Companies must demonstrate empathy and create meaningful connection by putting humans at the center. They must deploy technology at speed to gain understanding and insight into their customers. And they need to innovate at scale by developing, deploying and delivering environmentally sensitive products and services.
To create connection, humans have to be at the center of every stage in the customer journey
We are living in a moment in time when a company’s ability to be highly empathetic, highly intimate and entirely trusted is really going to matter. Customers will remember how companies behaved during the pandemic, how they adapted and how quickly. If companies put customers at the center by demonstrating empathy, engage with them in ways that resonate and act ethically with the data they are providing, customers will remember and remain loyal.
This latter point is particularly important. Nearly three-quarters of UK consumers and two-thirds of US consumers in a global ESOMAR and HERE Technologies study3 indicate a willingness to share personal data, provided companies are transparent about their data collection practices. If companies put humans at the center, viewing customers rather than compliance as a starting point for privacy, they can create a form of value exchange whereby customers will give companies their data. In return, companies will assure their privacy, build a trusted relationship with them, and deliver a uniquely personalized experience that predicts their needs and adapts to their environment.
We are living in a moment in time when a company’s ability to be highly empathetic, highly intimate and entirely trusted is really going to matter. Customers will remember how companies behaved during the pandemic, how they adapted and how quickly.
Hyper-personalization and prediction need technology at speed
The pandemic made companies across all sectors realize that digital transformation was no longer optional — it was essential. Customers met friction in their digital journeys, and companies struggled to harness the reams of data they were gathering. As a result, 82% of participants polled in a recent EY webcast4 indicated they were accelerating digital transformation in their customer journey across a number of areas, including ecommerce, digital selling, customer journey enhancements and virtualized customer service.
Digital transformation is no longer optional82%
of participants polled in a recent EY webcast indicated they were accelerating digital transformation in their customer journey.
Companies already gather reams of data on their customers, especially now that every step of the customer journey occurs online. Many may even be using analytics and AI to gain an understanding of their customers — who they are, what they want and how they want it. However, few have mastered the ability to act on that understanding and insight by creating, rapidly deploying and delivering new experiences.
Companies need to be in the market, testing a range of different experiences that can drive value for customers. At the same time, they will want to embed AI in core processes, which will give them an opportunity to “get smarter by the second,” according to EY Global Data and Analytics Leader for Consulting Services, Beatriz Sanz Saiz. The ability to identify the problem that needs to be addressed and then aligning AI to the process and business need, will allow companies to act on the insight they’re gaining to deliver the personalized experiences customers expect.
Many companies might be using analytics and AI to gain an understanding of their customers — who they are, what they want and how they want it. However, few have mastered the ability to act on that understanding and insight by creating, rapidly deploying and delivering new experiences.
Innovation at scale can help companies adapt experiences to environment
For years, many sectors have traditionally gone through an intermediary to get their products to market. Retailers, automotive dealers, travel agencies and broadcasters are only a few examples. The next generation of companies will break the fourth wall in terms of customer interactions, moving from a B2B relationship to a direct B2C relationship. Having these direct relationships with customers will help companies build a level of intimacy, leveraging what they learn from the relationships — their preferences, their patterns of behavior — to hyper-personalize and predict what customers want.
However, to get from ideation to doorstep delivery, companies are going to need to completely reimagine their supply chains and their partner ecosystems. From linear to networked to autonomous, companies need to transform their supply chains to be data-driven, provide end-to-end visibility and engage real-time communication.
At the same time, they’ll need new business models that enable them to make real-time decisions and integrate data to source, make, sell and deliver their products through supply chains that produce them at the source of consumption. And with the right partner ecosystem, companies will have the capacity to scale, accelerate and adapt their ability to respond quickly to customer demands as they change.
Companies that put humans at the center of their customer journey can achieve customer intimacy without proximity
From a customer experience and overall business perspective, the pandemic has left many companies flat-footed. To create customer intimacy, accelerate the use of analytics and AI for hyper-personalization and prediction, and innovate at scale while adapting to changing customer demand, C-suite executives will need to devote more attention to their transformation agenda. They’ll need to leave behind the traditional sources of competitive advantage — scope, scale and efficiency — in favor of three dynamic value drivers: humans at center, technology at speed and innovation at scale.
In doing so, they’ll also be positioning their companies to demonstrate long-term value creation that can be measured in their performance with their customers, employees, and society as a whole — all of which, if done well, will return the favor in improved business performance and market sustainability.
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There has been a significant shift in customer behavior as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although some changes may be temporary, the trend toward online experiences looks set to continue. This means there is pressure on companies to redouble their efforts to deliver customer intimacy without proximity. There are already a disruptive few that are exponentially elevating customers' expectations.