Many of the changes that took place during the pandemic are here to stay, from working patterns to buying habits. Use of technology to solve practical problems has increased, raising expectations for speed, efficiency and convenience across all consumer and business to business (B2B) sectors.
If your organization took its first steps towards digital transformation in 2020 and 2021, the next challenge is to consolidate your successes and prepare for a future where customer relationships will be at the core of your decision making. However, the pace of change is fast, so you will need to be ready to innovate, experiment and deliver personalization at scale.
The ability to use agile methodologies as part of everyday business practice will depend on reliable data that can be accessed quickly and safely alongside improved training and workflow management. Organizational culture will need to change to align strategies and innovation with customer needs. In the future you will need to give your teams the tools and skills they need to carry forward your vision based on data-driven decision making and experimentation.
Keeping pace with change
During the pandemic rapid adoption of digital solutions drove several years’ progress in a few months. This legacy has dramatically heightened expectations for responsiveness and fulfillment, underpinned by customer data technology and experience management tools.
Customers are now more engaged with digital channels to buy what the need, to work in new ways and in new locations, to keep in touch with friends and family, and for entertainment. While some pre-pandemic activities like in-store shopping are returning they now have a different context. For example, in the latest Global Consumer Insights Survey, four out of 10 people said they were shopping daily or weekly via smartphone compared with around one in 10 five years ago.
This change will also affect B2B buying, increasing demand for easy self-service options, even as customers return to offline channels.
Customers now expect to move seamlessly between online and offline channels with excellent experiences at every step of their journey. Businesses face the challenge of delivering more nuanced, high quality tailored experiences without invading their customers’ privacy or overwhelming them with unwanted content.
Driven by data
To deliver personalized, valuable, and distinctive experiences organizations need effective predictive tools. Businesses that have fully refocussed operations, delivery models, and technology investment to meet new experience demands are likely to grow their profitability faster year on year than their competitors.
With clearer customer insights and an improved organizational structure for fast data-driven decision making, companies are better placed to achieve customer-centric experiences, innovation and improved customer acquisition.
Customer acquisition and retention
As third-party cookies are phased out the audience insights they provided to support customer acquisition must be replaced, adding to costs and complexity and making customer retention a top priority. Maximizing the use of first-party data to build customer loyalty and increase lifetime value will require new skills and insights.
One important lesson learnt during the pandemic was the need to reduce bureaucracy and make quick decisions.
However, embedding the experience gained from responding to a crisis into day-to-day practices is a challenge that many organizations now face. Agile ways of working will be essential to keep pace with customer expectations, to deliver better experiences, and to respond to uncertainty.
Training and development
Cross-functional teams with varied skills will be the cornerstone of agile operations, including digital marketing and customer experience management. Many companies are now looking to build their in-house expertise alongside the automation capabilities already available in their existing business systems. As competition to recruit qualified and experienced professionals increases, upskilling existing teams and automating routine tasks and operations to free time for higher value work will be important steps.
Continuous talent development and training for general and role-specific tasks will be needed. However, seven out of 10 senior executives are concerned that their employees don’t currently have the key skills to deliver effective digital experiences.
Creativity and innovation
In an uncertain and rapidly evolving environment, agile organizations can take advantage of combined skills alongside the strengths of different personalities and varied experiences and backgrounds. To find new solutions to problems, businesses need creativity and different perspectives.
However, most organizations recognize they are not yet fully diverse and inclusive although over half say they are actively pursuing this goal.
Connecting delivery and strategy
Modern working practices mean that agility is also about time and place as hybrid working becomes more widespread. Remote, flexible working is no longer a digital alternative to in-office working, as teams are permanently redistributed and time-shifted for remote-first working.
Workflow issues are amongst the most significant barriers to delivering exceptional customer experiences. Agile businesses need effective workflow management to help distributed teams connect service delivery to organizational strategy, goals, and measurements.
Accessing and using data
Agile organisations must support their decentralized teams to experiment within strategic initiatives using data based on a single source of truth (SSoT). This is an area for development in most businesses. Only around one third of practitioners believe their access to data is strong or very strong.
Delivering excellent experiences relies on a good understanding of customer behavior, motivation, preferences, and needs. This requires the translation of customer data into meaningful insights that can highlight possible opportunities to add value throughout the purchasing journey. It’s an area where leading organizations are gaining a significant advantage. They are integrating systems and using their data to understand their customers’ experiences, points of friction, and the things that drive loyalty and retention.
Action based on insights
Keeping pace with rapidly shifting customer preferences and demands requires fast and reliable conversion of data into insights that can inform effective action plans. Even those organizations that believe they are already accessing and analyzing data effectively, acknowledge that this is not yet translating it into meaningful actions. Few are taking advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver valuable customer experiences. However, AI-driven insights can provide sales forecasting and audience micro-targeting out of the box for non-technical users, helping teams to fill skills gaps.
Agile organizations learn through iteration, supported by a rapid testing. Failure is part of the process and this needs to be acknowledged to overcome barriers. Evidence is needed to assess successes or failures so reliable test and learn practices are needed. Businesses that aren’t equipped to experiment, explore and innovate are less prepared to manage the disruption, uncertainty and change that is prevalent in our new reality.
The experienced project managers at Williams Commerce can help you embed an agile methodology in your business as part of your digital transformation.
Talk to one of our experts today.