Digital Trends 2021 Deep Dive: Assess Where You Are to Get Ahead

There’s no shortage of new digital technologies that have the potential to elevate your brand.

The temptation to engage advanced tools and platforms at the get-go is significant. However, for 2021, I recommend you pause and evaluate where you are, in order to ultimately get ahead. Below are three vital aspects your business needs to get right before implementing new technologies.

Nail the basics

Make sure your CX is valuable before you power it with tech.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen a lot of companies spend an enormous amount of time and effort building consumer digital platforms they’re not getting full value out of. And when the pandemic moved almost every aspect of our lives online, many businesses were faced with a harsh reality: the digital platforms they invested so much in couldn’t keep up with evolving customer experience expectations. 

I recently witnessed a large retailer with hundreds of locations and millions of customers make a move towards online sales. The problem? The e-commerce site they built sold their services, but not their products. And because the two go hand-in-hand, online customers were forced to also visit a brick and mortar outlet to get the full package. This CX gap ultimately affected their bottom-line as frustrated shoppers turned to the competition.

The rapidly changing landscape of 2020 also led to many brands hopping on the latest trend bandwagon without having their core strategies in place. Technology like AI and gamification are great add-ons to a good experience, but they don’t create one. A good experience comes when you align foundational pillars like data analytics, content marketing, and personalization systems with a customer-first mindset. 

Spending part of 2021 cementing these pillars will generate more ROI and value than adding any new features and functionality will.

Hire a CDO who can break down silos

Silos have a negative impact on every single aspect of your business.

It’s tempting to fill the role of Chief Digital Officer (CDO) with the most technologically savvy applicant who wrote the book (possibly literally) on progressive tech. While this is a good start, I believe the most important skill a CDO must possess is the ability to break down silos and create a unified digital vision for your brand.

Let’s talk about data silos specifically, because this lack of information sharing is affecting the big picture more than you might realize. Now visualize your sales funnel. Various business units contribute numbers that ultimately zero-in on business won and revenue generated. But if none of these units share data, the numbers transitioning from one stage to the next won’t make complete sense – and you’ll have to start your analysis from the very beginning, every single time.

Data silos are generally a result of larger business silos, and they make it nearly impossible to connect data streams into a single view. Without a solitary view, your department heads aren’t analyzing data holistically when making critical business decisions. Forgive another book analogy, but you wouldn’t commission several authors to each write one chapter of a story and hope for a happy ending, would you? So ensure your CDO makes it their mission to break down business silos, and data silos will crumble as well.

Use data correctly

Collecting data is the easy part – use it properly to see results.

Successfully eliminating silos won’t happen overnight. So while your CDO works toward a more integrated organization, it’s imperative that you use the data you’re collecting (and there should be a lot) correctly.

Properly analyzed data should affect almost everything your brand does – from the content you create, to the customer experiences you offer, to the products and services you design. This ties in with nailing your basics. Data should feed the strategy behind content marketing and personalization. Cater your content to topics you can prove are resonating; improve your CX based on what customers are saying about your brand; and refine the thing you put out into the world based on real-life wants and needs.

The key when making these data-based decisions is to not focus on perfection – and don’t put all your eggs in one basket, either. Waiting for the perfect course of action can leave you in a state of uncertainty, often referred to as analysis paralysis. Make smaller decisions that result in incremental changes and provide measurable results. If you like what you see, continue down that path. If the changes aren’t delivering what you want, correct course and try something else. Either way, it’s progress.

Now, of course it’s not as simple as collecting data, analyzing it with the appropriate software, and boom – a successful and sustainable product comes out. Data and technology will never eliminate the need for good old-fashioned instinct. The most successful decision-makers use data to inform their gut, never losing sight of the human aspect, and consistently ask themselves if they’re creating the experiences they want their customers to have.

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