How digital transformation can beat the Covid blues

David TaylorThe marketing industry has been transformed exponentially by the coronavirus pandemic, but as businesses across the UK begin to formulate strategies for post-lockdown growth, there are a number of key approaches that will enable brands to emerge stronger following a period of dormancy.

And, despite having to navigate through a prolonged period of disquietude, chief marketing officers have proven remarkably resilient and innovative in their approach to promoting brands and communicating with anxious customers in a time of extreme uncertainty.

Much like the pandemic has completely transformed how people live their lives, it has also brought about a marked shift in how organisations engage customers. Digital touchpoints have been the key enabler for effective multi-channel marketing strategies in an age of global lockdowns and remote working – be that social commerce, or immersive AR and VR-powered customer experiences, or even highly interactive smart apps.

Admittedly, however, in a bid to achieve such digital proficiency across numerous channels several hard lessons have been learned, particularly at the onset of the pandemic.

A high dependency on digital channels to maintain customer connections, for instance, has only served to highlight that many brands were simply not far enough along their digital journey to seamlessly embrace the advanced technologies necessary to make the transition to digital-first – particularly when it was required to be done at such pace.

Barriers to progression
Even those with established digital channels have faced challenges when attempting to take sales and service delivery exclusively online. While traditional barriers have remained, such as convoluted legacy composition tools and IT systems and siloed marketing channels leading to customer journey disconnect – with 58% of consumers claiming they feel like they’re communicating with separate departments and not one company across multiple touchpoints – new ones have emerged.

As digitally-driven strategies prevail, a lack of enabled mobile technology and limited automated communication delivery have also played a significant role in impeding the adoption of digital communications. Similarly, scaling innovation across the whole business, once the leading-edge technologies and marketing strategies that work and deliver meaningful changes for customers have been identified, remains a significant hurdle.

It is crucial that any adaptations to marketing processes, or digital innovations, reflect market changes and react to evolving customer demands – as opposed to customers having to acclimatise to new processes. Naturally this makes speed, agility and flexibility crucial qualities for marketing professionals to harness during these unprecedented times.

A fundamental change
It is crucial that an effective digital experience strategy is underpinned by a cohesive eco-system of leading-edge technologies. Employing a single, centralised system of this nature will not only provide the delivery infrastructure to support future-proofed communications, but also unify fragmented communications technologies across the breadth of an organisation.

Only once this is achieved, can businesses begin to invest in the appropriate technology, data and analytical platforms to form an accurate picture of each individual customer – including their behaviours and channel preferences – and deliver tailored communications across all digital channels rapidly and cost-effectively.

Of course, having the right talent in the workforce with the digital proficiency to drive digital transformation can be as important as the technology itself. While marketers need the tools to succeed, they must also be empowered to make decisions, solve problems and be the driving force behind an organisation’s present and future efforts.

The positive news for today’s marketing professionals is the capabilities of an experienced customer communications partner – much like an external marketing agency – can seamlessly support peaks and transformations in business operations.

Supported by an expert team, the fundamental shift from the consolidated marketing strategies implemented during lockdown, to approaches that hone in on digital opportunities as business continuity begins, can be managed quickly, efficiently, and perhaps most crucially cost effectively. All of this while maintaining complete visibility of all communications and activity.

David Taylor is executive director at Paragon Customer Communications

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