The Rise of Digital Consumers
In a span of under a decade from 2008, companies like Uber and Airbnb became massively popular around the world. In addition to business model innovation that gave birth to the access economy, these companies did something special: they were some of the first who saw how consumers started using their internet-enabled mobile devices to access not just information or physical goods, but also services and digital goods. They saw the need to change the status quo of certain industries and provide a faster, cheaper, more convenient, and (ultimately) better offering.
The lightning-speed innovation of these startups and the ubiquity of mobile data and smartphones have led to a new kind of consumer: the digital consumer.
This type of consumer basically thinks that anything and everything can be accessed through their smartphone. They have a new and defined set of expectations from the companies that they buy products and services from. The digital consumer expects that they will be able to do these things:
Learn about products/services online
Register and activate online accounts easily
Order and pay online 24/7
Access always-on support online
Safekeep their personal information online
These newcomers went on to create solutions that provided a combination of the things enumerated above to deliver convenience. The power has now shifted back to the digital consumer, armed with a myriad of other companies to buy from. Their loyalty to a brand is now deeply tied to the entire experience with the brand – from learning about it, to buying it, to using it, and beyond. The biggest/oldest is no longer necessarily the best for the digital consumer.
In a short amount of time, what used to be “nice-to-have” in a customer experience turned into a “must-have” and the ability to address these expectations have become the competitive advantage of agile startups over traditional and slow-to-innovate companies.
Incumbent players across industries are now seeing these shifts, and are now under pressure to innovate and meet these digital expectations to consistently deliver delightful customer experiences and maintain market leadership. This paved the way to the movement called digital transformation.
Digital Transformation to Deliver Big on Stellar Customer Experience
The enterprise digital transformation movement, much as it is seen as a knee-jerk reaction to the increasing popularity of startup offerings, is a natural progression of all things digital. Most enterprises, with their much bigger budgets, are investing heavily in digital marketing. While marketing online has its benefits of scaling at small costs, on the customer’s end, it is still largely disjointed. They still end up buying from a physical store, or calling a hotline (where they have to establish their identity each and every time) just to get support. With digital transformation companies are moving towards providing a full and seamless digital experience, interacting with their customers who are primarily on their mobile devices.
This requires companies to look beyond the marketing team and develop a digital strategy that will bring the entire organization to the digital space.
The type of solution to provide this digital experience may vary from one industry or company type to another, but the operating word here is still digital. For example, a small maker of bespoke furniture might opt to sell its products through an existing platform like Etsy, while a large furniture retailer like IKEA would probably have a need to make a full-on mobile app. A small café in Brooklyn might go for Facebook Messenger to answer inquiries, while Starbucks would need to add a chat bot built into their website or mobile app.
Looking at the rate at which companies of all shapes and sizes and across all industries are innovating to delight the digital consumer, it’s no longer a question of transforming digitally or not. It’s a question of when your company will embrace digital transformation.
Providing digital experiences seems like an easy task – answer Facebook Messenger messages manually or through a chat bot, build a customer-facing mobile app, enlist in online platforms, etc. While these different point solutions work for different kinds of customers, they are still largely disjointed and do not necessarily create a singular view of the customer and are sometimes unable to be integrated with other communication channels as well as internal systems. This is particularly important to provide a more personalized experience. At the same time, these solutions are not too scalable if they still require human intervention. This becomes quite problematic for brands that interact with hundreds or thousands of customers everyday.
Agility and Speed in Digital Transformation
Building your own digital interaction solution from ground up could take a minimum of 12 months, and this will not fly among companies that are looking to roll out ASAP because they are losing customers on a daily basis to those who are more digitally advanced. The situation becomes more complex and expensive once you go into the amount of R&D work needed to create innovative solutions in the product pipeline.
The good news is there is are platforms like QuickReachwhich significantly cut the development time down to a few months and bring costs down to a monthly or annual subscription fee plus customization/integration services. Platforms are beneficial because they utilize pre-made building blocks to create fully-customized digital interaction solutions that connect to your existing core/backend systems.The companies behind these platforms also take care of R&D efforts to integrate with new technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain. Aside from choosing a robust platform, companies must choose the right development services provider who will work on the platform. They need to have extensive experience in building customer-facing products because they will understand better how to manage the development pipeline vs software development companies that work largely on employee-facing or backend systems. By using a platform and having the right technology partner, your company can focus on the customer, process, and business side of your digital transformation.
In conclusion, delighting the digital consumer through digital solutions puts your company to the right direction, ultimately ensuring the sustainability of your business. Startups are only disruptive when incumbents refuse to rethink their customer strategy and infuse technology into it. The time is now to a take the digital transformation leap.