Digital Transformation Trends to Watch in 2021

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Digital Trends 2021

Building connectivity while staying competitive has never been more challenging.

A gruelling 2020 behind us, eyes are now firmly planted on the future as businesses begin to accelerate their plans to build enterprise-wide alignment around digital road maps that will help them survive the next global crisis. Everyone seems to be looking for solutions that will improve the customer experience, digitize core processes and systems, and finally make use of years (sometimes decades) of untended-to data.

Sadly, what we’re all realizing as we head into 2021, is that the necessary infrastructures, skill sets and internal cultures that are necessary to drive that kind of data-driven decision making just isn’t where it should be. Another big surprise in the last year, was the realization that a strong tech stack and automated processes could not replace the old-fashioned understanding of rapidly changing customer expectations and internal teams’ willingness to pivot during mass panic.

There was a huge collective sigh of relief heard around the world when the clock struck midnight on Jan 1st. But now, weeks into a new year, we’re all coming to terms with just how much work we have ahead of us. Here’s a list of top Digital Trends that we’re tracking for the coming year. The list is by no means exhaustive, but our digital experts believe these trends will be key to driving any digital transformation plan forward in the months ahead.

1. Companies will finally prioritize building a digital-ready culture.

Customers are more demanding than ever. And companies now have no choice but to deliver products, services and solutions for those customers, on whatever channel those customers select. According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte, 73% of shoppers use more than one channel when they shop, and 86% of consumers say they want the freedom to move between channels when interacting with a brand. A surprising 92% of customers are also happy to use a live chat platform when they need customer service help.

Sales, marketing, supply chain and customer service have never been more integrated in a customer journey. And yet, employees in some of the world’s largest companies still complain about internal silos that create unnecessary roadblocks to progress toward their digital transformation goals. Organizations that previously assigned digital transformation projects to their IT teams will need to introduce wide-reaching change management initiatives that aim to unite ALL functions and teams across a company, from the C-Suite all the way through to frontline workers.

2. The ability to act on data will become imperative to growth.

Customer data has never been more critical. But the speed at which we’re now moving will demand even more from companies that want to differentiate from their competitors and unlock insights that drive future growth. Integrating data across multiple systems in an organization is crucial to creating one cohesive customer blueprint that can then be used to refine a seamless customer experience.

Customers want an efficient and personalized experience when they reach out for help. But according to data released by Salesforce, 59% of customers say it still feels like they’re communicating with separate departments, not one company, when they reach out for support and get bounced from one team to the next. Housing and organizing customer data in a way that makes it easy to access when most necessary will deliver value to your customers.

3. We will see an increased focus on Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics.

Predictive analytics played a massive part in how scientists and hospitals were able to track and predict patterns of spread during last year’s infections. But as valuable as predictive analytics are, they’re still limited as far as determining the best, most optimized response to a trend. In 2021, prescriptive analytics will take things the rest of the way.

Prescriptive analytics will allow companies and its leaders to identify and validate the best options for responding to disruptive trends. This will become the gold standard during business planning, customer journey mapping and crisis management – allowing companies to get ahead of big trends and events.

4. Automation will be necessary to enable innovation.

Companies have been experimenting with automation for years. Regardless of industry, most leaders agree that an inability to connect their internal systems, applications and data is their biggest roadblock to automation. Data driven strategies are projected to lead investment areas in 2021, driven by a need to accelerate project flow and timelines. Everything will move faster, and companies will need the tools to keep up. Automation efforts will be about speed and efficiency.

But it won’t just be about the tools. A unique set of skills will be necessary on the teams that will drive this innovation. A quick look at online job postings, and you’ll easily find numerous ads promoting openings for “Database Administrators”, “Business Process Experts” and “Cloud Architects”. Automation tools will make it all possible – but this in-demand group of subject matter specialists will bring it all together. Bonus points if you can find a Cloud Architect that can explain API-security to your CEO.

5. Businesses are going Virtual.

At the peak of the lockdown in 2020, approximately 42% of workers in the United States were working from home. By April 2020, Zoom had more than 300 million daily users, up from 10 million just three months earlier. And by the time summer rolled around, tens of thousands of cancelled live events all around the world were pirouetting like ballerinas straight into the online space, delivering virtual executions of company town halls, industry conferences and consumer trade shows. Some of them were exceptionally well done and had us wondering, “Why haven’t we done it this way before?”

It’s very unlikely that office life will ever return to what it was. But as humans, we are bound to crave (and often choose) connectivity over efficiency. So, it’s our prediction that 2021 will see virtual events and interactions step up their game even more, refining video capabilities, increasing participant interaction and better integrating social media to better engage the audience.

6. The rise of re-commerce.

That’s right. It’s not a typo.

Re-commerce is all about the second-hand market, which is projected to reach $64 billion in value by 2024. Online resale grew in popularity in 2020 as consumers have had to tighten their budgets and protect against possible job losses and furloughs. Many others just found themselves rethinking their spending habits as they reassessed their entire value systems amidst a crisis that felt like it was never going to end. As essential products and services became harder to access, it felt suddenly unnecessary to continue to stockpile non-essential luxuries. Add to that a growing focus on sustainability and waste reduction and you suddenly have a $64 billion industry just waiting to step into the spotlight.

7. Everyone will have a virtual assistant.

Have you met Siri? How about Alexa or “Google”? As voice technology becomes more and more sophisticated, touch technology is starting to feel like a distant cousin that you only make plans with because you feel like you have to. Siri, Alexa and Google are so much easier to deal with. They listen to everything we say and do as we tell them.

Voice technology is growing in popularity, with more than 50% of families in the United Kingdom now referencing their virtual assistants as actual members of the family. Young people, especially, have become so used to smart speakers that they rely on them for daily news and entertainment, as well as personal tutors during homework marathons. It’s time to rethink everything we currently know about how customers search for information online.

Interested in learning more about Digital Transformation? Get in touch to set up a free consultation.

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