Make the digital economy personal
The shift to digital over the past two years has been unprecedented — driven by necessity in the heart of the pandemic and with no going back. I’ve seen this first-hand with our own digital business and heard it again and again in conversations with the largest brands across industries and around the world.
As commerce, communication, entertainment, and our own day-to-day personal interactions have gone digital-first, a distinct economy has emerged. According to the Adobe Digital Price Index, based on analysis through Adobe Analytics of one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites and more than 100 million SKUs in 18 product categories, this Digital Economy is expected to surpass $1 trillion this year in the U.S. alone. Indeed, that is enough to make any CEO sit up and take notice.
While the Digital Economy is already driving significant growth for some around the world today, the question remains: How does every brand — large and small, traditional and cutting-edge — unlock this massive opportunity? Just like the IRL economy, the answer lies in a single word: experience.
While in-person experiences will always be important, no debate there, new research indicates that consumers around the world now say digital experiences are just as important in building trusted relationships with brands. And for most Gen Z and Millennial consumers, digital experiences are now even more important to build this critical trust than their in-person counterparts.
That said, not just any old experience will do. Today, consumers rightfully expect digital interactions to feel fast, easy, safe, familiar, and, ultimately satisfying. In other words, personal. And to achieve that feeling, they must be timely, automated, relevant, connected, and actionable.
To be clear, I’m not referring to the “personalization” brands have been delivering for years. This is about more than delivering a relevant experience to the right customer through the right channel. Today and going forward, success will be defined by a new standard: the ability to achieve personalization at scale.
That means delivering relevant experiences in real time for every customer on every channel—both online and offline—including the immersive experiences that are beginning to define the next generation. All of this to millions of customers. In milliseconds. Simple? No. Very much possible? One hundred percent.
These kinds of personal and empathetic experiences earn trust and cement relationships because they honor preference and privacy, and consistently offer value—both to consumers in a B2C model and customers in B2B. And while your stakeholders in the digital economy will increasingly demand this level of personalization, scaling to deliver it will require ruthless prioritization of three critical building blocks.
Common and comprehensive understanding of the customer
First and foremost, it requires a deep understanding of your customer, which all comes down to data: real-time, actionable experience data. Collecting customer data—rich, first-party data with explicit consent—from across your enterprise, and then organizing, governing and surfacing business-changing insights is the foundation for the well-informed, split-second actions that make experiences personal and valuable.
“Customers want to know that they aren’t just a number or a dollar amount on a company’s bottom line,” says Andrea Pennycooke, SVP, Head of Digital Discovery, Marketing Technology & Digital Commerce at Truist Financial Corporation, a purpose-driven financial services company committed to inspiring and building better lives and communities. “The most trusted brands are those that invest in learning about their clients – their likes, dislikes, preferences, etc. and meeting them where they are. And that may look different for different customers, but the best companies are those that offer differentiated experiences to meet the needs of each of their customers.”
Customer data platforms, often referred to as “CDPs,” unite data into a single profile to power experiences, including web- and app-based personalization that meets customers at the moment of their next step in a journey with you. The most advanced among them streamline data collection, enrichment and distribution with fast, low-code implementation and geographically distributed servers that enable fast dissemination with high fidelity. If that all sounds like too much jargon, here’s the point: it must be done instantaneously.
If brands are indeed going to reach millions of customers with personal experiences in milliseconds, they need a high-speed content engine that can operate at velocity across creation, access, delivery, and optimization. This is the second crucial building block on the path to success. It’s also perhaps the most complex and challenging.
Content velocity demands that a web of people, processes and technologies are fully aligned, able to collaborate and empowered with insights to deliver the right content to every individual person, every time.
A high-speed content engine can address each of these significant obstacles—connecting creative and marketing teams and automating workflows. Best-in-class here means having asset management fueled by AI, allowing teams to quickly create and repurpose content and deliver unique experiences while increasing engagement, conversion, and order value in less time. Alongside it, the right analytics provide insights into how content is performing, helping to optimize campaigns and ensuring content creates a personal and valuable connection.
Seamless customer journeys
With comprehensive data flowing in real-time and your content engine humming along at speed, making customer experiences personal at scale comes down to providing a seamless journey for every customer that is well-orchestrated, connected, consistent, and, of course, shoppable.
This last mile means expertly managing the customer journey, from the first moment a consumer or customer interacts with your brand to each touch point that follows, whether online, on mobile, via chat or a phone call and, of course, in person.
The best do so by ensuring direct and immediate access to that single source of customer truth via a real-time CDP. And through the ability to dynamically build, enrich, refine, and activate audiences while also determining the best content, offers and messages to deliver them at every point in their journey. Of course, the end result of a successful journey is very often a completed transaction through digital commerce. It’s about brands ensuring the capability to make every experience “shoppable” and also intelligent, with AI helping guide based on attributes like customer behavior, product features and popular trends.
Where to next?
The enormous shift to digital has been the catalyst for people across the globe to reimagine what the future might look like—everything from their own life choices to the future of work and how business itself will adapt. The sheer magnitude and impact will be massive. In the digital economy, success will ultimately pivot on the quality of experiences and the manner in which they’re delivered. The companies that survive and thrive will be those that take (the right) action now. It’s an incredibly exciting time and the possibilities are quite endless.
This piece was also published in Fortune.