How to de-risk your digital transformation as consumer behaviour shifts
Many companies are currently stuck with outdated digital infrastructure. Undergoing digital transformation change that brings a poorly executed website from years ago to align with your current business vision takes money, time and, honestly, a board that is OK with a certain level of risk.
But in order to undergo successful digital change, you first need a vision that uses the digital environment to its maximum potential. It doesn’t mean that your entire business needs to be based online, but it has to work seamlessly alongside the offline part of the business, so that both – online and offline – can take advantage of what the other brings to the table.
However, businesses that a year ago had an outdated website, are now finding themselves with twice the problem. Today, it’s not just about bringing your digital infrastructure up to date – you may also have to adapt your (digital) business model so it’s better suited to the consumer behaviour shift that’s been accelerated by COVID’s induced lockdown.
Consumer behaviour is shifting
Over the last few years, we have seen a change in consumer behaviour that has been accelerated by the lifestyle change that lockdown imposed on the population. The COVID induced lockdown saw a UK increase of 12% on ecommerce sales (from 20% to 33% - Office for National Statistics), as part of total sales. To put this into perspective, it previously took the UK nearly ten years to achieve the same increase in penetration. However, not only have our purchasing and consuming habits have changed, but they have altered the perception of and our emotional attachment to brands. This impacts all parts of the customer journey and can make it or break it when it comes to users purchasing or using a service.
Research shows us (Prosumer report – Beyond Covid) that consumers have gravitated towards two specific but nearly opposing sentiments. On the one hand there are consumers that want more agency when it comes to making decisions, while on the other hand consumers are also asking for a more light-hearted attitude from brands. Let me unpack that.
We are seeing an increasing number of consumers holding brands accountable to be more transparent and responsible of their business values, processes and products. Consumers want brands to be a trusted source of products and information, so that in return it empowers them to make the correct choices for their lifestyle. We have seen this with our own clients within the Personal Hygiene space (‘inform me of how best protect my home and my loved ones from germs’) and Grocery space (‘I want reassurance your produce and products are healthy and high quality’), but also with uptakes on brands such as Huel – although it’s a meal replacement, there is an educational element around nutrition.
We also see an equally increasing number of consumers shying away from this same accountability overload and gravitating towards brands that have a more light-hearted disposition and are able to detach themselves from taking a moral stance on what they do (think TikTok or Buzzfeed, or how Apple has shifted its marketing to be more humorous with #appleatwork ads). This is not to say that these brands don’t care, but they are choosing to connect with the consumer on a different emotional level, and in turn allow the consumer to not feel guilty about their choices.
Why is this relevant?
What this means for businesses is that users’ behaviours, and therefore user needs, have changed from what they may have been a few years, or even months, ago. If you haven’t addressed these changing needs, an emotional gap between your users and the digital services you provide to them may have been created. In addition, if your infrastructure or digital services were outdated to begin with, this change in behaviours may have made the existing gap even bigger.
How to address it
With change also comes opportunity. If performance has dropped – online or offline – or you are looking to re-vamp your digital infrastructure to simply bring it up to date, there are elements that you can put in place to future-proof digital change.
1. Gather data The accelerated behaviour change could mean that, if you were to look back over the last year, you can establish a pre-lockdown baseline of behaviour and a lockdown behaviour, and in turn estimate the trajectory of future consumer behaviour over the next few years. Looking at your analytics and any other available online (and offline) data is more important than ever to understand how your users have shifted behaviour over the past few months and how you can adapt your digital service offering to maximise success.
2. Create an evidence-based vision Create a hypothesis for your future vision or digital change based on the user data collected. With performance drops or spikes, and the past and current usage or behaviour baseline, it’s easier to identify pain-points, gaps, areas of opportunity and current business needs. These can help create an evidence-based future path for your company.
3. Test and learn This behaviour change and the users’ current shifting attitude, poses a good opportunity to create an environment where companies can test and learn that hypothesis before setting a vision in stone. Once you have an established baseline (ideally past and current) and there is a hypothesis for what the future curve of behaviour could be, create a flexible working environment that allows you to test your hypothesis and learn.
The time is now
Although it might seem counter-productive to invest in digital change if your company is underperforming as a whole, unless the changing needs of your users are addressed, it is likely that performance won’t improve.
By addressing digital change now, you can refine the hypothesis for your company’s vision and establish a new future path. But most importantly, you can create an environment that can easily accommodate more future behaviour shifts. In doing so, you de-risk your company’s digital transformation and future-proof it – so your business continues to shifts as your users’ needs do, and you maintain continuous performance.