Speaking at the Adobe Experience Forum, Phil Lewis, director of digital experience at Boden and James Birchall, manager of digital analytics Santander UK, spoke of the design and digital journeys their respective companies have undertaken in the past few years.
At Santander, three years ago the bank knew it had to master the digital banking experience, but as Birchall put it, the data system it had it place was "pretty bleak".
"There was limited availability and accuracy of customer experience data, just black holes, gaps that no one was bridging. The data team was pumping out lifeless summary reports that were, basically, tables in spreadsheets," Birchall said. "I needed to get the team out of this rut and into generating actionable insight."
This was compounded by a culture where many leaders had opinions and made changes without using data as a guide, or tracking how those changes affected the organisation, he continued.
This was leading to a disjointed customer experience that no one was tracking properly, Birchall said.
So while putting processes and tools in place that allowed the data team to implement data gathering, and report with insights, what was also needed was a complete cultural shift in the organisation.
"Networking matters, both internally and externally, you have to get the business behind what you’re trying to do," Birchall said.
Meanwhile at Boden, the brand was in the process of shifting its mindset from a "broadcast brand" to one that reached out to its customers and struck up a conversation, Lewis said.
According to Adobe’s Digital Trends report, which was released at the forum, organisations with a cultural environment that has a "cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives" were nearly twice as likely as their peers to be exceeding their business goals by a significant margin (20% versus 11%).
The report, published in association with Econsultancy, surveyed 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals in the US, Asia-Pacific and EMEA (including the UK) to look at the most significant trends impacting digital strategies in the short term. The respondents comprised 60% marketing professionals from the client-side and 40% from the supply-side.
Data only matters if it’s turned into customer insight
As Birchall put it, data organised in tables is "lifeless". For organisations to truly put it to use, it needs to be used to glean customer insight.
"There a maniacal focus these days on collecting data and it’s important but we need to be aware and mindful of the fact that people don’t buy or engage with us because of data or analytics. They do so because of emotion," Seán Donnelly, senior analyst, Econsultancy said during his presentation.
Beyond data on demographics and interest, brands need to learn who their customers are. "That requires new skills in marrying data and analysis with new skills of creativity and emotional intelligence," Donnelly added.
As an indication that companies truly prioritise this, in 2015 there were only 3,000 people on LinkedIn who identified themselves as chief data or digital officer. Today, there are 11,418 people with those titles, and a further 20,423 digital analysts, Donnelly said.
"In the digital trends study, 65% of respondents said improving data analytics companies was a priority for them in the coming year," he said.
Companies are also turning to AI to help them with this problem. The report found that organisations using AI tools to create real-time personalised experiences for their customers are 50% more likely to significantly exceed their business goals.
As a result, half of brands (46%) expect to adopt AI to support customer experience by the end of 2018, but 40% admit lacking required knowledge and resources to implement it.
82% of clients are bringing content in-house
This evolution of marketing has resulted in content becoming more important than advertising to companies.
"The report found that 82% of clients are looking to bring content creation in-house. This is because of the increasingly strategic nature of that content. They want people to understand the brand. It’s becoming an in-house competency," Donnelly said. "Cross-analysis of the data also found that those that brought their content in-house were 30% more likely to have exceeded their business goals last year."
Boden has had to readjust itself to stop designing content for its pages, and towards designing content for the customer, and then designing its pages to best highlight that content, Lewis shared.
"The truth is the battle for success is in the top of the funnel. Customers don’t come back for the best checkout experience in the world. They may leave you for the worst, but it’s not what brings them back," Lewis said. "Content needs to be created for the customer, not bolted on as part of the webpage."
Design-driven organisations are 69% more likely to succeed
Marrying customer experience, data and content with design is becoming a crucial skill for companies.
"The rise of new business models, such as Spotify, AirBnB and Uber, powered by digital ubiquity and design around the customer has altered customer expectations," Donnelly said.
These companies have turned their products into a service that adapts post-purchase and "wraps itself" around the customer, he said. "Take Spotify for example. I’ve been using it for a few years and now I can’t cancel my subscription because I have too much music on it, if I cancel it’s gone. They’ve locked me in."
Because these businesses have primed customers to expect smooth and intuitive service from other brands, companies that don’t meet this expectation will be "damned" online," Donnelly said.
Adobe’s study found that organisations that describe themselves as ‘design-driven’ are more 69% likely to significantly exceed their business goals.
The report also found that importance of design for company success has grown over the years. In 2015, 65% of design-driven companies outperformed other businesses and in 2017, 86% did so.
Getting a company to be digital design-driven can require a huge cultural shift, Lewis said. "You need both agile teams and an agile culture. One that’s prepared to always keep moving forward and to learn from its mistakes."
Digital transformation, he concluded, is not unlike a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. "It crawls into its cocoon, eats itself, becomes a pile of goop and finally claws its way out as a butterfly. It’s hard. But it’s worth it."