You and I know instinctively when the economy is good or when it’s tough. As consumers we make the best economic forecasters. While economists constantly need to adjust their forecasts, often pointing to “unusual” market behaviour as the reason for an inaccurate prediction, it’s consumer purchasing habits that should be taken as the most accurate barometer.
That’s because our spending decisions are largely driven by instinct – we buy more when times are good, and save when times are bad.
Real change is something you feel coming, and our intuition makes us highly attuned to this. Yet, despite being made up of thousands of people, businesses still hesitate to trust their instincts. Established companies in particular need some sort of sign, be it from hard data analysis or an external driver, to justify a change in the way they work.
Hard data is valuable, but it will only reinforce what they already know. As for an external sign, this is often the indicator that your company is already too far behind.
The digital disruption that is reshaping industries from retail to banking is as much down to innovative challengers as it is to established players standing still. Brands need to accept reality and make the most of their advantageous market position before it’s too late.
Waiting is no longer an option. Just as we as consumers have a sixth sense about our economic health, transformation is something companies can see happening all around them. The realities of today’s market are impossible to deny, even if the numbers are up for debate. Evolve or become obsolete; that’s the only justification an organisation needs to adapt.
What does change look like?
It’s one thing to say you need to change, but where to start? Many small challenger brands will have seen a gap in the market and made it their mission to fill it with a new product or service, but for established brands it’s not always clear what needs to change.
The first step is to listen. Change may be an internal imperative but it needs to be informed by what your customers want. New technologies, new hires and new structures will have limited value unless you understand your audience and their needs. From that, a business can focus its efforts, bringing structure to its digital transformation strategy.
In my experience, there are three questions every company should ask itself to improve its level of customer understanding
#1 Do we have the data and processes in place to accurately profile our customers?
A data-centric approach to customers needs to be the bedrock of your business. This isn’t news – we’ve been hearing about the value of analytics for years – but many companies are still struggling to collect and work with big data in a meaningful way.
Sometimes that’s because individual departments have been collecting data to serve their own needs over the years, creating silos of information across the business. Other times, this information is collected in a variety of formats, making it difficult to compare and combine it with any sense of consistency.
Most often, both of these issues hold companies back. Brands may collect enormous piles of highly valuable data but most of it sits idle because they don’t have the means to turn it into insight that can inform action.
That’s why many of the businesses we work with have made it a priority to centralise their data onto a single platform. DER Touristik, one of Germany’s leading travel merchants, is using Adobe Analytics to gain a complete view of customer activity across all its digital and offline channels.
That means that even if a customer browses travel deals on one website, looks at hotels on another, clicks on a newsletter link, and speaks with a customer service agent about their travel plans, DER Touristik can bring data from all these interactions together into a single customer record and tailor its customer experiences to each person’s preferences
#2 Do we have the technologies and skillsets to make the most of our customer data?
There is no way around it. To survive in today’s market, your company needs to be world class in its ability to use data to deliver incredible digital experiences. This is not a technological issue. It’s a skills one, and an ability that is driven by your organisational culture.
As a cultural advantage, a data-driven approach starts with your company’s leadership. From the boardroom through to managers, there needs to be a collective vision for the business and what it will take to get there. You might not have the right people and processes in place today, but with a clear goal you can begin to reshape your workforce and systems to get on the right path.
Vision comes first. From that, you can turn to getting the right people and processes in place. This mentality makes companies more focused in their approach to data, harnessing their ability to innovate quickly.
Consider Swisscom, Switzerland’s leading telecoms provider. The company serves 6.6 million mobile customers in a country of 8 million citizens, a command of the market it’s maintained by never resting on its laurels. Today, this commitment to innovation is about doing more with data.
Swisscom needed a more consistent and responsive approach to targeting customers. With that focus in mind, it began working with Adobe Experience Manager to centralise its content. Soon after, Swisscom graduated to a deeper understanding of how people interact with its website, and today it uses advanced AI algorithms to optimise the digital experience for each customer.
#3 Are we just delivering products or services, or are we delivering complete experiences?
The mistake many businesses make is that they use data to rationalise existing ways of working, rather than seeing how they should be working.
Setting aside our late night purchases of milk or bread at the corner shop, people don’t just buy products or services anymore, they buy experiences. And companies who simply use their data to deliver the same old message are quickly realising this is no longer enough.
Marketers are no longer in control, moving people through a linear sales funnel at their own pace. Instead, customers control the experience, interacting with brands through a range of channels and platforms with no clear path to purchase.
This creates a chaotic web of interactions and the only way to stay front of mind in this chaos is to deliver an experience that is consistent and relevant across all consumer access points.
Audience targeting has become particularly challenging in this environment. The world’s number one battery brand, Duracell, has been working with Adobe to adapt its programmatic strategy to serve a digital customer base. Duracell faces the additional challenge that it doesn’t sell directly to consumers, making it even more crucial that their ad buying decisions are relevant and deliver value.
Duracell’s Head of Digital, Jon Ones, likened this challenge to sky diving, saying, “You don’t want to pull your shoot too early, but if you pull it too late, you die”. A bit dramatic perhaps, but it’s true that timing and frequency are as important when it comes to serving ads as the content itself.
With Adobe’s Demand Side Platform, Duracell has gained the insights it needs to help make its content more viewable and ensure it resonates with the right people without turning them off. Crucially, Duracell can also measure its performance and optimise its delivery model based on how people interact with its adverts.
Across every industry, brands are losing touch with their audience because of an ability to deliver digital experiences that cater to how customers research and make purchases today.
We keep hearing about the retailers sucker-punched by online-only disruptors, subscription services and the Amazon effect, but the same is true in hospitality, banking, telecoms –every industry that is making the transition to digital.
Brands have no choice but to transform when confronted with disruption on such a large scale. The competition has been quick to capitalise on their stagnation and it will only be more difficult to play catch-up once these small players carve out a larger portion of the market.
It might be tempting to wait for a positive economic forecast, but conditions are changing too quickly and instinct needs to take over. There is a place for playing it safe, but the time has come to make a leap.
To learn more about how Adobe is helping brands transform to succeed in a digital market click here.
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