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Customer engagement in a post-digital world

Customer engagement drives the new transformation and businesses must embrace the next wave of emerging technologies. Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, shares his insights.

The single most important job for great businesses in the post-digital world is to reduce friction in customer engagement.

Personalisation means friction is reduced. New technologies mean it is possible to personalise to a degree that can make an experience truly surprising. 

Say I’m a male and I wear extra-large in clothing size. You can see that I usually buy blue or black. So next time I’m on your website and you’ve tracked my buying behaviour, you know which clothing to put in front of me in terms of size availability and colours. 

It saves me clicks and prevents the frustration of finding something I like, then realising you don’t have it in my size. You are giving me back my time. The average consumer is unlikely to realise the reason it’s easier and faster to shop on your site than on another, but they will know it’s easier and faster, and for that you will earn their loyalty.

All transformation in the post-digital economy must begin with the customer in mind. It’s about thinking deeply about where the points of friction are, then getting rid of them.

What do I mean by post-digital? I’m referring to the immediate need to go beyond the foundational digital capabilities of mobile, social, cloud and analytics, and go beyond incremental digital ‘transformation’ for the sake of efficiency, for your business to compete and win. 

Today, differentiation has to come from the emerging technologies that Accenture has labelled ‘DARQ’ technologies – distributed ledger (or blockchain), artificial intelligence, extended reality and quantum computing. Post-digital engagement combines the capabilities of these new technologies built upon the foundational capabilities I mentioned above. 

And while this differentiation will help every part of your business, the real value is improving customer experience.

What post-digital looks like

When I stay in a Marriott Hotel, I no longer go to the check-in desk. Everything is on my phone. The hotel knows when I’m arriving and my room is ready. I use my phone to unlock the door and the thermostat will be set to my preferred temperature. Tomorrow, the room will be cleaned at the time I have wanted it cleaned in the past.

Friction that used to exist has been removed.

Why is this important? It’s because consumers rate the experience they have with companies and brands as more important than the product and services they receive.

The State of the Connected Customer report from 2018 said 80% of customers globally rated experience as at least as important as product. In 2019, that figure rose to 84%.

And what is customer experience? Put simply, it’s your first memory, your last memory and everything in between when you’re engaged with a company or brand. And it’s the basis of loyalty and advocacy – it’s very easy to lose brand affinity with a customer after even one poor experience.

The new reality

The idea that we’re already in a post-digital economy might come as a shock to some. But if we take the time to look around, it should be quite obvious.

A few months from now the first person born in the 21st century will no longer be a teenager. Digital natives – those born into digital, cloud, mobile and social – are now over 20 years old. Much of that tech is par for the course.

We’re years beyond the age in which Angry Birds – of all things – made it to 50 million users in a month. It took television 70 years to get to that point! The pace of adoption is incredible, as is the rate of usage. 

Every minute in 2019, 18 million text messages are sent.

One of every five minutes spent online is spent on a social network. 

Half a dozen messaging apps boast around a billion multi-active users. 

At Salesforce we are providing eight billion AI predictions a day for our customers to help their customers.

For a decade we’ve been talking about the importance of mobile technologies, social networking, cloud computing and analytics – the four foundational blocks for digital transformation. But 10 years into the journey of implementing these four important technologies and most companies now have at least one, and often all four, of those capabilities in play. They, and their customers, are asking ‘What’s next?’.

So how do you differentiate yourself?

In a post-digital economy where mobile, social, cloud, and analytics are foundational, the way to differentiate yourself is to think about how you can use some of the emerging technologies to continue to surprise and delight your customers. 

Every company seeking success in a post-digital economy needs to think like a technology company to satisfy their customers, who have very high expectations.

As companies adopt DARQ technologies in the post-digital economy, it’s important to apply customer-centric design thinking principles into how they’re used to deliver services and products.

Businesses that do it well and remove all remaining friction will be richly rewarded. Those that don’t will be offered no mercy at the hands of the market.

The research tells us that 66% of customers are willing to pay more for a great experience. That’s two out of three people, including myself, who will actually pay more for better experiences with brands and companies. I recently flew from Melbourne to Boston, and I had to join a bunch of queues during that 30-hour journey. Remove that friction for me and you’ll have my business forever – as well as the business of two-thirds of your customers.

Find out more about how your customers expect you to remove friction from their experiences in the post-digital economy.

Vala Afshar

Vala Afshar is Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce. He tweets prolifically at @valaafshar – the kindest handle on Twitter and home to every snippet of fascinating tech news.

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