Once difficult to explain, digital transformation has been clearly defined by the pandemic. Buying behavior after COVID-19 will still rely heavily on e-commerce, and retailers need to be ready for that.
Having been associated with our customer success organization lately, I decided to jot down some of the thoughts that are on the weighing heavily upon CTOs, CIOs, & IT business leaders as we navigate these extraordinary times.
No matter which policymaker you believe is correct when it comes to market recovery (V or U or L shaped), one truth is clear: Business leaders are banking on technology partners to accelerate delivery, foster co-innovation, and fuel development with increased agility to understand the shift of consumers buying and consumption patterns.
During slump periods, protecting reserves and decimated budgets is understandable. Meanwhile, customer experience is a cost that’s difficult to put a price tag on – and compromising your CX could negatively impact your long-term brand value immensely.
John F. Kennedy famously said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters; one represents danger and other represents opportunity.” Business leaders making short-sited decisions could very well be leading their organizations into the danger zone rather than out of it.
COVID-19 exposed large faults in fractured enterprises
Leaders have been swift in carrying out whitespace analysis around digitizing uncovered processes across their entire digital landscapes. But talking about what needs to happen isn’t enough – COVID-19 revealed the organizations who were set to thrive no matter what, as well as those who weren’t ready at all.
While strong commerce storefronts and digital strategies are the backbone of entire systems, many organizations still have loosely connected front and back-office functions – making a seamless customer experience unattainable.
Although some of these processes were purposely non-digitized/parked for the future, the bottom line is that many leaders had never envisaged the potential impact of lockdown scenarios. As businesses ground to a standstill due to lack of connectivity, the need for a truly connected enterprise became more significant.
Vulnerable or vivid: What’s the state of your digital customer journey?
Rewinding the clock to April of 2020, we saw upward spiral of online orders, engagement, and bookings, but many operations were blacking out.
Grocery shopping began resembling the Hunger Games, with online retailers showing no windows for delivery, leaving consumers in fear and uncertainty. Grocery chains who were able to provide consistent and reliable CX – from order to delivery – were rewarded with new loyal customers.
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Retailers with true agility were able to quickly address the issue with notification options that alerted subscribers to upcoming available slots. Commerce Cloud customers were able to scale rapidly – in a matter of days – thanks to a commerce platform that was built to support such growth.
When homes became offices, ordering centers, and schools, the need to understand your customer became even more important
Once lockdowns hit, businesses were blind-sided and anxious to get closer to their customers. As people were spending much of their time at home, soon the family became a pivotal point of contact. Leaders of tomorrow realized this, and began curating experiences to be enjoyed within residences. Idea was to take the brand home, from the kitchen to the living room.
Successful campaigns by Perfetti–Alpenliebe are a good example. Families bonded while curating innovative recipes using Alpenliebe Jelly as an ingredient. Posting their dishes on social medial and tagging their friends created phenomenal interest among consumers. Along the same lines, Hershey India launched the #HappyAtHome campaign to promote family bonding via cooking or baking.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) channels for customer service has been critical to e-commerce growth, but during the crisis, some companies with a mature bot and email-exclusive channel found themselves adding more call center staffing to best assist customers who couldn’t return items or ask questions in person.
Mobile customer service is about helping the 48% of US consumers that browse the web from mobile devices at any given moment. It’s about text message SMS, Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, chatbots and more.
Using a powerful mix of person-to-person communication, AI engines provided consumers reassurance about their concerns, and could direct them to an agent if they weren’t comfortable using a bot.
The strategies business leaders used to quickly transform organizations
Some common strategies being practiced today are:
- Re-aligning go-to-market strategy: Define where to target or reposition your efforts. Shift away from lagging segments and stay strong in stable markets.
- Holding high-value customers close: Run personalized loyalty campaigns offering enhanced service. But first it’s essential to reorganize and score consumers in related segments, based on attributes like highest value, geography, risk profile.
- Performing bottom-up planning at product and territory/zonal level: Focus more on quality than quantity, and move away from unqualified opportunities, thereby narrowing the sales funnel.
- Communication clean-ups: Meaning is conveyed not only by what you say, but also by the way you say it. Though phrases like “unprecedented”, “isolation” and “washing your hands” were well received at the beginning of the pandemic, they aren’t anymore. Picking words to express intent and support is crucial. language at these times is crucial.
A popular picture I came across asked, “Who led your digital transformation?” There were four options:
Not surprisingly, C was the most popular response.
While customer experience trends and solutions have been popular for some time, what’s surprising is the pace at which so much change occurred last year. It’s as though we hopped years forward in digital adoption in a matter of a few weeks.
Disruptions like second waves or variants of the virus are coming faster than ever and when it they hit, it has a deepening effect. This crisis has brought vast scale changes in consumer behavior, and has given companies a chance to reflect on what truly matters and evolve like never before.
It’s vital to keep this momentum of listening, adapting, and agility to build resilient organizations that can withstand any future disruption.