a new survey from Adobe.
The Digital Trends 2018 report, based on a survey of 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals across the globe, revealed that businesses that prioritise customer experience are more likely to outpace their competitors.
The report, published in association with Econsultancy, found that one-fifth (20%) of respondents considered customer experience their primary focus.
Just under two-thirds (62%) of companies agreed that they now have “a cohesive plan, long-term view and executive support for the future of [their] customers”.
John Watton, senior marketing director at Adobe, said: “Digital means customers now have more power to engage with brands on their own terms. This has changed the way companies interact with their customers, who expect great experiences as standard.”
The report found that top-performing companies are almost four times as likely as their mainstream peers to have invested in a highly integrated, cloud-based technology stack that enables them to have a more comprehensive view of the full customer lifecycle, from acquisition through to retention.
A much greater proportion of respondents – 43% – admitted that their technology set-up is fragmented, with inconsistent integration between technologies.
The survey reported that those organisations using tools to streamline workflows between different functions are 62% more likely to demonstrate better business performance.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents to the survey said their companies are investing in design capabilities to differentiate their brands and supplement investment in data-driven skills and technologies. The study also found that organisations describing themselves as “design driven” are 69% more likely than their peers to have exceeded their 2017 business goals by a significant margin (22% compared with 13%).
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming an important driver of customer experience execution, according to the survey. This is particularly true in larger enterprises, where 24% of respondents said they are already pushing forward with AI investments.
The research from Adobe and Econsultancy showed that AI adoption is increasingly being driven from the top – 57% of c-suite respondents said their companies are already using, or are planning to use, the technology. Meanwhile, organisations using AI tools to create real-time personalised experiences for their customers are 50% more likely to significantly exceed their business goals, the study found.
Discussing the findings of the study at a recent Adobe event in London, Sean Donnelly, senior analyst at Econsultancy, described how certain technologies are merely fads while others have longevity, and so need to be part of a digital customer experience strategy. As an example, he pointed to voice and bots that understand natural language queries: “In the last year, we have seen the growth of bots and voice, and they are going to be around for a long time. Similarly, blockchain isn’t going away.”
These present new interfaces, said Donnelly. “We went from designing for desktop, then a decade of designing for mobile, now we have to design bot interfaces and voice. We need to think about how to design content for a conversation interface.”
Although collecting data is very important for customer experience, said Donnelly, “we need to understand that people don’t buy things from us because of analytics”.
People do so because of an emotional response, he said. This leads to a shift from traditional brand advertising to content and human-centric marketing, which can interact with people at a much more granular level.
Spotify, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Google, Zipcar and Monzo are example of businesses that not only understand customer experience, but strive to offer a seamless experience that gets better over time, he said.
Make better use of data
Although digital has caused a big change in business, it has not had an impact on data, said James Birchall, manager, digital analytics at Santander, who also presented at the Adobe event. “We need to empower the business to make better use of data,” he added.
Santander has a strategy to deliver operational excellence and invested in Adobe Analytics three years ago in a bid to influence the business. “We should be enabling teams to be more autonomous in how they use data,” said Birchall. This not only required choosing the right analytics tools, but also upskilling teams to enable them to find new opportunities through data analytics, he said.
Digital is not standing still, said Birchall – there is always a new service, such as biometrics or mobile payment. “We needed to invest in tech and people,” he said. “The business needs to make decisions based on facts rather than opinion. Teams have a large shopping list of things they want to do, so data helps to choose which business case to develop.”
Teams should not spend a lot of time tweaking reports, said Birchall. “You need to enable staff to self-serve by helping the business to use the Adobe services.”
To achieve this, Santander created five pillars in its digital analytics team – implementation, reporting, insights, training and consultancy.
The bank now has more than 100 users of Adobe Analytics per month and 300 people have been trained on the toolset.
Culture of analytics
To drive a culture of analytics, Santander’s digital analytics team is tasked with sharing one piece of insight every week, said Birchall. “We find opportunities that we weren’t already looking for.”
At Santander, pushing the team to develop new uses from data analytics drives a culture change, which needs to be pervasive and organisation-wide. Hazel Nash, director of business applications at Microsoft, said: “Without cultural change, digital transformation cannot be realised. Business leaders believe digital transformation will impact organisations and more than half say their industries will face digital disruption.”
But according to a study commissioned by Microsoft, 61% of business leaders say introducing digital initiatives leads to anxiety. In fact, 59% feel their jobs are at risk when tasks are automated, according to Microsoft’s research.
Nash said this anxiety can escalate because of the day-to-day task of running corporate IT, which can become a bottleneck in digital initiatives.
Speaking about the issues IT teams face when embarking on digital initiatives, Nash said: “Lack of IT and operational agility or legacy IT creates a lot of anxiety around integration and challenges how to move forward in digital transformation.”