by Joe McKendrick, Contributor to Forbes
Okay, where do we go from here?
Companies of all sizes were pushed, full-force, into the digital realm last year to cope with the Covid crisis. Can this be made into a lasting thing?
Moving into the next era — propelled by data-driven and forward-looking insights — was the topic of discussion at a recent in-person conference put on by Optimizely in New York. Presentations and interactive roundtable discussions were punctuated by insights from the delightfully entertaining and informative Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at New York University and author of Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity.
The following insights flowed from the conference:
The Covid crisis upended the relationship between companies and their customers. “The challenge was adapting to customers,” said Alex Atzberger, CEO of Optimizely. “The challenge is the customer is no longer adapting to you.”
Companies dramatically accelerated digital. Conference attendees, representing major consumers, reported unprecedented acceleration of digital. Major initiatives — planned for deployment across years — took place within days, weeks, and months.
In a crisis, speed trumps perfection. With the hurried rush to digital, many aspects of infrastructure had to be put aside.“Companies that adapted the most successfully during Covid are those that moved the fastest,” one executive pointed out. At the same time, in many instances, executives were not ready for the changes wrought. As one executive put it: “We found a sense of resilience, but we also found a sense of fragility. Things would break down.” Integrating and building on legacy IT systems also posed challenges to moving quickly enough.
Skills are a pressing issue for companies seeking to further their digital efforts. Many executives agreed that finding the right skills to build up digital capabilities was getting tougher.
B2B companies need to emulate Bc2 companies, and visa-versa. Previously, B2B companies were not focused on user or customer experience. Now, many B2B customers are expecting the same experience they receive on consumer sites, a B2B company executive recounted. At the same time, B2B and B2C interfaces are becoming indistinguishable, another pointed out. “Perhaps B2H (business to human) would be a better term.”
Businesses don’t truly understand what customers are thinking, yet. Many digital interactions are still transaction oriented, and that’s the limit of corporate understanding of their customers. There’s a “dark social” aspect — in which customers voice their preferences and complaints via platforms that companies do not monitor. Another executive noted how informal chats with customers outside of formal measurement and survey techniques yielded ideas that gave rise to new offerings.
Content is a differentiator. The rush to digitization since March 2020 focused on easing transactions. Now, it’s time for a differentiator to draw people to brands.
Supply chain is a differentiator. The platforms that disrupt and leverage the supply chain behind their services will succeed in the years ahead. Amazon essentially developed a “monogamous relationship” with its customers, Galloway said. This is maintained through its popular Prime membership program, as well as rising investments in warehousing and delivery. “It’s all about the supply chain now.”
Privacy is vastly overrated. Yes, you read that right. Galloway. “Every day you make a trade-off between privacy and utility,” he points out. For example, while services such as Uber have revolutionized transportation, all it would take would be a hack involving a “thin layer of AI that could tell everything about you,” since Uber has data on every trip you take, whether for shopping or to medical clinics.
The most successful platforms employ the “Benjamin Button effect.” Many enterprises and their products decrease in value as they age. Some digital companies have figured out how to increase their value as they are used, Galloway says. The most successful platform on the planet, Galloway believes, may be TikTok. Why? Because they are employing algorithms that are constantly increasing the value of each posting.
Article originally appeared on Forbes.