About the Authors
Alex Atzberger is the CEO of Episerver, which empowers growing companies to compete digitally with the support of its customer-centric digital experience platform.
Sebastian Jespersen is the CEO and Founder of Vertic, a global digital agency redefining the future of marketing through elevating the brand customer relationship from mere engagement to entanglement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made swift and lasting changes to how we live and work. We are collectively navigating uncharted territory, where change is accelerated, and uncertainty is widespread. When we recover from this crisis, we won’t fall back into our old habits; we will evolve into a new reality.
Based on the discussions we have been having with our clients for the past three months, we have combined our recommendations and data-backed findings on what is needed from digital to survive and thrive in the new reality.
Technology is taking on a new role, morphing from a tool designed to maximize efficiency into a means of fostering meaningful customer relationships.
Customers will be more comfortable interacting with people and brands in a digital environment. They have spent recent months re-imagining their personal and professional lives,replacing in-person meetings, social gatherings and shopping trips with online alternatives. At the beginning of this year, they may have never considered attending a virtual event or ordering groceries online – but now both have become part of their normal routines. In a recent survey during the month of April on digital events, 33% of respondents said they have attended a digital event between March 15 – April 15th. In a following survey done in the month of May, that number jumped to 67% saying they have attended a digital event between April 18th and May 18th.
According to a recent interview with Forrester, these fundamental behavior changes will affect how people lead their daily lives after the pandemic – and their expectations will evolve along with their habits. Companies that recognize the opportunity this new environment presents will not only survive, they will thrive.
Take the time now to identify and understand the new expectations of your customers. How have their habits and priorities shifted during this time? How do they like to work, communicate and make decisions? When you have clear answers to these questions,you can start to build a digital infrastructure that will meet your customers’newly developed habits and preferences.
In March 2020, as the impact of COVID-19 was growing around the world, Episerver conducted previously planned research on digital experience. Episerver surveyed 600 global B2B decision makers about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing their business in relation to digital experience.
The report reveals that a majority of respondents are falling short when it comes to building relationships with their customers through digital experiences:
1) 71% of B2B leaders report that their company has a customer-centricity gap
The digital experience their company delivers doesn’t meet their customers’ expectations. This gap is even greater for certain industries;healthcare (93%) and financial services (85%) are most likely to have a customer-centricity gap, while high-tech companies are the least likely (71%).
2) 54% of B2B leaders say customer relationships need work
A majority of respondents define their customer relationships as strained, developing or non-existent. The current crisis is shedding light onthis problem. Many business leaders are now realizing that their customer relationships are not as resilient as they had hoped.
3) Companies that close the gap use technology to enable empathy
Business leaders indicate the most successful ways they close the customer-centricity gap are:
· Putting customers at the heart of their business processes
· Investing in the digital experience
· Designing products around customers
· Creating a continuous feedback loop
“Empathy” might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of technology, but it is key to building a successful digital infrastructure. You must close the gap between your brand and your customer until your goals are the same, and you both benefit from your ongoing relationship.
As you start planning a digital infrastructure that prioritizes your customers’ needs, here are the three main requirements of your technology stack:
We have learned a great deal about the intersection of technology and customer relationships in a relatively short period of time. Our most important takeaway is that a strong digital infrastructure is the foundation for business survival – and now is the time to start investing in it.
Can you have a meaningful relationship with a brand?
Smart marketers recognize that there will be a distinct “before” and “after” in consumer behavior as a result of the pandemic. You must start now to create the digital tools needed to embed your brand in the customer’s post-COVID life.