• December 2, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Digital Agility Will Be the Key to Continuity in 2021

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As this issue of CRM magazine wraps, the country is in great turmoil. The presidential election results are still being disputed. Coronavirus cases continue to mount, and just as businesses started reopening their doors after months of shutdowns, a second round of restrictions have already begun. Thanksgiving was all but canceled in many states, and the holiday shopping season is inevitably going to look very different this year.

I like to think of myself as something of an optimist, but I firmly believe that in 2021, companies will continue to struggle. They must prepare for a marketing, sales, and service ecosystem where valuable customer data becomes harder to get, use, and share, all while navigating continued lockdowns, expected tax hikes, tighter government regulations, reduced budgets and head counts, and increasing competition for consumers who today have more time to comparison-shop and less money to spend.

To say that COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the economy and the worldwide business climate would be an understatement. But while in-person commerce has suffered greatly, online business has boomed. I need look no further than all of the brown cardboard boxes with the blue smile in the mailroom of my apartment building for proof of that.

I’m not going out on a limb to say that digital is here to stay; it has become the primary means of interaction for most consumers and businesses, and I suspect that it’s going to remain this way for the foreseeable future.

The pandemic has shown that just about anything that can be done in person can be done digitally, and to fully participate in this new digital economy, companies need a presence online. It’s a good idea to invest in new online channels, such as webchat, to allow customers and prospects to engage with you before they buy and to fully address their product questions and concerns thereafter.

But it’s not nearly enough to launch a website with all sorts of bells and whistles; if customers can’t find your site, it does your company little good.

Key to a successful online business is a solid search engine optimization (SEO) foundation, which our cover story, “SEO Success Is a Moving Target, But Good Content Will Always Be Crucial,” provides.

The article rightly points out that “the science of SEO comes down to one simple fact: Creating strategic, well-written content that caters to readers’ needs is the best way to ensure high rankings.”

The article also points out that the SEO algorithms constantly change, so companies need to be agile enough to adapt when the need and opportunity arise.

To help businesses become more agile in their marketing and sales activities, I interviewed one of the pioneers of agile marketing, Jim Ewel, for the Required Reading column in this issue. The column, which is based on Ewel’s new book, The Six Disciplines of Agile Marketing: Proven Practices for More Effective Marketing and Better Business Results, outlines six disciplines and four organizational shifts that companies should implement to become more agile.

Business agility requires the ability to identify what is working and incorporate it into business operations. Both business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies have come up with some winning strategies, and businesses would do well to learn from their successes. Our feature story “Whether B2B or B2C, Buyers Are Still Human” highlights some of those successes and how to apply them.

Based on the progress companies have made in improving their customer experiences just in the past few months since the pandemic began, I can safely predict that 2021 holds some promise as well. Moving into the new year, we will continue to see an increased interest in cloud-based apps that make working from home or hybrid work among teams more efficient, safe, and reliable. Consumers and businesses alike were initially apprehensive about this new way of doing things, but automation has been winning them over gradually. Over time, we will certainly get more comfortable with new technologies, like artificial intelligence, virtual assistants, augmented and virtual reality, and collaboration and virtual meeting apps, particularly as they evolve and improve. And I am confident that they will evolve and improve greatly in 2021 as we (hopefully) put coronavirus behind us.

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