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Survey reveals post-COVID economic health dependent on delivering better customer experiences

Survey reveals post-COVID economic health dependent on delivering better customer experiences

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Australian companies need to urgently improve the digital experiences they offer to customers if they’re to succeed in a post COVID-19 world, according to a new report from Sitecore entitled The Digital Mindset of Business Leaders in Asia Pacific.

Based on a survey of 600 organizations across the Asia-Pacific region conducted by research company, Ecosystm, and commissioned on behalf of digital experience management software company, Sitecore, and partner AKQA, the report shows there has been a significant shift from in-person to digital customer interactions since the virus appeared.

Just 30% of those surveyed reported having in-person interactions with customers while 85% now rely on their website, 63% on EDM campaigns and 59% on social media channels.

The survey also found COVID-related pressures have resulted in a massive 98% of organizations changing their digital strategy this year. Of those interviewed, 25% said they are accelerating their Digital Transformation strategies while 38% are refocusing their strategy in light of changing customer requirements.

“Suddenly, senior managers and boards of directors are turning their businesses towards digital channels and touch points,” said Tim Sheedy, Ecosystm Principal Advisor and report author.

“To achieve this, businesses need the capability to continually improve current digital experiences and create new ones where they don’t exist. In 2021, the difference between surviving and thriving will be delivering great and memorable digital experiences.”

Of the Australian companies interviewed for the report, 20% said they would put the most emphasis on SMS and email (EDM) customer communications during the coming 12 months. This compares with 15% of all survey respondents across the countries surveyed, including Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Thailand.

This was followed by call centers (15% in Australia, 8% overall) and websites (13% in Australia, 17% overall). Just 14% said they would be emphasizing in-person communication with customers in an office, retail outlet or service center compared with 8% overall.

The report advises that companies looking to improve the maturity of the overall digital experience being offered to customers should focus on five key capabilities. These are:

  1. Executive leadership: Senior managers need to be behind a Digital Transformation strategy and the experiences to be offered. They should build a business capable of designing, creating and improving these experiences.
  2. Motivation: While digital experiences take humans out of processes, humans still design, build and manage them. An organization needs to create processes and teams to support the continuous improvement of digital experiences.
  3. Deploy a marketing technology stack: Begin with a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) and then integrate that platform and data across all marketing and customer experience systems and platforms. The automation and personalization of all customer interactions should be the end goal.
  4. Make data-driven decisions: Start by analyzing the data that is readily accessible in your DXP. Then move on to unifying data across all touchpoints in both the digital and physical worlds.
  5. Make experiences personal: Optimized experiences are efficient, but personal experiences are ones that drive loyalty and trust. Build an ability to personalise experiences for customers based on their needs and desires.

“Organizations that succeed in mastering these capabilities will be best positioned to deliver the most mature digital experiences for all their customers,” said Sheedy. “They will be able to personalise every interaction and achieve consistent omni-channel experiences.”

The DX Maturity Model
To allow comparison of the progress made by each of the organizations interviewed for the report, the results were entered into a Digital Experience Maturity Model. Developed by Sitecore, the model gives organizations one of five scores:

  1. Established where there is no personalization of communication and only a limited number of digital channels are used
  2. Aligned in which content is created to target the needs of the main customer groupings but there is still no personalization
  3. Optimized when customer experience management is seen as a high priority and there has been a shift from gut-level to data-driven decision making
  4. Nurtured where the customer base has been segmented for personalization and a culture of experimentation is highly supported
  5. Individualised which is the optimal category where every customer interaction is personalized and automated.

Overall, the average DX Maturity Score for interviewed organizations was 2, putting them in the ‘aligned’ category. Of those included in the report, 6% of organizations are in the ‘established’ category, 26% in ‘aligned’, 43% in ‘optimized’, 21% in ‘nurtured’ and just 3% in ‘individualised’.

Of the Australian organizations included in the report, 78% reached the level of ‘optimized’ while 44% were in the ‘nurtured’ category and 15% in ‘individualised’. This compares with 79%, 47% and 19% in the overall surveyed group.

Regionally, across industry groups, the study found wide variations. Banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) providers demonstrate the highest level of maturity with 36% of respondents achieving 4s and 5s (Nurtured and Individualised) on the DXMM scale, followed by retail (29%), an industry that needed to quickly reinvent to keep up with changing consumption habits.

Of the industries, manufacturers and governments have been slower to adopt digital technologies to offer personalized experiences, and have their work cut out for them, with only 21% and 12% of businesses scoring 4s and 5s (Nurtured and Individualised) respectively.

“These results are interesting as they show that, while significant progress has been made, Australian businesses still have much work ahead of them to truly personalise their customer experiences,” said Peter Belton, VP sales Australia and New Zealand, Sitecore.

“In most cases, this work will include the adoption of automation and Machine Learning as part of the marketing technology stack. While it’s not possible to manually personalise communications when you have large numbers of customers, putting technology into the mix can ensure this is achieved.”

Eric Orton, Executive Technology Director AKQA, ANZ, said: “It’s fantastic that so many companies are working to align their digital experiences around their customer needs. Companies who do this well are going further to recognize that customers don’t segment their view of the business by channel, so when considering customer journeys, it’s important to look at the full picture of how your customers are engaging with your business beyond just digital touchpoints.

“It’s also not a once and done exercise. Strong experience-focused businesses continue to learn and evolve their views of the customer journey as they strive to remove pain points across touchpoints and better engage their customers.”

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