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Online life is growing; so should your data

Mona Popli Profile picture for user Mona Popli March 1, 2023
Summary:
Time for a reality check - Mona Popli of Heap explores the friction that can grow between customers and companies if data isn't up to scratch.

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(© ImageFlow - Shutterstock)

The world has already undergone a heavy digital shift as new technologies emerge and people have found their connections to the online world, whether through social media, work, or shopping (among many other things).

Proceeding further into 2023, companies will see this shift take an even bigger push compared to the last couple of years as they continue to feel the effects of the pandemic and potential recession. These uncertain social and economic events resulted in a deeper move toward digital experiences and products as a response, with an increase in aspects of life now solely conducted via online and mobile platforms, including retail, banking, health, food, and more.

According to a Zippia report, 29.7% of American business is done online and has been growing steadily for the past 20 years:

Additionally, just 10 years ago, only 19.3% of business was conducted online, and 20 years ago, that number was merely 9%.

But digital experiences today are not solely online, as many hybrid experiences are also becoming commonplace, including hybrid shopping (i.e., Buy Online, Pick-up In Store) and applications paired with in-person experiences (i.e., appointment check-in on health apps).

This growing dependance on digital experiences, whether entirely online or hybrid, means that customers have an increase in expectation for the best digital experiences and require personalization from the companies they patronize. These customers also frequently face the growing influence from outside factors such as social media and easily accessible online reviews.

In this reality, companies must go through or continue to digitally transform to meet customers’ wants and needs. According to Gartner, “91% of businesses are engaged in some form of digital initiative.” To make these initiatives worthwhile, however, data and analytics tools are vital to precisely understand trends and any friction points and then have the ability to pivot to meet people’s expectations. Having this data means a brand knows, or is working to know, their customers and exactly how they are using their digital product offerings.

Online is the new reality for everyone

The digital shift underway is ever-evolving, so brands can continue to expect an increase in online and hybrid behavior from their customers, as well as the pressure to meet the needs of both types of experiences. For example, according to a report by Statista, in 2022, there were 268 million online shoppers in the US, which equates to roughly 80% of the population of the country.

Between the pressures of the pandemic and the increasingly mobile options due to general technological advancements, people have learned to lean on online retailers for shopping. They also use online options to expedite in-store experiences, such as in-store pickup of online orders, curbside pickup, rewards programs, and apps that augment in-person experiences in addition to their mobile capabilities.

According to the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Future of Customer and Consumer 2022 Predictions report:

By 2023, to counter digital fatigue, 60% of leading organizations will look to differentiate by delivering trusted and memorable engagements that recreate physical experiences.

Zippia also reported that: 

By 2040, an estimated 95% of all purchases will be facilitated by e-commerce.

But the shift to online and mobile options does not stop at e-commerce; most ways of life are now digital, including banking, health, food and more. As reported by the Global 2022 Digital Overview report

More than one out of five internet users (21.5%) discover new brands, products or services via ads in mobile apps. What’s more, it’s also one of the main channels for brand research with 26.9% of internet users using mobile apps for this function.

How data will guide the digital transformation

To keep up with the rapid demand of online and mobile solutions, companies must ensure their products and digital offerings are operating efficiently and effectively, which means having the data to understand friction points in the customer journey. According to a Salesforce study

Sixty-six percent of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations” and that they “... found that 80% of customers say the experiences provided by a company are as important to them as its products and services.

So having data is essential in reaching those vital expectations.

According to the Heap-sponsored IDC White Paper, 98% of data maturity leaders (companies that leverage data in their decision making the most), have a good to excellent understanding of customer journey friction points. Only 29% of the least mature companies reported the same level of understanding. These leaders share this understanding because they have invested in having a data-driven culture that rudders their decision making and have seen the immense value that comes in this type of investment.

Brands should also focus on extending their internal culture — including ethics, beliefs and diversity — to their customers. More customers, especially those of rising generations, are backing brands with more consciousness, meaning brands that are sustainable, cruelty free, local or socially conscious. It is vital for organizations to recognize what is important to their consumers and to again, meet them at their expectations.

Such a substantial shift toward digital products and experiences also brings online influence and space to easily spread information about companies, both discontent and favor (particularly through social media). Many people seek out brands or avoid them based on what they come across online, or research them before spending, getting a membership, or signing up for an app. A report by Prophet says that:

51% of digital transformation efforts are fueled by market pressure and growth opportunities.

This compounding pressure again increases the need for companies to make data-based decisions, not blind guesses. Too often organizations turn to their highest paid person’s opinion (HIPPO) to make business-related choices. In fact, the Heap sponsored IDC white paper found that 69% of all companies say that decisions are often driven by the HIPPO and ultimately disregard data. Disregarding data leads to false conclusions about the customer journey and products and how they are succeeding (or not).

People are putting the information out there as they use online products and services, so organizations need to utilize this to identify relevant insights, and not rely on gut feelings or opinions. Making these types of decisions backed by fact lets companies meet customers where they are and offer what they are truly looking for — better digital experiences.

Not all products are created equally, however, and in order to deliver the needed ROI on your digital initiatives requires an integrated solution that provides access to both quantitative AND qualitative data to get the full picture of what customers are experiencing and wanting. This means investing in the right tools, particularly those that include session replay capabilities, to gain quick, full insights.

The IDC White Paper found 30% of teams use at least six or more tools to collect their data insights. Having so many tools ends up being expensive and creates slower processes, which can result in disconnected and incomplete insights. Companies that harness both qualitative and quantitative data by investing in a single solution gain a faster and more complete view into how their customers interact with their brand, and are more likely to succeed in this era of digital transformation.

As society becomes more enriched digitally, brands are obligated to match the evolution of their consumer base, including the shifting desires of customers and the advancements of the online and mobile world. For companies to ensure they are actually meeting needs means having the data and tools to make this a reality. Companies that have a culture enriched in data can maneuver quickly and improve their digital offerings. Without swift, complete insights empowered qualitative and quantitative data, companies will not meet the asks of customers and will fall behind or fade away completely.

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