Hi Nick, please tell us about your role at Sitecore and how your role changed in the last 6-8 months at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis?
I’m currently the Regional Vice President, Asia at Sitecore. I lead our presence in the region with the goal of helping businesses and government agencies elevate the digital experience (DX) of their customers by adopting tailored and cutting-edge software solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has massively accelerated digital change, pushing many companies to go online overnight in a bid to reach their customers amidst movement restrictions. But beyond just surviving the pandemic, many are now tapping on digital solutions as a way to stay ahead of competition by not only optimising but future-proofing their businesses. As a result, a seamless, engaging and effective digital customer experience has naturally become a key competitive differentiator across industries. The speed at which the market is evolving has had all of us at Sitecore hard at work, supporting businesses in the region as they accelerate and refocus their digital transformation to keep up with changing customer needs.
Consumers are getting “social” with brands online. What are the major factors driving this shift in social commerce?
As discussed, pandemic-induced social distancing measures and nationwide lockdowns have played a major role in pushing businesses, particularly those in retail, to not only explore every digital avenue available to them but also create a customer experience that sets them apart. On the consumer side, these movement restrictions have dramatically accelerated the number of people going online, and then using the internet to access social media as well as shop online, be it for groceries or leisure items.
Over the last 8-10 months, the convenience and reliability of e-commerce and digital transactions has become increasingly normalised. However, most digital consumers like to do their research before shopping online, and often rely on social media to gain information on products either through trusted influencers or community posts. The rise of social commerce is then a natural intersection of e-commerce and social media, where both social platforms and brands have begun to work together more closely to allow consumers to seamlessly discover, research and purchase their items all in one place.
How much have consumer experience benchmarks evolved with AI-based recommendations and mobile advertising techniques?
DX is ultimately powered by the technologies that businesses deploy. Progressive businesses with mature DX capabilities have a clear understanding that a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is only the starting point for managing and improving digital experiences. To further advance and boost customer experience, the digital platform will need to be integrated with all other elements of the marketing and enterprise technology stack. This helps to drive more automated processes and seamless personalisation for customers.
One such example is the integration of AI, which is a technology that is powering the ability of brands to provide highly personalised recommendations feature that is quickly becoming the gold standard in DX. However, AI is not a silver bullet which will magically transform CX. For AI to work effectively, it needs a foundation of useful data. Technologies such as machine learning and AI take aggregated behavioural data and provide recommendations which could be personalised to a point that it nearly mimics human interactions. To effectively integrate AI solutions, businesses will need to set up a foundational data collection solution, like a DXP, that pulls all the data together and serves as a single source of accurate and actionable information.
Sitecore is a champion in CX management. How do you see these CX Management trends playing out regionally– for example, how are CX trends in the US / Canada different from those in EMEA and APAC?
Despite the accelerated use of digital technologies for customer interactions as a result of the pandemic, DX maturity is still relatively low in the ASEAN region. The region tracked an overall average DX maturity score of 2 out of 5 – based on Sitecore’s Digital Experience Maturity Model (DXMM) assessment. Nevertheless, the findings illustrate commendable digital adoption efforts in the region with many encouraging areas of potential, including more investment into building digital experiences that are not only easy and effective for customers but also memorable enough to earn their loyalty.
Tell us more about your recent survey on DX maturity and how e-commerce marketers and retail analysts use the findings to plan their customer acquisition budgets during the Holiday Shopping and New Year seasons?
Based on our research, the retail industry is second only to the Banking and Financial Services industry (BFSI) in terms of leading DX maturity in the region. Many retailers continue to be impacted by disruptions in the market, mounting competition and the changing use of real estate, pushing them to continuously reinvent their digital customer experience to keep up with shifting consumer preferences and behaviour.
Our research also shows that retailers appear to be focused on personalisation across different channels. During the hyper-competitive holiday shopping season, where a lot of purchasing will continue to happen online, personalisation will be an important differentiator. The industry will now have to cater to consumers who have acquired digital habits like buying directly from home through eCommerce platforms. They will expect their customer experience online to be seamless, personalised and effective from retailers, which the industry must be prepared for.
What are your predictions for online retail commerce and mobile payments industries – which technologies should every marketer adopt to make their campaigns work in 2021?
Today, customers demand a CX that shows them that the brand knows them well and understands their preferences. In order to meet this demand, businesses will need to be able to create personalised experiences. However, to actually produce those experiences is often easier said than done. Brands require massive amounts of data, technology, and expertise if they are to support Marketing and IT teams to continuously build easy, effective and seamless digital experiences.
As a start, organisations should consider housing their CX on a reliable cloud hosting environment that can enable their team to manage and scale experiences quickly — without worrying about downtime. It is also ideal to deploy technology stacks built to support a continuous delivery model which support teams in making changes at the speed the marketing team desires. Lastly, advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms help marketing teams work more efficiently by providing automated personalisation and then supplying insights on the outcome of the personalisation.
What are the benefits for ASEAN businesses stand to gain from successful implementation of digital experiences?
The term DX refers to the sum total of all the online interactions a customer has with a brand. It may start with the company website but could also include mobile apps, chat bots, social media, and any other channels with virtual touchpoints.
