2020 has quickly accelerated trends that were already on the horizon. 92% of senior executives agreed that the lockdown period increased the priority of digital transformation. In the 2021 Digital Trends Report, senior leaders share their insights of working through this turbulent period.
In just one year, digital adoption has happened at five to ten times the projected rate. Lockdown periods, economic uncertainty and loss of predictability have forced customers and businesses online in previously unseen numbers. This migration has upset the power balance, with customers now more in control of the relationship and less loyal to brands and products. On top of that, 60% of companies have seen new buying behaviours such as changes to average basket size and product interests. Pandemic disruption has also placed a strain on the b2b sector, causing many businesses to demand a similar level of convenience to consumers. Although Adobe has been emphasising the importance of customer experience for years, companies that had already invested in CX flourished in the second half of 2020. When we return to normal, there’s no question that the new normal will be digital.
2020 will go down as the year that marketing was pulled into the boardroom. 80% of senior executives said the role of marketing in setting strategy has expanded since the pandemic. Traditional consumers have moved online, making the digital environment even more important right now. This priority has raised the profile of marketing as companies scramble to understand the digital-first consumer. The battleground for 2021 will be about speed and agility. Now that many companies have treasure troves of data, the difference is how fast they can personalise the experience and respond to consumer behaviour. Expect to see more investment and innovation in technology infrastructure alongside marketing.
Businesses had no choice but to respond quickly to challenging conditions. Although not formally classed as ‘agile’, the twists and turns of the pandemic have required executives to innovate on the fly and collaborate to get things done. This has been compounded by working from home, which has cut out distractions and created more time for ‘deep thinking’. For companies like Acxiom, giving people more autonomy to take action and experiment has allowed them to better serve clients and onboard talent. On the other hand, larger businesses are more reluctant to adopt this approach in the long-term; only 28% of companies generating more than 100 million pounds turnover plan to continue to be agile, compared with 50% of medium-sized businesses. Regardless of headcount, a return to more stable trading conditions shouldn’t mean running back to the standard practices and silos that previously slowed marketers down.