The key trends enterprise leaders need to know in 2021

Customer behaviour trends proved the value of customer experience in 2020, so what does this mean for marketing leaders in 2021?

Enterprise leaders are set for a year of recovery, difficult decisions and turning the lessons of 2020 into plans for growth.

Organisations have gone through rapid digital transformation like never before, and customer behaviour has been turned on its head.

Our Adobe 2021 Digital Trends report found new customers arrived in record numbers to online sites and apps, creating new journeys and behaviours that marketers need to understand. On top of that, existing customers also behaved less predictably, creating a whole new fluid customer experience (CX) environment.

I had the opportunity to speak with Stefan Tornquist, SVP of Research and Online Learning at eConsultancy, to unpack how these customer behaviour trends proved the value of customer experience in 2020, and what it means for marketing leaders in 2021.

Digital Trends found 92 percent of executives agreed that the lockdown period increased the priority of digital transformation. As Stefan puts it, “We’re never going to have a moment of leverage like the one we’re in now.”

So, what are the key trends enterprise leaders need to take advantage of in this period of digital evolution?

Convenience is a commodity in 2021

The rapid shift to digital has reframed customer expectations, particularly around convenience. Where it was once seen as a key differentiator for an organisation, now convenience is mandatory.

“Where companies fall down, is they tend to think of customer experience as a convenience play: ‘we’re going to shorten the distance between your desire and our fulfilment to as short as possible’,” Stefan said.

“And that’s very difficult to compete with because that’s what everybody’s trying to do.”

Where digital leaders can differentiate is leveraging customer empathy – combining their depth of customer and product knowledge to drive more meaningful engagement at critical stages in the experience.

“Competition (on convenience) is very expensive and you’re always going to be one step behind. So of course, there are the absolute requirements for convenience but when we talk about empathy, I think what we’re really talking about is understanding the customer journey in a deeper way, understanding what are those moments of friction. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, we’re all emotional creatures.”

Get your insights up to speed

Most companies are rich in data volume, but only 23 percent of executives rate their organisation as very strong in their speed of gaining accurate insights.

CX Leaders – those organisations with a customer experience that is technologically sophisticated, politically well-aligned across the organisation, and with an established data and insights infrastructure – are twice as likely to have significant insight into the drivers of loyalty and retention, allowing them to justify more aggressive marketing spend.

Stefan said there is a huge opportunity for organisations to better leverage technology with marketing’s capabilities to drive greater insight into the friction points in the customer journey.

“Companies have very little insight (into moments of friction in the customer journey) and when you take our technical capability of looking at where people drop out, what kinds of content did they look at – all of the subtle and explicit indicators of that friction… and marry it to what marketers are really good at – messaging, communication and easing that friction – then you’ve really made a difference for the customer and their experience.”

The B2B customer isn’t so different from B2C

As a result of the pandemic, we’ve seen even B2B customers demand a similar level of convenience and experience to what the consumers are expecting.

Digital experiences have been on the horizon for B2C organisations for some time and the pandemic has largely accelerated a lot of processes. For B2B organisations, however, many had no plans to digitise.

Stefan shared as an example how an industry like manufacturing, which has traditionally been a laggard in digital transformation, had experienced a similar type of digital customer upheaval that a sector like FMCG saw.

B2B however has a lot further to go to meet the digital customer expectations.

“In B2B, this is going to be a more profound and long-term shift. The distance we have to go in B2B to hit the minimums in digital is further,” Stefan said.

The personalisation of content in the B2C space has already been refined to a science and B2B is starting to catch up. Even though there’s been a lot of talk about helping brands create the right content for B2B buyers, now is the time to really get it accelerated.

As Stefan said: “In B2B we’ve talked about being good at content that’s specific to the role for a long time. Now because so much is happening online we’re going to really have to put our money where our mouth is.”

Business leaders are set for a year unlike any other and it’s exciting to see what will come next.

“This is a moment not just to get so many things done, but to invest in what’s going to be ongoing disruption,” Stefan said.

“Even when this period is over, we have all of those customer disruptions on the horizon that we can’t yet recognise. There’ll never be a moment to say: ‘Alright we’re digital, we can stop now’.”