CRM Evolution 2016: Great Digital Experiences Can Require a Culture Change

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Adapting company culture in order to provide customers with a better digital experience was the major theme for marketers on the second day of CRM Evolution 2016. Brian Solis, digital marketing analyst and principal at the research and advisory firm Altimeter Group, centered in his morning keynote on this idea, and the day’s marketing sessions approached it in different ways.

Solis identified three key elements of digital transformation: understanding digital customer experience, transforming company vision and leadership, and building a digital transformation team. He stressed that customers do not see mobile as simply a single channel: “To them, mobile is not a device—to them, mobile is a lifestyle…everything on that small screen is how they interact with the world, yet many of us are still designing off of processes that were invented before the Internet, and it’s time that we evolve that.”

According to Solis, a major problem many companies face is that executives are not digitally literate. “They complain about all new aspects of technology or they belittle it,” he says, suggesting that a kind of “reverse mentoring” is necessary to change executives’ attitudes. Furthermore, he notes, many companies are risk averse overall. “I’ll talk to any company, especially those in finance or insurance or pharmaceuticals or healthcare, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, but we’re regulated.’…The most interesting companies I’ve found don’t just challenge regulation, they look for ways to partner with regulators to find ways of ‘How do we innovate, if your customers or our patients or our stakeholders are evolving.’…They find ways to work together.” Solis notes that this kind of collaboration is needed to bend culture.

Sheryl Kingstone, research director at 451 Research, posited a four-pronged strategy for digital transformation during her session “Digital Transformation in the Age of the Mobile Customer.” According to Kingstone, digital transformation is “the investment in new digital technologies and processes to more effectively engage customers, partners, or employees,” and her framework incorporates digital operations, digital experience, digital organization, and digital platforms. She says that digital operations need to be real-time and prescriptive, the digital experience needs to be mobile-first and promote omnichannel engagement, digital organization needs to influence overall company strategy and executive leadership—and have an overall disruptive attitude—and digital platforms need to include a cloud infrastructure and embedded machine learning.

Brian Border, senior director of CRM Marketing at Shutterfly, stressed that companies should provide customers with a consistent, seamless experience across all channels. “[You] need to expect that the same consumer may want to take different paths from start to finish at different points, so every time they purchase, it may look different.” He noted that 78 percent of customers say they don’t receive a consistent experience across channels, 74 percent reported being frustrated by irrelevant site content, and 94 percent have discontinued communication or a relationship with a company because they were receiving irrelevant promotions, messages, and other interactions. These numbers are representative of the need for companies to undergo a digital transformation, starting with their own culture, to promote a customer-first digital experience.

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