While the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding, the changes in consumer behavior brought about by it are here to stay. The sooner brands realize it, the better they can manage consumer expectations and ensure their growth. This is reported by Adobe’s 2022 Digital Trends Report produced in collaboration with EConsultancy. The report is based on data obtained from almost 10,000 professionals from fields such as technology, manufacturing, and financial services. The breakup of the sample is as follows:
· 65% (6,724) are client-side marketers.
· Rest are executives at agencies, vendors, consultancies, etc.
· 28% of respondents are senior director level.
· 72% range from junior executive to director level.
· 33% are B2B, 26% are B2C, while the remaining are both.
· Respondents from North America (43%), Europe (39%), and Asia-Pacific (15%).
The report also developed a Marketing Organization Performance Index, which measures a marketing firm’s performance across five different measures. The highest possible score was 50. Leaders scored from 37 – 50, mainstream from 16 – 35, and laggards 1 – 15. The report is also beneficial to website development companies as it provides insights into web design trends and overall web trends. Now, let’s review the findings.
1. Rapid Change
The past two years have transformed how businesses operate. They have been forced to digitalize themselves and have accomplished nearly seven years’ worth of work in a matter of months. Why? The pandemic forced them into the situation, and if they hadn’t responded as well as they did, these businesses would not exist today. This pace of change is not going to slow down either. The findings show that most respondents feel that customers will be demanding even better digital experiences than before. If a business is to fulfill these expectations, it must continuously invest in technological upgradation such as experience management solutions.
Figure 1. Changing Customer Preferences
Most digital indicators are staying at pandemic levels, while some have even seen an increase. There are very few which are returning to pre-pandemic levels. This web trend is something that companies must pay extra attention to as it can help them maximize their growth. The increase in digital indicators is not confined to a single sector as each sector, from travel to retail, is experiencing it. A five-year-old PWC Global Consumer Insights Survey showed that only 12% of respondents shopped daily or weekly. Today, the number stands at 41%. 82% of the respondents remarked that they would continue to focus on or even accelerate digitalization as offline buying resumes. But there are barriers to it.
Figure 2. Barriers to Improving Marketing/Customer Experience
Claire Hepworth, Head of Customer Engagement at Ford, remarked that Ford started focusing on its online channels as its research showed that two-thirds of consumers would be willing to buy a vehicle online. As the pandemic hit, Ford was able to continue selling without significant obstacles. Ford will continue focusing on its online channels even as the pandemic wanes. Another notable mention in the Adobe Trends Report 2022 is the end of third-party cookies. Without access to the cookies, organizations no longer have valuable insights into their target markets. It will lead to a sizeable increase in cost per click and overall marketing budgets. The end of third-party cookies is a web design trend in 2022 that web development companies and marketers must pay extra attention to as they need to find alternatives.
The second point in Adobe’s report is trust. Consumers are becoming more concerned about how organizations are utilizing their data. The world is seeing increased activism regarding consumer data protection. One of the most significant steps in this regard is Apple’s iOS14.5 update which lets users opt out of app tracking. Adobe says that 85% of iPhone users opted against app tracking. It shows that consumers are not comfortable with the idea of businesses tracking their online movements.
That’s not all, as PWC’s December 2021 Global Consumer Insights Pulse Survey shows consumers are becoming more protective of their data. Due to these concerns and activism, governments worldwide are forced to adopt more strict data protection regulations. China became the latest country to introduce a data protection law akin to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (G.D.P.R.). 69% of total countries now have a data protection regulation, while others have readied draft versions.
What’s the difference between an organization that survived COVID-19 and those forced to shut down? Agility. Businesses that were quick to respond to COVID-19 and adapt their business processes accordingly were able to survive the pandemic. Many of them even managed to increase their revenues and market share. Their responsiveness was due to the agile methods. Many businesses cut through red tape and improved decision-making, allowing them to make key decisions quickly. Alshaya, a Kuwait-based retail group, had to accelerate site rollout to meet the growth in online demand. Its CTO remarked that everyone was focused on achieving one common goal. It left no room for overthinking every step and successfully helped the organization respond to the pandemic.
Alshaya launched 30 eCommerce sites and two mobile apps in just 12 months. Launching them was just one step; Alshaya ensured their success. It achieved a 268% year-on-year growth in online transactions. The challenge for organizations today is to integrate agile methods across the organization. They need to let go of the notion that agile methods need only be reserved for special or one-off projects. Consumers demand greater responsiveness from businesses, and it is something that will only increase in the future. If businesses are unable to respond quickly, customers will not hesitate to shift to another brand.
92% of senior executives remark that agility will define their organization’s success. How to achieve this agility? The best approach is through training and development. The demand for digital skills will grow further in the coming years. Therefore, organizations need to focus on training and developing their employees. As the labour market is facing its greatest challenge recently (The Great Resignation), businesses must focus on existing employees. They can automate some functions to free up resources and allow them to acquire much-needed skills.
Figure 3. Organizations’ Learning & Development
Agility depends on data. Without access to data, employees cannot make key decisions rightly or quickly. Adobe’s Trend Report 2022 shows that practitioners are unhappy with their organization’s data policies. 23% say they don’t have access to the required data, while 41% say that their organization ranks average regarding ensuring data access. Agile marketing and agility, in general, depend upon data. Hence, there needs to be greater access to data, but not without the proper checks in place.
The Adobe Report also finds that agile businesses are better positioned to manage uncertainty and become learning organizations. However, this can only be realized when organizations encourage their employees to test. It can lead to failures, in fact, multiple failures, and consumes considerable resources. Yet, testing is the basis for innovation and success. 61% of leader organizations remark that their testing capabilities are quite strong, whereas only 5% of laggard organizations claim the same. It shows that if you wish for your business to become a market leader, it must have a learning environment.
Figure 4. Data Utilization & Experimentation
The future of Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) are intertwined. While CIOs are accustomed to working with executive management, there has been a sizable shift in their relationship with CMOs. The marketing department’s job is to ensure that customers have a seamless experience across all touchpoints. The problem is that all this depends on the data. Who gathers the data and how? That’s the technology department’s forte.
Figure 5. CIO & CMO Collaboration
They are responsible for ensuring that the relevant departments/employees have access to the data to make better decisions. The good news is that 83% of executives agree that IT and marketing departments have a shared future. However, an effective relationship between the CIO and CMO needs to trickle down to their respective departments. The two teams need to have good working relationships to enable greater collaboration.
5. Customer Experience
The last trend in the Adobe Report is the customer experience. There is a common saying that data is the new oil. The statement signifies the importance of data in today’s data-centric market. Data helps organizations derive key insights into their target markets, allowing them to tweak their products accordingly. Organizations should focus on investing in systems that allow them to capture, analyze, and share data effectively. The data will play an instrumental role in helping organizations offer greater personalization to their customers. The positive thing is that most senior executives (83%) acknowledge the importance of having such systems.
Figure 6. Technological Priorities for Executives 2022
The Adobe Trends 2022 Report is a must-read for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The insights can help you improve your processes and serve customers effectively. The key points to remember are to focus on digital channels, building trust, agility, strong collaboration within the organization, and leveraging new technology to improve the experience. These points can help you attain/retain a competitive advantage and transform your organization into a leader.