CEO of Invoca. Seasoned digital marketing and SaaS leader with over 15 years’ experience bringing products to market in emerging categories.
So far in 2020, the only consistency in marketing has been constant, jarring change. Covid-19 fears and closures, urgent racial justice concerns, and unstable economic conditions have necessitated rapid shifts in priorities, investments and messaging to customers. It has never been clearer that flexibility and immediacy need to drive marketing strategies going forward to earn and keep customer trust.
In this environment, many organizations have had to radically rethink how they do business, and the most extraordinary acts of agility in marketing now are related to digital transformation. A recent study by Twilio found that Covid-19 accelerated companies’ digital transformation and communications strategies by an average of six years. Yearslong roadmaps shrunk to weeks in order to reach customers effectively during shelter-in-place. Companies that relied heavily on in-person communication found creative new ways to replicate these interactions virtually.
In industries where high-touch human interaction is key to success, technology is helping brands lean into digital experiences that effectively hand off consumers to a live person at exactly the right time. A lot of this work was happening before the crisis, of course, but the abrupt shift online in virtually every area of life highlights the mounting value of these technologies.
New digital strategies
Some of this rapid digital transformation has come in the form of a considerable pivot brought on by necessity. For example, in healthcare, organizations that had debated deploying telehealth capabilities for years made these capabilities available to patients in a matter of weeks due to Covid-19.
In a similar vein, companies in the home improvement space are leveraging interactive digital tools like room visualizers that allow a customer to upload pictures of their home and see exactly what it will look like after services are completed. This means turning what was once a mostly in-person process to one that is fully digital, while still retaining the human-to-human relationship that makes customers comfortable with making larger investments in their homes.
In other cases, nuanced digital improvements are much less obvious to the customer but still significantly impact the experience. Some healthcare companies are optimizing the ability to accurately screen patients online by changing their websites every day in response to new knowledge. A team at a senior care facility conducted a full website review and found many images of residents and caregivers embracing and doing things in close physical proximity, which were problematic in light of Covid-19 health concerns.
Beyond applying technology in a smarter way, companies can take advantage of evolving AI-powered tools to pinpoint friction in the digital user experience in order to improve it or intercede with a live human connection at exactly the right time. For instance, my company, Invoca, recently partnered with a customer experience platform so that companies can use the combination of conversational analytics from phone calls and digital interaction data to uncover when and why consumers abandon digital experiences and reach out for help over the phone.
Bridging the digital divide
For companies that use legacy systems and rely heavily on phone or in-person conversations to do business, digital transformation is inevitable — people were already conducting more and more business virtually, and the pandemic made the ability to do so indispensable. A recent JD Power study, for example, found that, for the first time in 20 years, a company’s website was more important to customers’ satisfaction with auto insurer interactions than the agent was. Companies that are getting by with quick fixes and not investing in digital-first sales and commerce will be left behind.
Even in cases when a human conversation is irreplaceable, the ability to combine data from different touch points is critical to meeting customers where they are. People increasingly want to do as much as possible online and then be able to connect with a person exactly when they feel they need one — not sooner, and not later.
A positive home services quote experience, for example, would be for a customer to fill out an online form with job basics, be able to book a consultation immediately online, and get text or email reminders with a one-touch link to contact the contractor by phone. The customer would also get updates, an estimate and an online-payable invoice all through the same messaging thread. And this system should still work similarly for customers who want to start with a phone call because of the size of the expense or complexity of the project.
This kind of seamless digital-to-analog experience is rare in many traditionally high-touch industries, but companies that adopt it are likely to win customers’ business.
At a time when much of the world quickly moved online, the forward motion in adaptable digital experiences will arguably have the biggest long-term effect on marketing and customer relationships. New tools and virtual environments will help improve experiences in overt and understated but important ways. These efforts may or may not make marketing news, but they will make customers’ lives better, which is always a win for a brand.
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