The Big Ideas in Digital for 2018? It’s All About the Customer

The Big Ideas in Digital for 2018? It’s All About the Customer

I recently criss-crossed Australia and New Zealand, to talk about the new CMO mandates for customer experience and to host the “Big Ideas in Digital,” panel, one of the featured sessions at Acquia Engage and Experience Acquia events in key cities. My guests were some of the brightest minds in digital experience and innovation, from the travel industry to higher education, government and digital agencies.

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They sounded off about what’s “big” in their minds this year. Here’s hint about how it went: It’s not just about great, hot new technology. Instead, most speakers talked about the importance of using tech to make customers’ lives better, build easier interactions, create more convenient digital moments, make information more accessible, and build more meaningful customer journeys.

The requirement in 2018 is to serve customers in a digital environment better, faster, and more intimately. It’s the universal mandate. Nearly every panel member stated, in one form or another, “We’re focused on putting the the customer in the center of everything we do.”

Their ideas and methods of getting there may differ. However, they realize that aligning with your customers’ needs is the best (some may say only) way to build competitive advantage and generate customer loyalty for the long haul.

Big ideas were plentiful from the panel guests from city to city. A few standout “big ideas” from our thought leaders included the following:

Focus on utility-based experiences to win customer loyalty

Laura Campbell, a Deloitte Digital director in Australia, urged the audience in Brisbane to create “utility-based experiences” to boost loyalty and growth. Think: Use digital capabilities to create a useful, practical experience, which will attract customers better than any traditional marketing campaign -- like financial services providers who’ve made it drop-dead simple to do digital bill payments or money transfers. “The cleaner and leaner you can make that, the higher the engagement will be,” she said.

Don’t be afraid of face-to-face service in a digital world

Digital-native market disruptors may get all the ink (see: AirBnB, Uber, Amazon) but there’s still a place for a hybrid approach in some markets. Take the Australia-based travel services provider  FlightCentre, which operates online but also maintains 1,100 storefronts. Many simple bookings occur via digital channels, but complex travel planning keeps the in-store travel advisers busy. “If you go online to plan a (complex) trip … it takes the allure out of it if you’re looking at 17 hotels and trying to work out the difference,” said Jamie Glenn, FlightCentre’s CTO.

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Solve small, potent problems to greatly impact the customer journey

Everyone’s talking about customer journeys, but Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads is literally in the journey business; it provides transportation infrastructure, public transit and other services to millions of people each year. The organization is using digital tools to solve a “last mile” journey problem associated with public transportation, informing morning commuters as to where they can find the open parking spaces as they’re rushing for their trains. The problem: A digital app may tell you there are spaces available, but they’re gone when you get there. “We’re addressing how we can help customers have a better experience,” said Anastasia Armstrong, digital maturity manager at Department of Transport and Main Roads.

Don’t confuse technology invention with experience innovation

Technology is great, but if you want differentiated innovation, aim it at solving a customer problem, don’t just adopt technology for its own sake. Rakesh Rachamalla, executive design director at agency AKQA, told our Auckland audience that too many people use the word “innovation” but they’re really just describing tech invention. “People talk about technology and things like artificial intelligence. But you have to connect (tech) with new ways to change customer behavior, for the long term. If it doesn’t have lasting impact or change customer behavior for good, perhaps it’s not innovation just yet.”
We’ve reached that moment where brands finally realize: It’s not about us, it’s about them, our customers. We’re not that many years removed from the “content is king” moment, back when brands believed “content” was all about them. In 2018 and beyond, brands (and the agencies that advise them) have gotten the concise message that it’s imperative to cater to their customers or risk being left behind.

David Aponovich

David Aponovich

Sr. Director, Product Marketing Acquia, Inc.

David Aponovich is a senior director of product marketing at Acquia, where he helps articulate the business and technical values of Acquia’s solutions for digital experience. Prior to joining Acquia, David was a senior analyst at Forrester Research, covering WCM and digital experience platforms and consulting to global clients.