This blog was originally published on Toolbox Tech and has been re-posted here with permission.
In a year where practically everything felt unsteady and unpredictable, digital transformation was the guiding light for organizations looking to come out ahead and remain connected to their customers. In 2020, digital was the first and often the only way for people to stay engaged and informed, so businesses pushed their digital transformation efforts into overdrive. Companies had to move beyond the limits of the traditional, linear customer journey and create and scale experiences faster across an exponential number of channels and modalities. While the world continues to adjust to this new landscape, what should IT leaders prioritize for 2021? In a word, adaptability.
With tech trends changing in the blink of an eye, the best way for brands to stay ahead is by creating a digital ecosystem that is flexible, open and free from constraints and leaving behind closed-off, single-point solutions. While we can’t predict exactly what the future holds, here are a few of the essential overarching ideas that digital leaders need to know in 2021.
1. Protect Customers with a Shared Approach to Governance
More than ever, IT leaders need to navigate not only accelerating demands for digital transformation but also the ever-changing regulatory requirements around consumer data protection and privacy. When organizations are constantly buying new tools and systems to solve specific problems, these privacy and security concerns are only exasperated further. Trying to manage and guard data within dozens of separate systems and manage hundreds of sites and properties spanning multiple regions and teams is impossible without strategic consolidation and a focus on solutions that are secure by design.
Too often, the biggest data breaches or issues result from a lack of oversight or conflicting priorities. However, data security is everyone’s priority, as a breach or misuse of data can irrevocably harm a brand’s reputation and damage customer trust. To deliver innovative, scalable solutions that meet data regulations, IT teams need to be proactive in driving the conversation with CMOs about how they can best build a marketing infrastructure with customer data protection in mind. This starts with choosing a centralized platform that provides visibility into all of your existing data and content. Freeing teams from traditional technology bottlenecks by supporting on-demand digital experiences proactively lowers the risk of teams going rogue and taking up shadow IT initiatives. The result is a more trustworthy and dependable approach to digital experiences that won’t slow down time to market.
2. Eliminate Silos Through Open and Composable Technology
In our current, omnichannel, multi-experience landscape, businesses need to create content that connects with people anywhere and everywhere. Marketing teams are more involved than ever in shaping and executing digital experiences. So it falls to IT leaders to provide them with the tools to gain control over the customer journey from end to end and quickly compose and deploy customized solutions.
Synonymous with open, a platform with a component-based design approach and a composable architecture allows digital marketers and site builders to take an integrated approach to rapidly assemble their marketing tools, data and content to compose digital experiences that aren’t tied to a specific presentation. When web teams can quickly spin up various components and templates that can be re-used across multiple contexts and touchpoints, they’re able to focus on the total impact of the experience rather than limit what they build to a particular channel or system.
We expect that enterprise IT will embrace composable business services much more in the next few years. This move has already been occurring across all industries as organizations move to the cloud and implement API-first and headless technology. Buyers will need to adopt a composable content strategy in order to compose multichannel digital experiences and move beyond ease-of-use thinking to ask if this approach is driving revenue.
3. Unify Customer Experience with Data-Driven Insights
In the past 10 years, marketers made the shift from brand marketing to demand marketing. In 2021, marketers will be focused on customer retention, loyalty and lifetime value. Today’s marketers are in the midst of a new shift: revenue marketing.
With marketing having more responsibility for creating customer experiences that generate ROI, IT faces increased pressure to equip marketers with innovative, scalable solutions that produce quick, enduring value. Unfortunately, there’s an old perception within the C-suite that IT departments can’t move quickly enough to enact meaningful change across the business because they’re bogged down in maintenance and day-to-day updates. However, to make this shift and drive customer lifetime value, CIOs should focus on solutions that span across every part of the business and prioritize technology that offers a more holistic view of the customer.
This customer experience (CX) mindset combined with an exponential rise in the quantity of customer data has spurred the rapid growth of the customer data platform (CDP) market. In just a couple of years, hundreds of new data management and CDP solutions have entered the scene, all promising brands more visibility and control over all their data. For many digital marketers, customer records and information remains locked away and scattered across multiple tools and systems. Without a centralized source of truth, marketers aren’t able to activate this data and effectively engage with their customers in meaningful and timely ways.
With so many CDP and data management solutions on the market, IT needs to be diligent in understanding how to evaluate and select the right CDP that can offer a true unified view of the customer and help marketers break free of data silos. For example, a customer data platform with AI and machine learning capabilities will give teams the power to activate all of their data more efficiently and execute experiences that build customer loyalty and produce stronger revenue. Not only will a CDP help optimize CX strategy through consolidation, it will give them a valuable advantage to remain ahead of the curve. With all this data at their fingertips, marketers can recognize patterns and preferences in customer behavior and be a more strategic partner to IT when recommending the most effective feature updates and experiences that will help the business drive customer loyalty and grow revenue through 2021 and beyond.