In the coming years, customers assert that they will pay more for a great experience. More than prices or products, experiences that spark positive and powerful emotions will shape buying patterns and brand loyalty. An outstanding digital customer experience is thus a mission-critical differentiator for every business. Brands that combine the three essential elements of great products, powerful digital experiences, and memorable human connections will have customers who are more engaged, satisfied, and loyal. Some additional success metrics include:
- Higher customer retention
- Reduced customer churn rates
- Higher lifetime customer value
- Greater brand equity
- Reduced costs of service
What are some of the key recommendations for ASEAN businesses to leverage DX to boost customer experience?
In order for businesses to improve their overall DX maturity and enhance CX, businesses across ASEAN should focus on five capabilities.
- Executives should drive the vision – Senior managers need to be behind digital transformation strategy and fully supportive of the DX they offer to customers. Without strong leadership, many worthy and impactful initiatives cannot deliver on their full promise.
- Motivate people and improve processes – Businesses need to create processes and teams to support the continuous improvement of digital experiences. It is essential to keep in mind that humans still design, build and manage DX. As such, the human touch remains an essential element.
- Deploy a modern marketing technology stack – Start with a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) — and then integrate that platform and data across all marketing and customer experience systems and platforms. The automation and personalisation of entire customer processes using advanced technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning should be a goal for businesses.
- Drive better decisions from all available data – Businesses can start by analysing the data that is readily accessible on their DX platform and then move on to unifying data across all touchpoints — digital and physical world. Next, they will need to complement internal data with external data sets that add value and actionable insights.
- Optimise experiences and make them personal – Optimised experiences are efficient, but personal experiences are ones that drive loyalty and trust. As such, businesses will need to develop the ability to personalise experiences for their customers based on their needs and desires.
How can advanced technology such as marketing technology tools play a pivotal role in transforming customer experience?
In today’s digital world, organisations stay competitive by building relationships with their customers, which requires communication. Communication means not only delivering content to various touchpoints like websites, mobile apps, social platforms, and in-store kiosks, but also connecting the experiences on them to provide a holistic and seamless experience. A digital experience platform offers organisations an integrated suite of tools that will help them do this, and hence communicate better and foster meaningful relationships with their customers.
Adopting a DXP is a way for businesses to consolidate and streamline a fragmented martech stack, eliminate redundancy, and be future-proof in their ability to integrate fluidly. Digital experience platforms also provide a way for organisations to begin implementing AI, which is rapidly becoming an integral part of a memorable customer experience. Whether that’s using natural language processing to tag content, automatically identifying visitor trends, creating customer segments, or modifying pages, machine learning and AI are increasing productivity, customer insight, and ROI for organisations across industries.
What are some of the key challenges businesses face when implementing advanced marketing technology tools?
Our research shows that DX capability building efforts in the region are often slowed down by gaps in businesses’ marketing technology stack. With only 56% of businesses having integrated their marketing technology stack, and just 50% supporting their martech stack with sophisticated optimisation—there is a lot of opportunity for businesses to do more.
However, as I said before, Technology itself will not magically solve all businesses’ problems. In order to drive successful implementation of advanced tools, a business needs three key elements – technology, people and processes. This means that businesses will need to have the right systems, effective and streamlined processes, experienced and innovative teams, as well as a solid data foundation in place to fully optimise an advanced technology.
Executive support and organisation alignment are also crucial to ensure a well-articulated vision for DX. Such a vision needs to be based on deep understanding of the industry and customer trends which transcends throughout the entire organisation as well as strategy execution plans.
In addition, without a “test & learn” culture of constant experimentation that is managed and fully supported by executives, businesses and the individuals within them will not be able to improve themselves and drive better CX for their customers.
Lastly, lack of customer management data can be a challenge for organisations to deliver excellent CX. Data is important as organisations can leverage it to understand the trends and provide estimates about the likelihood of future outcomes.
Hear it from the pro- an advice to all retail marketers / marketing professionals in the given crisis scenario
In our recent research with Ecosystm, we asked marketing leaders across the region what measures they expected to remain after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. We found out that across all 6 countries, organisations are looking to increase the use of digital tech for CX – which was ranked as one of their top three priorities.
With this, and plenty of other research, it is apparent that the focus on DX is clearly here to stay. Marketing professionals will have to invest in DX to gain a competitive advantage, stay relevant and grow their brands.
Here are some foundational steps organisations can take to enhance their DX strategy:
- Ensure that CX is firmly understood as a strategic pillar to future-proof organisations and build competitiveness
- Shift team culture and capability from gut-level analysis to data-driven marketing
- Use customer data acquired from various channels and systems to enrich customer experiences
- For a proper digital transformation, implementing new technologies is required. Consider tools that will help teams collaborate and deliver better, more personalised customer experiences, and those that take the complexity out of marketing efforts
Thank you, Nick! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
Nick is the Vice President for Asia at Sitecore and has over 20 years of experience in the software, data and analytics markets across Asia Pacific. At Sitecore, he is responsible for day-to-day operations, sales, and the region’s GTM strategy.
Sitecore delivers a digital experience platform that empowers the world’s smartest brands to build lifelong relationships with their customers. A highly decorated industry leader, Sitecore is the only company bringing together content, commerce, and data into one connected platform that delivers millions of digital experiences every day. Leading companies including American Express, ASOS, Carnival Cruise Lines, Kimberly-Clark, L’Oréal and Volvo Cars rely on Sitecore to provide more engaging, personalized experiences for their customers.