The way we conduct business around the world is fundamentally changing. Leading brands are embracing digital-first encounters with their customers, engaging with users across an increasing number of channels, and harnessing the power of data to create highly-tailored experiences. They’re also innovating on ways to meet their customers with empathy and flexibility, no matter the circumstance.
To learn more about how businesses are optimising their digital-first experiences, Salesforce Research analysed data from four different research studies.
Here are the three most revealing takeaways for marketing, commerce, and service professionals.
Digital-first customer engagement is here to stay. Many customers had to adopt online experiences in 2020 out of necessity. Now, many prefer to interact digitally, even as in-person experiences resume. With 68% of customers saying they’ll continue to buy essential goods online after the pandemic, we can anticipate a future that prioritises digital engagement over brick-and-mortar encounters.
Increased online activity has allowed marketers and customer-service agents to learn more about their audiences, leading to more personalised interactions. This also means that customers have elevated expectations for how brands engage with them, including brands’ ability to innovate and connect in new ways. For instance, 78% of customers say that companies should offer new ways to get existing products or services, such as digital versions of traditionally in-person experiences, while 83% of customers expect flexible shipping and fulfillment options, such as buy-online-pickup-in-store.
To better meet customer expectations, digital leaders are adopting new channels of engagement, like chatbots and self-service tools, which have been classified as “emerging” in recent years. Social media, video, and digital ads have become the three most common means of reaching customers, underlining the value in implementing digital-first marketing toolkits.
Eighty percent of customers say the experience a brand provides is just as important as its products or services. As the world becomes increasingly digital, businesses are seizing new opportunities for capturing insights on customer behavior and preferences. The most innovative digital leaders are harnessing this customer data to provide a consistent, convenient, and empathetic brand experience. But this dependency on data isn’t without its challenges.
As Google, Apple, and others restrict the use of third-party cookies, leaders have to rely more on known digital identities, such as email addresses, social IDs, and transactional data to personalise customer experiences. Marketers are also faced with customer data-privacy concerns. Customers are increasingly demanding more transparency with data use, and only 27% completely understand the way that brands collect, store, and use their data. As a result, over 60% of marketers say they are going above and beyond regulations and standards to protect their customers’ privacy.
The pandemic brought on substantial changes in customer engagement, but it also changed how teams and organisations operate. Work-from-home, restricted travel, and insufficient collaboration tools shed light on inefficiencies within organisational structures and processes. More than 50% of service professionals say the pandemic has exposed moderate or greater shortcomings in capabilities including technology, policies and protocol, and staff skill sets.
Digital leaders are rethinking how their organisations utilise technology to operate more efficiently and better meet customer needs. As companies embrace digital-first strategies, this means that marketers are reevaluating the technical skill sets needed to do their jobs, and businesses are rethinking organisational structure to optimise operations.
Dive deeper intro insights and trends from the report by downloading the Digital Trends report.
This post originally appeared on the U.S.-version of the Salesforce blog.