While the role of technology in everyday lives has been a consistently popular conversation for over a decade, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a heightened sense of urgency and new perspectives for the necessity of technology. In the past, buzz around shiny gadgets such as smartphones and smart televisions have dominated the mainstream spaces. However, the pandemic-induced dependency on technology among businesses has helped bring conversations on workhorse softwares and cloud-based programmes to the fore.
Adobe’s 2021 Digital Trends Report was recently launched and the report in its 11th edition, takes a look at new key areas brought on by the pandemic. These include the impact of a distributed workforce, privacy and consent fundamentals, and empathy as a driver of experience.
Conducted in partnership with Econsultancy, the report surveyed 13,000 marketing, advertising, e-commerce, creative, and IT professionals, working for both brands and agencies across the world, including Australia and New Zealand (ANZ), India and Asia.
Barriers hampering the digital experience
In a virtual media briefing hosted last week, Adobe’s Managing Director for Southeast Asia, Simon Dale explained that organizations across APAC report three significant barriers that are hampering their marketing and experience: legacy technology and systems (51% in ANZ, 37% in India and Asia), workflow issues (38% in ANZ, 33% in India and 48% in Asia), and a lack of digital skills and capabilities (34% in ANZ, 24% in India and 43% in Asia).
According to the report, while workflow is often confused with processes, it is in fact a comprehensive set of methods meant to increase the efficiency of processes.
“The move to remote work has forced organisations to focus on productivity in the context of distributed teams, presenting an opportunity to reevaluate every important process for workflow improvement, focusing on choke points, repeatable tasks, and dependencies,” the report states.
While the pandemic has forced companies to adopt remote working and their employees to start using digital resources more heavily for operations and execution, the lack of digital skills and capabilities remains as a barrier. The survey found that only 43% organisations offer relevant virtual training resources.
The report also states that only one third (35%) of ANZ leaders believe their organization has strong capabilities in accuracy, actionability, speed and access of insights, while Asian leaders are far more pessimistic at around 9%. However, respondents across Asia (49%) and ANZ (40%) are planning to invest resources in improving insights and analytics capabilities to achieve their top marketing goals in 2021. For leaders in ANZ this is a focus on personalized customer experience (33%), while Asian leaders are committed to enabling digital customer acquisition (35%).
According to Simon, Asian leaders’ heavy focus on acquisition is understandable as it is the first part of the process before businesses delve deeper into the personalisation.
“A company with a strong CX strategy is more likely to achieve long-term growth than its competitors, as they are better positioned to adapt to changeable customer behaviours and markets,” explained Adobe’s Vice President of DX Marketing for APAC and Japan, Duncan Egan, in a statement. “This report highlights that organizations need to accelerate their insight and action capabilities by moving to more flexible technologies and cloud-based platforms, as well as a unified and real-time view of the customer journey.”
Unsurprisingly, respondents who said they were confident about their company’s customer experience (CX) feel optimistic about their corporate strategy (63% in ANZ vs 73% in India vs 56% in Asia) and their own prospects for career growth (61% in ANZ vs 70% in India vs 57% in Asia).
Privacy and consent fundamental for effective CX
With a surge in digital customers, businesses are prioritizing data privacy and a sizeable respondent cohort across the region say that customer privacy and consent are key factors in planning (56% in ANZ, 41% in Asia).
According to the report, 92% of senior marketing executives say that privacy is a fundamental part of the customer experience and customer permission to share data is a function of trust, which most believe is shaped early in the customer relationship. During the survey, 53% of CX leaders ‘strongly agree’ that ‘how a brand handles customer consent in their first interaction shapes trust going forward’.
However, transparency is still lacking with only a small number of leaders (13% in ANZ, 12% in Asia) claiming their organization is effective at communicating how data is collected and used. Also, only 10% in ANZ and 13% in Asia believe they are highly effective at communicating the value offered in exchange for customers’ consent when they first encounter the brand.
“Since the early days of digital, marketers have relied on third-party cookies for data-driven advertising; however, these cookies will be restricted by major browsers across 2021-2022,” the report states. “Sixty percent of senior executives in relevant roles say that this will have a disruptive effect on their marketing.”
Companies that understand the benefits of first-party data versus third-party cookies are more likely to provide superior customer experiences, as support for third-party cookies in browsers declines.
Empathy is the future of experience
As digital convenience becomes a commodity, the report also states that empathy by brands will be a key differentiator for customer experience. Analyzing and adapting to a customer’s emotional journey in this new world will be the next evolution of experience management.
“Consideration of customers’ psychological states has been emphasised during the pandemic, but marketers know that customer journeys have always been emotional, even in B2B,” the report states. “There are points of friction Guiding Principles For 2021 wherever there is a decision to be made, which can manifest anything from hope to excitement, or from anxiety to concern.”
However, most organizations are still a long way from authentically displaying digital empathy. Just over a third (37%) of Indian executives have significant insights into customer mindset, followed by 27% in ANZ and 19% in Asia. Drivers of purchase, friction points and attribution of how marketing actions relate to customer behaviour fare only marginally better.
According to Adobe’s Vice President of International Marketing, Alvaro Del Pozo, the 2021 Digital Trends Report looks to both the past and the future, presenting two equally valuable perspectives: What has changed in the last year as a result of the pandemic, and the trends that are waiting around the corner.
“Thousands of seasoned professionals have shared their hard-won lessons of the pandemic – offering advice on everything from hybrid working and attracting talent, to catching up with the exponential rise of the digital-first consumer,” he wrote in the foreword f the report.
For more insights on 2021 Digital Trends, download the full report.
Main image credit: 123rf