“Change is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John. F. Kennedy
The B2B and B2C world around us is changing, becoming more complex and unpredictable. We’ve seen that the global pandemic has given rise to new and lasting consumer purchase habits fuelling a more decerning and meaningful economy. The last year has been defined by the acceleration of digital engagement in the way customers buy and businesses sell, which has supercharged technology innovations and the launch of new digital and connected products and services at an unstoppable speed.
From a marketing perspective, today’s generation of both B2B customers and B2C consumers are behaving in new ways due to changing needs and are buying products and services for different reasons. Audiences are embracing digital with more confidence every day and are demanding seamless, personalised, savvy consumer-centric digital and social customer experiences from the B2B and B2C brands they interact with.
Continuous change requires continuous adaptability
For today’s marketeers, keeping up with rapid and ongoing change requires more than temporary resilience. Instead, businesses need to be prepared for continuous adaptability. As our world is evolving at breakneck speed, continuous adaptability is the only way to deal with perpetual change, to ensure businesses and their brands stay on the bleeding edge of competitiveness through the deep-rooted loyalty of their customer base.
Recent research from Gartner confirms that 90% of marketing leaders agree that marketing has to be more adaptive to shifting consumer needs in order to meet long-term strategic goals.
Many businesses fail to adapt, yet adaptability drives customer satisfaction
Despite this powerful awareness that continuous adaptability is critical to stay relevant, many businesses are still failing to adapt. This inability to adapt is particularly critical to success when digital transformation is the vehicle to deliver a meaningful digital customer experience that seamlessly meets new customer demands. We can often feel that talk around digital transformation has been done to death, however stats from Forbes show that many businesses are still failing to adapt to operating in the digital space – suggesting that many are still resisting change.
- 55% of start-ups have adopted a digital business strategy, but only 38% of traditional companies have.
- Only 27% of companies believe digital transformation to be a matter of survival, despite the demise of many heritage brands.
- 56% of CEOs say digital improvements have led to increased revenue, yet 70% of digital transformations fail.
In contrast, these statistics show the high expectations customers have about brands and their digital experience:
- 76% of customers expect companies to understand their needs.
- 67% of consumers will pay more for a great digital experience.
- 74% of business buyers say they’ll pay more for a better digital B2B experience
The statistics centre around the impact that customer-centric digital transformation has on the profitability and revenue of businesses. It highlights the critical importance of adaptability for businesses further:
- Two-thirds of a company’s competitive edge comes from its customer experience.
- Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers.
- Digital transformation and a focus on customer experience can generate a 20-30% increase in customer satisfaction and economic gains of 20-50%.
Adaptability needs to be exercised like a muscle
What these stats show us is that businesses and brands that are currently thriving are those who have embraced the power of adaptability by fully embracing digital transformation. Their marketing teams understand the necessity of having a digitally-focused business that enables them to deliver a customer experience that is truly aligned with latest customer needs. Examples of these most adaptable brands in 2020 are: Zoom, Salesforce, Airbnb, Tesla, Amazon, Nestle, Ericsson, Uniqlo and ASOS.
So why are so many businesses still failing to adapt?
The truth is that today’s businesses and people have become naturally resistant to cope with change. However, what we need to understand is that adaptability has be actively exercised and flexed like a muscle. When we master this human quality of adaptability, we nurture a business-critical advantage that sets apart those businesses who succeed from those who don’t.
Adaptable marketeers embrace customer-centricity differently
So, what can we learn from these winning adaptable brands? Gartner has taken a closer look at these adaptable brands, and concludes that adaptable brands approach their marketing and customer-centricity differently. The key to their success is quite simply returning the basics of marketing and the current battlefield for brands: truly understanding the demands of your customers and reassessing these continuously.
This continuously adaptive approach is vital in today’s highly dynamic landscape, because what we know about customers today will no longer be relevant 12-18 months later. This means that successful marketeers now need an approach called ‘continuous customer-centricity’. This approach is about deploying different ways of listening to customers to get a clear picture of changing needs. It doesn’t require the use different research tools, but uses existing research tools differently to identify long-lasting customer trends and needs.
Continuous customer listening identifies lasting patterns of change
The goal of today’s customer listening research,’ is to generate ‘customer foresight’ that pinpoints behavioural change, instead of traditional insights that reveal static customer needs.
Customer foresight helps adaptive marketeers uncover those newly formed patterns in changing needs that will drive lasting preferences, habits and behaviours that are most likely to last the next 12-18 months.
Gartner outlines that there are 4 key indicators of durable change in customer needs that help adaptive marketeers effectively harness the opportunities for their brands through this new approach to customer research: