High-tech digital trends in 2022

Customers want seamless, personalized experiences — now is the time to deliver

High-tech digital trends in 2022

Every year, Adobe partners with Econsultancy to identify the most important trends in the digital space. This year, we spoke with leaders from 814 B2B companies, including 442 from the high-tech industry. What we discovered was surprising — despite their overall digital maturity, many leaders from high-tech firms talked about struggling to deliver a high-quality digital customer experience even as demand for that is increasing.

More than half of high-tech respondents said they were experiencing a surge in both existing (55%) and new (52%) customers using digital channels, but they did not feel confident in their ability to meet those customer needs. When asked to describe their organization’s digital customer experience, only 10% agreed it was “ahead of customer expectations.” By comparison, 47% said that it “kept pace” with those expectations, and 43% felt it “lagged.”

The key takeaway from this year’s B2B digital trends report is this: High-tech companies need to catch up to customer expectations and make personalization and customer-led experiences a business-critical priority.

56% of those surveyed believe the emphasis on the digital experience will accelerate, even as customers return to offline channels.

Customer expectations have become more demanding and nuanced

The start of the pandemic was an inflection point for B2B tech companies and their customers, and both embraced the necessity of doing business online. Many businesses expanded their websites and provided ecommerce and digital procurement options. At the same time, B2B buyers grew accustomed to self-service buying options they experienced as consumers — and they became frustrated that their digital B2B experiences didn’t live up to the consumer-oriented websites they used for shopping at home. “As today’s work is driven by a digital-first mindset, there’s added urgency for a compelling experience at each step in a customer’s journey,” said Susie Emmerling, VP of marketing operations at ServiceNow.

This means it’s crucial to truly understand your customers’ needs wherever they are on their purchasing path. That may be as simple as providing relevant product recommendations based on previous purchases or an email reminder when a buyer has left items in her cart. “It’s like a lightbulb turns on when our customers realize that we really care about them,” says Steve Schultz, head of marketing technology at Esri.

“When we say personalized, it’s not saying, ‘Hey, Steve, thanks for visiting our site.’ I mean, that’s pretty easy personalization. But contextualized personalization is very different. How do you personalize solutions at a size of one or maybe at the size of a micro-segment? You want to fill the gaps, and you want to be subtle but very effective. And the fine line of being very effective and looking like a pushy salesperson — that's the difficult area. I'm trying to bridge how we use contextual signals to give an experience that makes the customer think, ‘Wow, that’s thoughtful.’”

Ajit Sivadasan, Vice President, Lenovo

AI and data management are essential for high-tech success

Technology is foundational in contextualizing the customer. One technology in particular, third-party cookies, has been somewhat effective in composing behavioral customer profiles. But with the impending demise of cookies, it will be more difficult to collect accurate information and place targeted ads.

This means data management, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) will become even more essential moving forward. High-tech firms that invest in and adopt these technologies effectively will be better positioned to deliver more hyper-relevant, personalized experiences.

59% of high-tech customers have made analytics, data management, and customer data platforms a top technological priority.

What will also be important over the next 12 months is getting practitioners and leadership in tech aligned on the importance of driving personalized customer experiences. B2B firms need to make sure they’re implementing the right operating approaches and investments so they can stay as connected as possible to existing customers and prospects.

“Data provides the pulse of the customer experience — the more complete picture we have of our customers at both the individual and account levels, the better we can tailor our communication. Having a unified account profile that’s updated in real time opens the door to better identity management, which reduces conflicting experiences and enhances our ability to better orchestrate engaging customer experiences.”

Scott Berns, Senior Director of Marketing Technology and Operations, Lumen Technologies

Use the technology you know to hone your focus on customer experience

With technology evolution also comes business innovation — and finding new ways to improve customer connections. For example, many high-tech companies are exploring subscription sales models to meet customer expectations for usage-based solutions and drive continuous revenue. The digital shift has essentially opened the door to new opportunities and new ways to connect with customers on an ongoing basis.

While high-tech organizations must step up their focus on delivering differentiated customer experiences, as we’ve seen, technology can help. Many of the advancements that you’ve likely already implemented in other parts of your business, like data platforms and AI, are ideally suited to increasing your understanding of your customers.

It’s an investment that will pay off long term, says Ajit. “The customer experience will only continue to increase in importance — and how well you’re positioned to act on it is going to be the difference between being a winner and loser.”

“There are huge levels of remediation to be done… during the pandemic, a huge mirror was held up to organizations. When contact centers were shut down and people were sent home, it was a very true reflection of an organization’s capability. Customers experienced how good, bad, or indifferent a company’s self-service and digital experiences were and how agile their operations were.”

Rob Allman, Vice President for Customer Experience, NTT Ltd.

Take the next step

Business buyers are changing, and your relationship with them is becoming more nuanced. It’s up to you to elevate your customer experiences if you want to remain competitive in high tech. While this will be somewhat more difficult given the pending demise of third-party cookies, the good news is that you likely have some of the technology already in place to make up for this. Using AI to find connections between other data sources can help you generate real customer insights and target your messaging across a range of different stakeholders.

Our report on high-tech digital trends can provide food for thought — and motivation to move quickly.

Read the full 2022 Digital Trends — B2B in Focus report.