The Digital-First Ecosystem: What You Need to Know

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a digital-first ecosystem that is not slowing down. In fact, according to data compiled by IBM, COVID accelerated the shift to a digital-first economy by five years. As the world gradually reopens, we all look forward to returning to what we considered normalcy. But, what once was will never be again; the transformation of the business world is permanent.

In the digital-first ecosystem, the competition for the attention of your consumer is fierce. So how do you not only survive but thrive?

2020 Was a Defining Moment

In the future, we will look back on 2020 as the year that everything changed. Slowing economies across the globe created a surge in e-commerce activity, accelerating the digital transformation of our society. A review put out by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development shows that the share of e-commerce in international trade increased from 14% in 2019 to roughly 17% in 2020. As the new normal became a world of quarantines and closures, businesses and people went online.

Rise of the Digital-First Ecosystem

Digitalization accelerated in all sectors, including business, education, and government. Everyone with digital access went online to read the latest medical advice, learn about quarantine and social distancing rules, and stay in touch with family and friends. The internet also became the go-to solution to purchase products that they couldn’t buy in person because of closures. Businesses operated remotely, and retailers who didn’t have any online presence quickly developed one. It was a go online or perish reality.

The Digital-First Ecosystem Requires You to Shift From Passive to Proactive

According to studies by McKinsey & Co., the “homebody economy” will continue. As a result, successful brands need to be less passive and implement targeted proactive marketing approaches. Additionally, shortages due to the pandemic lessened brand loyalty to products and services, allowing space for consumers to gravitate to alternative or new brands. Rebuilding those relationships means that you have to work harder to prove the relevance of your brand product or service to their needs.

Customer expectations have changed too, and these shifts are driving purchasing decisions. In addition to traditional factors such as price, value, and quality, consumers choose to do business with purpose-driven brands.

Consumer-driven digital transformation

An additional reality to consider is that today’s digital transformation is consumer-driven. You’ll need to adapt to new market realities created by your consumers’ demands for relevant content that speaks to their needs. Consumers want interactions with your brand no matter where they are, at any time, and on any digital device. Customers often rate brands according to their digital experience with them. If their online experience with you is lacking, they’re likely to move on to a competitor.

According to Accenture, 75% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a company that:

  • recognizes them by name,
  • knows their purchase history, and
  • recommends products based on previous purchases.

The concept of putting the customer first has reached a new pinnacle.

Adopting New Technologies

Brands that thrive in the digital-first ecosystem quickly adopt technology innovations that adapt to changing consumer behavior in the post-pandemic environment. An IDC research study reveals that two-thirds of Global 2000 CEOs are shifting their focus from traditional offline to cutting-edge digital strategies designed to improve the customer experience.

According to the latest news out of OurCrowd, an online venture investing platform, the crowded digital-first ecosystem is pushing brands to “double down on digital and ramp on technology.” Cutting-edge innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), personalization, localization, voice shopping, and checkout-free stores are helping brands remain competitive in today’s shifting e-commerce world.

Tapping into high-tech digital tools such as

  • AI/machine learning
  • AR personalized interactions
  • smart-speaker shopping
  • voice search, and
  • other touchless interactions will keep you at the forefront of your competition.

Intelligent Chatbots and Personalization

Artificial intelligence/machine learning tools help you create personalized customer experiences that nurture long-term business growth. For example, intelligent chatbots understand consumer behavior and can make real-time decisions. They can check on the availability of selected items, update on the status of orders and interact with customers 24-7, very much like a live salesperson.

Try Before You Buy

Virtual reality and augmented reality are not new technologies, and stores have used them to help customers gain better insights into the suitability of products before purchasing. But as more customers shopped online, these technologies were catapulted to a new level.

Noam Levavi, CEO of BYONDXR, says that “experiences that were initially built into the physical world are not translating well into 2D and static images.” AR, for example, transports buyers into a virtual store to experience and visualize products before purchasing.

Another factor is that as online sales increase, the need to minimize returns becomes paramount. Returns are costly and make for a poor user experience.

AR technology can be implemented across all your digital channels, including your website, shopping apps, and social media platforms. For example, with AR, consumers can place the furniture and furnishings in their room to see how they fit and feel, or try on clothing, jewelry, sunglasses, makeup, and other lifestyle products.

Personalized Advertising

E-commerce continues, but as the world reopens, your audience is reprioritizing its digital face time, focusing on relevance and user experience. With all the options available, personalization is critical to your success. AI-powered personalization platforms like Clinch help you optimize your ads, empowering you to create and publish personalized messages across all your digital channels. Oz Etzioni, CEO of Clinch, said,

“From day one, our mission has been to provide innovative data-driven solutions that empower all digital media stakeholders and deliver campaign outcomes that go far beyond flat metrics.”

If you’re a small business or solopreneur, you need technology-driven tools that personalize your ad messaging in less time to help you turn followers into buyers.

The Digital-First Ecosystem Includes Voice Search

In a previous blog article, we discussed how to optimize your website for voice search. In fact, with more than 4.2 billion devices, including smartphones, computers, and intelligent speakers, delivering search results with only a voice prompt, the importance of optimizing is even more paramount. So you can begin today by reviewing your website content and blog articles. Do they contain search keywords according to the way someone would ask by voice rather than typing?

As you create website copy and content, think more about long-tail keywords in the form of a question. By adopting strategies that reach your consumers across all digital platforms, you’ll see more engagement, traffic, and sales.

Your Email Campaigns are Still Relevant

Consumer shopping has moved online, but your email list is still one of your best marketing assets. However, as with other marketing strategies, your audience expects the companies they do business with to anticipate their needs based on previous interactions.

AI-based technologies empower you to tailor your emails to your customers’ personal needs, at the correct touch-points in their buying journey, by tapping into their purchase history, location, and other habits. In addition, AI and machine learning uncover consumer trends and additional valuable insight that keeps you at the forefront of your industry. As a result, your email campaigns become a powerful tool to strengthen relationships, build trust and loyalty.

Bottom Line

  • Cutting-edge digital technologies enable you to expand your brand reach to new customers in novel and impactful ways.
  • With tools such as AI and AR, you can deliver impactful messages to your consumer audience that solidifies their relationship with you.
  • You’ll maintain a competitive edge in today’s digital-first ecosystem.

One more thing to remember, as you become more digitized, your responsibility to safeguard customer data and privacy is compounded. Therefore, you must comply with local, state, and national data policies and regulations. Read our last article about cybersecurity.

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