Digital or Bust: 4 Takes on Customer Experience and Digital

In the words of Buffalo Springfield, “something’s happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

In the world of customer experience, the winds of change are certainly blowing. There seems to be a shared consensus that traditional customer experience is making way for something else: digital customer experience. But how this will play out and what it means is subject to interpretation.

We’ve collected articles by four different thought leaders, each offering a different take on the digital transformation. But what they all agree on is that doing nothing is not an option.

Physical-digital mashups

The digital transformation can best be summarized in Darrell K. Rigby’s Harvard Business Review article, “The Physical-Digital Mashup.”

Rigby, a partner at the Boston-based firm Bain & Company, writes that the next several years will bring far more innovation to most industries than they have ever seen. Airlines, automobiles, and insurance, for instance, are on the verge of far-reaching digical (digital-physical) transformations.”

Rigby studied over 300 companies around the globe in 20 industries. He found that most industries are still in the early stages of the digital-physical transformation.

Rigby argues that a company’s best bet for winning the disruption game is to build a company that is both digital and physical rather than one at the expense of the other. Companies that abandon their core physical business for a digital one tend to fail. The secret is to seamlessly integrate digital into your physical company.

The elephant in the room

Writing in Forbes, Lisa Arthur says that when she talks to CEOs and CMOs, they are both terrified and in denial of the phenomenon of “disruption.”

But digital disruption is the elephant in the room that you ignore at your own peril. “We are undergoing massive digital disruption, at a scale and pace most are simply not prepared for.”

Allen explains that it took 30 years to connect the first two billion people to the Internet, she says. It will take less than seven to connect the next two billion.

She outlines the challenges your company will face as a result: First of all, your R&D will have to work faster and faster to keep up; your competitors will be ever faster and more plentiful; you’ll have to use big data to target customers and personalize offers to them; you’ll have to respond to them in real-time; and you’ll have to give customers a cohesive message across all marketing channels and platforms.

Innovate or die

As Vala Afshar, Chief Marketing Officer for Extreme Networks, asserts, “social, mobile, real-time and other disruptive technologies are aligning to necessitate bigger changes than previously anticipated.”

He writes on the topic in an article in Inc., that businesses that embrace digital transformation will be able to spot opportunities and act in a matter of seconds. Companies that fail to adopt new digital technologies will face competitive obsolescence. Despite this urgency, Afshar claims that digital transformation as a formal process is still in its infancy.

Right brain-left brain mind meld

That’s why it’s no coincidence that a new type of executive has emerged from the digital transformation: the Chief Marketing Technologist. “CMTs are part strategist, part creative director, part technology leader, and part teacher”, Brinker and McLellan write in Harvard Business Review. Their job is “aligning marketing technology with business goals, serving as a liaison to IT, and evaluating and choosing technology providers.”  CMTs, CMOs, and CIOs are at the nexus of the latest trend in marketing – the integration of marketing and IT.

Marketers have grown accustomed to saying that in our world of commoditized products, it’s customer experience that gives you an edge. This is true, but incomplete.  In fact, without keeping in mind that customers are experiencing brands over multiple channels, physical and digital alike, these channels are symbiotic – each benefits and leverages the other. But without a holistic view of customer experience, one’s flaws affect the perception of the other, and the brand as a whole.

However, all the experts are unanimous, and we agree: embracing digital is the secret to staying in the game.

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