In 2021, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 will make harnessing both customers’ and employees’ passions an under-tapped strategy to driving bottom-line ROI and love for your brand.
Innovate with human purpose
Right now, brands are looking at emerging technologies and how the customer experience needs to evolve during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There’s one key question Allison Humphries, VP Strategy at Appnovation, thinks they need to ask: Are you genuinely innovating to improve peoples’ lives, or are you innovating just for the sake of it?
“Innovation in 2021 must have a human purpose. Organizations that are siloed by nature haven’t traditionally done a lot to mobilize around their customers, yet it’s imperative for fostering meaningful innovation,” Humphries says.
Sound familiar? Her advice to address this common problem includes:
- Don’t make assumptions. Combine data and research to form your foundation for understanding customer behaviour.
- Actively listen to your customers to know what to prioritize and how to respond to your customers’ evolving needs.
- Scrutinize the customer journey to find opportunities to digitize moments where physical interactions are no longer necessary or where customers are craving simple, seamless touchpoints with your brand.
Andrew Dunbar, General Manager, EMEA at Appnovation, adds that connecting to customers through values, and through empathy, will continue to be crucial.
“The sheer volume of online advertising means that brands simply need to work harder to give their target audience reasons not to scroll past their content. By focusing on specific topic points over stand-alone product positioning, or generic surface messaging, you’ll set yourself up to create meaningful engagement that attracts, and later retains, your key customers,” Dunbar advises.
Drive new ROI with the power of EX
A focus on employee experience (EX) will be critical to fresh brand growth in 2021. Gone are the days when marketing teams alone steered the external perception of their brand.
Boosting employee experience isn’t just about attraction and retention. EX is also about ROI. Companies with highly-engaged workforces see a measurable bottom-line impact, significantly outperforming their peers and making their organizations stand out during a time of disruption.
“We’ve evolved through the importance of UX to CX…and tapping into the value of the employee experience is the next ‘X’ in 2021. Many of the key strategies we use as foundations for CX can easily apply to EX as well,” says Anton Morrison, VP Experience Design at Appnovation.
As companies adapt to massive changes in the way they work, they must move quickly to redefine workforce strategies and reimagine the employee experience.
“The next step is proactively looking at how to bring the employee and customer relationships even closer. How do we set up the foundations of a company so that both groups deeply feel the same passion for the purpose of an organization?”
Using the right tech to enable online collaboration is key to EX, adds Yvette Yanne, General Manager, APAC at Appnovation.
“With all of the restrictions put on physical interactions, online touchpoints have become the primary contact point with customers. The same reality is now mirrored in the ways we work internally. Knowing that employees are also customers and customers are also employees, we have a window to look into how all of these behavior shifts impact each other,” explains Yanne.
Now is the right time to test-and-learn
For Humphries, the start of 2021 is the perfect time to strategically test and learn so brands can edge their way into uncertain times without losing business momentum.
“In 2020, everything went out the window as brands understandably focused on what they needed to do to survive day-to-day. Now's the time to test new customer-centric approaches and experiment in small, but highly measured ways, instead of being overwhelmed by massive transformation all at once,” notes Humphries.
Agile testing doesn’t mean slowing down on speed to market. To achieve this, Humphries partners with her clients to find balance.
“Once again, this is where data is key. For those smaller experiments, a smart measurement plan will enable you to track performance more accurately in a shorter timeframe. This can, and should, happen concurrently with your larger, more long-term transformation goals. You don’t have to give up one for the other.”
Ethical design evolves beyond accessibility
In 2020, community and societal reactions to stopping the spread of COVID-19 also fostered greater awareness around ethics and sustainability. As a society, we contended with thinking about our impact on the world through a broader ethical lens.
Morrison sees this burgeoning awareness transferring directly to businesses and thinks it will be a core element of how they function in 2021 and beyond.
“The new lens is to know that just because we can build something doesn’t automatically mean we should. There are ways we can bring this thinking into our design toolkits and day-to-day methodologies to evolve our way of working. We have to add an ethical and sustainability point-of-view with the same importance we already do with the overall viability and ROI potential of any new product.”