Six Future-Ready Trends to Boost Your Digital Transformation

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Digital transformation has been a trend in commerce—and a theme of this column—for years now, but the 18-month-long pandemic has dramatically accelerated such efforts across industries. It is abundantly clear: There’s no going back, and it is no longer business as usual. To keep your business competitive, you should consider leveraging these six future-ready trends to raise the bar on your own digital transformation efforts.

Digital Customer Communities

In a prior CRM magazine column, I describe how companies are using private digital customer communities to create a two-way dialogue with their customers, partners, distributors and employees. These communities support peer-to-peer exchange via forums, blogs, video sharing, and more. “Ask the Expert” functions allow customers to get their questions answered quickly. The community invites customers to participate in conference rooms to discuss service or technical issues with company experts, receive training, and more. The community also has private customer rooms where the customer meets one-on-one with company execs to create and monitor, for example, the customer’s annual sales plan.

These communities drive customer engagement, satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. They also offer an effective way to nurture leads and shorten sales cycles. As customer insight is gathered in the community, these insights automatically get fed into customer profiles in your CRM system for prompt customer follow-up.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

In another CRM magazine column, I describe how AI is impacting CRM already. This includes AI’s impact on lead qualification and scoring, improved customer service via chatbots, sales forecasting based on customer behavior, enhanced decision making/predictive modeling, personalized marketing materials, and facilitation of data entry and data cleansing. Two powerful drivers—the explosion of customer and market data, and the acceptance of cloud technology that allows CRM to integrate with different data sources—assure that AI will play an increasingly important role supporting the successful implementation of your customer strategy.

Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality (VR/AR)

In my last CRM magazine column, I explain why VR/AR is a game changer for its three core applications: training, field service, and sales and marketing. Regarding sales and marketing, I share how 12 companies have applied VR/AR to shorten their sales cycle; stimulate specific business situations by providing customers with an opportunity to experience a company’s product and services virtually; entertain customers by letting them discover and explore creative uses for their products and services; simplify the way customers interact with their company leading to customer delight; and enhance decision making. It is no surprise that VR/AR tools have been predicted to be potentially the most disruptive technologies over the next decade. I firmly believe that VR/AR applications are destined to become one of the critical building blocks within CRM and the enterprise.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The IoT is a network of connected physical objects embedded with sensors (beacons, RFID, digital signage, and so on). Key applications include predictive equipment maintenance, smart transportation, demand-aware warehouses, connected consumer appliances, and smart stores. On the consumer front, the IoT has found its way into sunscreen lotion that reminds beachgoers when it is time to reapply more sunscreen; Nike footwear that helps runners achieve their personal best; clothing retailers that use smart mirrors in the dressing room to deliver a unique, personalized, fun shopping experience; and every car coming off the production line. The IoT’s role in a successful CRM program is to inform companies how customers use their products and services, allowing these companies to offer the right products and services to the right customer at the right time.

5G Technology

5G technology will be a game changer when fully available in two to three years, particularly on smart cities that consume your company’s smart products and services. By 2024, 50 percent of the global population will use 5G networks. 5G will facilitate the delivery of the four trends noted above. What makes 5G so attractive? Faster connectivity, extreme bandwidth density, ultra-low latency, and high levels of security and reliability. As you formulate your three-year customer strategy, determine how best to build capabilities into your digital products and services that leverage 5G capabilities. Customers will reward those companies delivering products and services at the speed customers expect.

Low Code

Successful digital transformation required sound business processes (e.g., complete customer profiles, customer journey mapping, closed-loop marketing, digital tracking). It also requires easy to build and modify apps and programs that support these processes. Yet too often companies face broken customer-facing processes, disconnects between IT and business, disjointed technologies, and a deficit of skilled technical resources, (e.g., app proliferation). Low-code technology allows companies to evolve and transform faster by changing the way a company develops programs internally and with its customers. Using low code, technology development extends beyond the IT department. Technologies, processes, and teams are consolidated and connected; business processes get programmed easily; and customer apps get rolled out in days or weeks. The biggest impact of low code, though: enhancing the customer experience, which of course is the Holy Grail of an effective CRM program.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president of ISM Inc. (www.ismguide.com). Since 1985, ISM has established itself as the premiere strategic advisor to organizations seeking to create and implement world-class Customer Strategies to acquire, retain and grow customers. He is a thought leader and in high demand as a keynote speaker (www.bartongoldenberg.com) and is author of four books, including his latest—The Definitive Guide to Social CRM. To continue the dialogue, call Barton at 301-656-8448.

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