Winning in business is increasingly about speed. How quickly an enterprise can deliver a great customer experience (CX) at scale separates the winners from the losers. Those experiences need to be personal and relevant. It follows the change of behavior of nowadays customers. Millenials and generation Z are increasingly change the way they interact with brands as well as their demands.
Gartner published a nice article with top strategic technology trends for 2020 last October, in which they mention trends that confirm this change. Amongst others, they talk about Human Augmentation. Human augmentation explores how technology can be used to deliver cognitive and physical improvements as an integral part of the human experience. Physical augmentation enhances humans by changing their inherent physical capabilities by implanting or hosting a technology element on their bodies, such as a wearable device.
As a brand you need to be sure to be present at moments and on devices when customers need you the most. So if someone asks his Apple Watch to search for some information you better be prepared to deliver that information before someone else does.
Another trend I want to highlight (I’m not going to repeat them all, you should read the article) is Hyperautomation. Hyperautomation is the combination of multiple machine learning (ML), packaged software and automation tools to deliver work. Hyperautomation refers not only to the breadth of the pallet of tools, but also to all the steps of automation itself (discover, analyze, design, automate, measure, monitor and reassess). It relieves marketers from mundain manual tasks and creates time for more important ones.
All modern day technologies and trends helps you create personal and relevant experiences at the right time on the right device. So why am I telling you this? And why is this important in relation to gain speed?
It’s almost as if we’ve reached some kind of status quo. This year (2020) we celebrate a decade of the age of the customer. So by now almost any organization should have a mature digital landscape where experiences are automatically managed and driven by data and artificial intelligence. Right? I mean, all the modern technologies enable you to do so.
Unfortunately we are still not there. Many organizations still work on getting the basics in place. A lot of my Sitecore customers still working on getting a grip on their data strategy, leveraging the Sitecore platform to the fullest or integrated with CRM systems. Or what about their digital landscape that consists of many different Content Management Systems, third party tools and many different data sources that are almost impossible to combine and enrich.
The world is changing quickly. Especially technological wise. You better be on that train and adopt technologies and trends so you can keep up with the speed of your customers. But to be able to do so the basics must be in place. It is therefore essential you focus your martech landscape on the following three key success factors:
- Employee enablement
Let me explain in more detail what I mean for each factor.
Imagine you have multiple labels and campaigns sites and each uses its own content management system. Each marketing team works with different agency’s and those agency’s bring along all kinds of tools for A/B testing, personalization, data tracking, automation, email marketing and so on. You will end up with a martech landscape of many tools. With that you have introduced a couple of problems:
- All those tools require maintenance. You have to make sure you update them regurarly, especially if tools contain vulnerabilities. This will cost you time and money.
- Continuing the first bullet, your digital ecosystem becomes less secure because of the amount of tools. The risk you miss something becomes larger.
- Combining and enriching data with all those different data sources is almost impossible. And if it’s possible, it often takes a lot of time.
- What about the efficiency of your organization? You will never be able to gain efficiency and a single way of work if different teams use different tools. That means different trainings, probably different workflows and you cannot share knowledge and experiences.
So to prevent all of this you have to consolidate on your martech. Choose your tools wisely and embed them in your organization. Be careful with that best-of-breed strategy. By focussing on less and doing more you will also improve the Return on your Investments. Exaggerated? Not according to Forrester. They predict that in 2020 one in four CX pros will lose their job. CX leaders that can’t prove their value to the business will find themselves on the street. Those who do keep their jobs will do so by ensuring that their metrics and measurements relate to what matters most: KPIs with a dollar sign in front of them. And only a well designed digital ecosystem can help them with that.
Another important focus is to use what’s in the box as much as possible. There must be good reasons to deviate, for example, if you miss out on turnover. Believe it or not, I have had my share of discussion with companies that refuses to standardize because they were afraid their employees would quit. I’m not saying you should not care about your employees, but letting them choose solutions based on their preferences instead of business goals is the other way around.
An important development is the transition towards SaaS. A great example is Microsoft. Many years ago custom SharePoint based intranet portals were build for collaboration and document management. Today it is a matter of subscribing to an Office 365 subscription and you use it out of the box.
The same is currently going on for tooling like digital marketing, experience management, content management, data & analytics, artificial intelligence and so on. With each new release of SaaS software you will get new features that can be used immediately. Therefore it is important to stick to defaults as much as possible, so you will be able to upgrade easier and adopt new features.
This especially applies to software that is not yet fully SaaS ready. A great example is Sitecore. It offers a wide range of features that can really improve and speed up your digital marketing activities and drive revenue. They are developing and improving so quickly that it becomes almost impossible to keep up with the releases when you have lots of custom code in your solutions. And they are working towards a fully SaaS offering. First steps are made with a managed cloud offering and their Sitecore Artificial Intelligence (Sitecore AI) product. If you want to leverage it, close the gap between custom and standard.
It is just a matter of time before this area of software is also a fully subscription based one and when it does we don’t think about it anymore. But you better be prepared for it!
Power to the employee
No matter how consolidated your digital ecosystem is and how much you focus on standardization, if your employees are not enabled to use marking technology, they will never use it. Thus your Return On Investment will suck and you still not gain that speed. Train your people, make them enthousiastic and show them how it can benefit them in their day to day jobs.
But there is something else to be aware of: the rise of the so called Citizen Developer. Gartner talks about this in their 2020 trend Democratization of Expertise. Democratization is focused on providing people with access to technical expertise (for example, ML, application development) or business domain expertise (for example, sales process, economic analysis) via a radically simplified experience and without requiring extensive and costly training.
Gartner predicts that by 2023 the democratization trend accelerates with a key aspect called democratization of design. It is about expanding on the low-code, no-code phenomena with automation of additional application development functions to empower the citizen-developer.
We demand so much of marketers these days that they will demand smart and quick tools of you to be able to do their jobs. Make sure you can deliver them. Empower them.
It doesn’t matter what you think of predictions and trends from research companies like Gartner, if you look at what’s happening right now you know that some of it is already happening:
- Personal and relevancy still are the most important aspects of customer relations and experiences;
- Speed is essential to respond to changes in markets, audiences or sometimes world events;
- Data is crucial to fully understand who your customers are and what they need so you better make sure data can be enriched and combined without much trouble;
- Creating an ecyosystem where software interacts with each other, exchange information and data and learns by itself can only be done with a consolidated digital landscape;
- SaaS is taking over the traditional and old school software market and is the only way forward;
- More power is going to the Citizen Developer, the employees without (much) technical knowledge;
To me, and this is a personal opinion and vision, this means focussing on the three key success factors: consolidate, standardize, enable your employees! Be open to what happens and stay on top of all the technology trends. Choose wisely and listen to customers and employees.