The Digital Transformation of Customer Engagement Begins Now

Digital Transformation of customer engagementIt is said that the only constant is change. Everything changes. It is inevitable, and yet most people usually seem to be unprepared for its arrival. This concept certainly holds true for customer engagement marketers. Customers are changing how they interact with brands, how they pay for products, and even how they expect brands to reciprocate. The problem is that most brands are failing to keep up and, therefore, are also failing to deliver the customer experiences necessary to survive.

Brian Solis, Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group, believes that a customer engagement paradigm shift is currently underway. For Solis, a leading digital analyst and anthropologist, successfully gaining ground in our new digital economy means becoming “customer-obsessed.” Some may find the transition easy, some will have to completely transform their businesses model, and some will simply find it impossible. Nevertheless, it is an essential transition that must be made, and the good news is that an entire host of new technologies are now available to help innovative brands along this path.

This was the overarching message that Solis brought to the stage during a keynote address at PegaWORLD 2015 in Orlando, Florida, last week. His session titled, “The Moment of Truth: Connected Customers and How to Supercharge Customer Experiences,” targeted how brands can adapt and thrive. 

“Society and technology are evolving, and what is not evolving fast enough is the infrastructure of how a business does business,” Solis explained. “And digital Darwinism can be bad or good, but the choice is ours. It’s what we do today, and moving forward, that defines our place in the future of business and society.”

Digital transformation is changing almost every aspect of business. It is affecting everything from marketing, customer service, and sales, to HR, ecommerce, R&D, and everything in between. It is opening an entirely new age of customer engagement. And this change is happening all around, whether most organizations are ready or not. But brands that strive to change along with the momentum of the moment can continue to maintain a high degree of relevance for digital customers.

Solis calls for brands to experience a growing sense of urgency, to transform before it is too late. Specifically, he wants brands to act now before this urgency becomes the driving motivator of change. Because history, of course, has shown that once brands react to urgency it’s usually already too late, and he sites Kodak, Blockbuster, and Borders as prime examples.

Therefore, the answer is to start the transformation now, long before urgency begins to sound the alarms of doom.

“The whole point is to see this urgency optimistically and as an opportunity because it is time to think about it differently,” said Solis. “And that is wonderful because brands can now be responsible for historic change. The future of how we do business moving forward hasn’t been written yet.”

Moving forward, Solis wants brands to use technology to help us become human again. So far, technology has continually separated brands and customers. But Solis envisions world that uses technology to bring the two back together.Digital transformation

“Technology should be an opportunity to make business personal again,” said Solis. “So that customer experience is not just how we facilitate engagement or how we broker transactions or how we keep people coming back. It is something that we can design. It should sound like something. It should feel like something. It should look like something. Technology can become an enabler for something with a higher purpose. Because companies that focus on a higher purpose will always outperform those that only focus on the bottom line.”

Technology was supposed to unite us. Instead it continues to isolate us. And even though many brands are investing in customer-facing technologies, it does not necessarily mean that customer experiences are any more customer-centric. But technology can still bring experiences to life. Instead of information or systems architects, for example, Solis calls for experience architects.

“Experience is now so important that it becomes the brand,” Solis continued. “Experiences, when they are felt and shared, influence others, and people are willing to spend more money with a brand if they believe they are going to have a great experience. And believe it or not, brands do not prioritize that.” 

After working with hundreds and hundreds of brands, Solis wishes that most were further along in the digital transformation process. He found that 88% percent of companies claim to be changing and transforming by making technology investments, but only 25% of them knew why they were making these investments. Rather than learning or understanding what is relevant and meaningful to the customer, brands appear to randomly rolling the dice.

This is not OK. This is not the kind of digital transformation that Solis wants to see.

“We have to think about what the customer journey is, how people want to go through it, and then redesign it so that it makes sense to different types of people,” said Solis. “And it will be different for different types of people, and that’s okay. That’s means a brands’ role is more important today than it was yesterday, and that is a tremendous opportunity for us all.”

This is certainly not going to be an easy process, Solis warns, but true innovation rarely is.

“Whether a company sells industrial supplies or watches or whatever, brands need to think like a start-up,” Solis said. “You have to be dynamic and quicker than the competition. You have to be agile, flexible, and not just from a technology perspective but also from a decision perspective. The future of digital transformation means thinking like the customer, and it is something that happens from inside.”

Solis is an optimist. He believes that if brands can seriously study how the digital customer is changing, and how they differ from traditional customers, a tremendous opportunity for true innovation awaits. Because true knowledge begins when we close the loop between knowledge and action, digital transformation is possible as long as brands are willing and able to seize moment.

About the Author: Mark Johnson

Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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