Doing Digital is Never Done: How to Stay Ahead in Online Marketing

By Business.com Editorial Staff
Business.com / Marketing Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The highest performing companies are improving digital channels, and integrating the customer experience.

A new Forrester Consulting report on digital CX has been getting lots of attention for its insights into how companies are “doing digital,” but ironically, that’s an expression that neatly describes a key problem with how companies are making their changes and the most interesting finding from the report itself.

The report, commissioned by Accenture, is based on survey results from 702 online participants and a handful of in-depth interviews for qualitative understanding.

These participants are candid about how they feel they’re competing on digital against their peers, how they think they’re meeting consumer expectations, how digital is changing CX within the larger context of how it’s changing the entire world.

Companies also were asked about their digital plans, how they’re being executed, whether they have senior staff buy-in, and what their strategic timelines look like.

Almost three-quarters of the survey respondents said they expect their digital transformations to be completed within the next four years.

Related Article:Embracing Change: Strategies for Small Businesses Adopting Digital Technology

CX Evolution

The problem should be obvious: In the digital ecosystem, “doing digital” is never over. “Constantly evolving customers require constant CX evolution, not a one-off improvement effort,” the study authors explain. “Experience transformation requires preparing the company to pivot into a state of constant analysis and redesign.” In other words, four years from now, businesses may have met the technology targets or justified their budgets for changing their CX approach, but that means being rather than doing. Digital means a transformation of the entire organization, within a constant state of CX flux.

Just 20 percent of the survey respondents said they believe their digital CX transformation is ongoing and comprehensive. They’re embracing strategies that go beyond problem-solving to find an immediate answer to a specific problem, instead moving into a holistic mindset to find solutions that change the entire business. That’s the key to success in a future defined by the customer in ever-evolving ways.

The Online Shopper

Take one example from online shopping. Ten years ago, customers were at desktops waiting for pages to load as they explored the products and services they were interested in some of them for the very first time. Now, consumers expect those pages to load in four seconds or less. Almost half of them need to see information in two seconds or less, and 18 percent expect immediate content. Scientist Natalie Petouhoff explains in an intriguing article that human brains are hardwired to experience “flow” in ways that minimize disruptions or barriers, or else they become impatient, easily frustrated and move on.

That departure is expensive, and companies know they can’t afford it. Most companies also know that they’re no longer dealing with slow web pages as the defining paradigm of the digital customer journey. That same flow is at work when customers can’t find what they’re looking for in a physical store, and if and when they do, they wonder why no one carried if they were delighted with their experience or not.

It’s the same sense of flow that exasperates callers as they navigate a minefield of prompts in order to speak to a real person about their question only to discover that the call center employee they’ve connected with at last is immersed in a monotonous environment, reading from a script to a customer they already have the same information from, and lacks the power to make decisions to help them resolve their concerns.

Related Article:Stay In the Know: How to Keep Up with Digital Marketing Trends

For the customer posting on a corporate social media page, it’s the same sense of immediacy and the expectation of personal attention that has come to define the customer-centric company, and companies risk their revenues and reputations if they fail to be responsive in real time.

The high-performing companies in the study are improving their digital channels and integrating their customer experiences. They’re creating dedicated CX teams, they’re creating valuable content, they’re connecting with employees and motivating them to serve as corporate and brand advocates. More important is that they don’t stop there.

Companies who are “doing digital” and expect an endpoint aren’t seeing the big CX picture, and in that wider view they need to redefine CX so that it’s understood as connecting with every employee and unit in the organization. The shift to digital in logistics, for example, isn’t really about more cost-effective shipping or the organization’s internal abilities to “see” into distribution channels with a transparency they’ve never before achieved. That’s likely true, but the edge goes to those companies who grasp that “doing digital” in the warehouse is still CX whether it’s customer-facing or not.

The definitions of digital CX across the enterprise must be shaped by business transformations that mean units across the entire organization and their employees are thriving within a flow state themselves that delivers value to their customers. In today’s environment, that value may be defined by community stewardship efforts, by a company’s commitment to sustainability, and a host of operations or activities that are directly linked to customer experience. They are “doing digital” in roles with direct bearing on how customers define CX, and not in ways that are limited by the scope of the marketing department or that will ever be over.

Related Article:Brace Yourselves: Winter is Coming for the Digital Advertising Industry

Daunting, but Necessary

For some businesses, the “state of constant analysis and redesign” that the Forrester authors refer to may sound daunting. It likely is, but the alternative is extinction. With the kind of data tools available today, there’s no reason for companies to choose the latter or dread the fact that they can’t. This new CX paradigm is founded in a sense that companies aren’t just managing customer journeys from on high, but are energized by the fact that they’re making their own journeys too, and share that excitement.

“The goal should not be to implement solutions that solve discrete issues as they arise,” the study concludes, “but to intentionally plan a business agenda that recognizes the need to break down silos, embed analytics, and continuously improve.” To that end, companies that commit to a new journey alongside that of their customers have the opportunity to be digital, rather than just doing digital.

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