5 takeaways from the 2021 High Tech Trends Report.

The tech sector experienced more disruption in six months than in the previous decade. The 2021 High Tech Trends Report shows how technology businesses adapted in the face of change. Discover the strategies that separate the most successful firms from their competitors.

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Tech firms plan for a new future.

Years of digital transformation helped to insulate many firms from the extremes other industries faced in the pandemic. However, beyond the success stories, more than 50% of tech companies recognised challenges around customer experience (CX) as they plan for post-pandemic conditions.

Years of preparation has paid off.

Early digital transformation undoubtedly helped the tech sector cope with the pandemic. By already focusing heavily on agility, the sector was insulated from the extremes faced by other industries. In the 2021 High Tech Trends Report, we found that 63% of technology companies described themselves as offering either a flexible or collaborative work environment. This response was significantly higher than companies in other sectors. When the pandemic started, executives in the tech sector were therefore faster to respond to changes. For instance, 23% of executives said they had freedom to experiment in marketing compared to 16% in other industries. Similarly, 36% said there were unusually high levels of communication between teams compared to 25% in other industries. These advantages are likely related to years of already embracing digital transformation.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

The tech sector is well-positioned compared to peers across other industry sectors. Having already undertaken the first wave of digital transformation, technology businesses should now focus on improving customer experience (CX).

There’s still work to do on CX.

We know that the quality of customer experience is now a key differentiator and a driver of brand loyalty. If anything, the pandemic has amplified this trend. In the tech sector, 28% of companies described their CX maturity as ‘very advanced’ compared to 17% in other industries. However, almost half of the companies we surveyed admitted they still had work to do in this area. To achieve great CX, companies must continue to improve data quality and customer insights. When we asked tech firms about their priorities for 2021, three things were mentioned again and again: Improving digital capabilities and skills of their marketing teams, using AI to improve operational efficiency and creating a single view of the customer. One of the common barriers to achieving this final goal is siloed business functions. In some cases, departments are either unwilling or unable to share the data necessary to achieve a unified view - and that’s holding many firms back.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

The number of cyber-attacks on cloud servers increased by 600% between January and April 2020. As companies gather more data to improve CX, the industry needs to address these immediate security threats.

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Bridging sales and marketing.

When it comes to internal communication, one of the key relationships for 2021 is between sales and marketing. Expect the line between these two roles to become even more blurred, especially as customer journeys become increasingly digital. The challenge is that customers expect a coherent and consistent brand experience - whether they’re browsing a website or visiting a shop. Any interaction should be informed by a complete history of their experience with the business, their current position in the buying process and their device preference at that precise moment. Many companies are addressing this through Account-Based Marketing. This is a B2B sales and marketing strategy that requires both teams to collectively engage specific target accounts that are considered a good fit for the products/services sold by the brand. In the 2021 High Tech Trends Report, we found that 70% of businesses already use this approach with 45% having used it for more than a year.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

Tech firms need to plan for a future where customer journeys are a hybrid between in-person and digital interactions. Combining sales and marketing allows brands to create more meaningful and personalised experiences.

Partnership is the crucial strategy.

There was a clear consensus on the most important strategic move for 2021. Almost half of tech firms said that partnerships will dominate their strategic agenda. Regardless of the business size, it’s almost impossible for companies to offer every solution their customers might need. For small players in the tech sector, partnering with big suppliers can also help them to reach larger clients. This approach also helps to reduce churn because they are part of a complete martech ecosystem and are therefore unlikely to be replaced unless the client changes their entire stack. There’s even an upside for customers - partnerships promise better quality in every element of the ecosystem without the need for IT to integrate multiple solutions. Tech firms that embrace partnerships can potentially reduce friction for customers and reduce their own vulnerability to competition.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

Until recently, strategic discussions typically began with the question: ‘Should we buy or build?’ As brands continue to adopt a collaborative strategy, that question should be: ‘Should I buy, build or partner?’

How top-performers are handling change.

Arguably the most important insight from the 2021 High Tech Trends Report is the difference between the best performing companies and the rest. We compared executives working in organisations that significantly outperformed their competitors over the last six months of 2020 with companies that simply kept pace or underperformed. At first glance, the top-performing companies are defined by their perceived customer experience (CX) maturity. 56% of leaders rated their strategy and technology alignment as being ‘very advanced’ compared to 19% of the mainstream. The result is that the most successful companies are infusing data science into their approaches to understand more about their customers’ journeys and behaviours, giving them a major advantage throughout the pandemic. 44% of top-performing firms said they have significant insight into the mindset of their customers compared to just 25% of mainstream firms.

Our top recommendation for 2021:

The firms that move fastest are the ones that will thrive. Every change made by a business - to its structure, its technology, its go-to-market strategy - should be driven by the need to deliver greater agility.

What tech firms are planning for 2021.

of mainstream technology businesses said that strategic partnerships and multiplayer alliances will enable them to achieve growth objectives.

said that improving digital capabilities and skills of marketing teams was an operational priority for the year ahead.

said that workflow issues were a barrier to better marketing and customer experiences, while 33% said legacy systems were a problem.

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