The highest priority for top performing companies in 2018 is content and customer experience.

You might have heard that before. The difference this time? It’s coming from the top. Senior management at the world’s top performing companies have signalled that all teams across an organisation make it mission critical.

That was the findings of Adobe and Econsultancy’s annual Digital Trends report, which surveyed 13,000 marketing, creative and technology professionals.

Content was recognised as the lifeblood of marketing activities that touches customers, from website, ad copy, email marketing and social media activity.

Now CX has been taken up by senior executives as the long-term strategy to retain and attract future customers.

The new 2018 report, which was released ahead of new financial year strategic planning, found companies with a “cross-team approach” that adopt CX at the heart of all initiatives are twice as likely to exceed business goals – and certainly outperform competitors.

“The top strategic priority for organisations in 2018 is content and experience management,” the report states. “Almost half (45%) of companies surveyed rank this as one of their three most important priority areas for the year ahead, with a fifth (20%) stating that this is their primary focus.

The creative renaissance happening now

It’s welcome news for creative professionals as top-performing companies now recognise the importance of what they offer in complementing data and tech.

Although companies are increasingly skilled with technology tools, data-driven marketing is no longer the Holy Grail.

In a Back-To-The-Future move, human creativity and intuition are back in the driver’s seat for effective marketing that focusses on unique and engaging customer experiences.

Data certainly isn’t dead, rather it’s evolved to find a position in the natural order. The new mantra is “Data-Informed Marketing” as all efforts are tailored towards the customer experience.

Just under three-quarters of those surveyed said their company was investing in design to differentiate their brand and attract customers.

  • 69% – organisations describing themselves as ‘design-driven’ exceed 2017 business goals
  • 46% – organisations where creativity is ‘highly valued’ exceeded 2017 business goals
  • 57% – organisations with well-designed user journeys and seamless transaction surpassed 2017 business goals

Customer Experience is now the focal point of digital activities

Customer Experience is the complete set of interactions that a customer has with all the touchpoints in a brand’s ecosystem. From digital assets such video views, mobile and desktop content, e-commerce transactions, chatbots and even IoT devices, to offline properties such as in-store, outdoor and experiential advertising.

A 2017 report titled Reinventing Loyalty by Goldsmiths University surveyed 5000 European consumers and found 61% felt loyal to brands that tailored their experience to personal preferences.

More astonishingly, 51 per cent they would buy from a brand they’d never heard of when a better offer or experience was offered.

The Adobe Digital Trends report highlights that those companies with a customer-centric approach outperformed their competitors (27% vs 13%).

Organisations with a customer-centric approach were noted for having “a cohesive plan, long-term view and executive support for the future of their customer”.

A hallmark of these organisations was a cross-team approach that put the customer at the heart of all initiatives. The Digital Trends report noted that these companies demonstrated a clear and focused long-term plan for attracting future customers.

Creating a culture of tech, data and design

Customer experience might be widely accepted as important – perhaps obvious – but many companies are paralysed and don’t know how to start a customer-centric strategy.

Digital transformation is essentially about people, process and technology. Getting the right mix of skills and creating a culture that lets people flourish with enabling technology was the key to success.

A cross-team approach meant that employees were motivated to work together across departments to bring the best experience for customers.

North American (29%) and European (23%) companies focussed on making the experience as valuable as possible. APAC companies (21%) focussed on making the experience as personalised and relevant as possible.

“The emphasis on value in North America suggests a greater appreciation of the importance of differentiating through the customer experience, likely resulting from more competition across many business sectors in North America where a sub-standard CX is simply not commercially viable,” notes the Adobe report.

APAC companies are still more likely to prioritise the safety, reliability and speed of the experience.

“It is important for businesses to reward employees based on their ability to collaborate with people in other teams,” the Adobe Digital Trends reported noted.

“The right behaviour depends on the right rewards and bonuses. Ultimately, you get the behaviour you measure.”

  • 62% said they had a cohesive long-term customer-centric plan with executive support
  • 74% had a cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives
  • 20% of organisations with customer-centric strategic plans, culture and executive support exceeded business goals compared to 11% of those without.

The right tech investments are now starting to pay dividends

It’s all great to have customer experience as a key business goal. But how is done? How does a well-mapped customer journey create seamless transactions to attract new customers? With integrated technology stacks.

“A lack of integrated marketing technology reduces the chances of providing a seamless customer experience, and can also be frustrating for marketers and other employees who want to go about their jobs without unnecessary restrictions in their ability to acquire, retain and delight customers,” states the 2018 Digital Trends report.

The top-performing companies were three times more likely to already have highly-integrated cloud-based marketing platforms in place.

Of course, it’s one thing to have the tech, but companies also need the right people to run it effectively, putting those with digital skills in high demand.

Almost three-quarters of companies were employing digital marketing skills in combination with tech investments.

These skills are closely aligned to ensuring the customer experience goal is fulfilled, as delivering real-time personalisation is a key capability of digital marketing.

AI is still in its infancy for adoption, but is emerging strongly as a way to deliver on-site personalisation and analysing unstructured data from customer activity.

  • 25% vs 9% – high performing companies vs peers with integrated marketing platforms
  • 20% vs 11% – companies with digital marketing skills that surpassed 2017 business goals
  • 28% vs 12% – top-performing companies vs their peers for using AI in marketing

Getting primed to exceed your business goals

Adobe and Econsultancy’s 2018 Digital Trends report shone a light on how companies are using creative talent and technology to exceed business goals.

A strategy for customer experience, driven from the top of an organisation, has seen content and design skills valued as key to leveraging martech investments to meet business goals.

Delivering real-time personalised content, in unison with data specialists, has rallied teams across leading organisations to embrace a common cause: creating a relevant, seamless customer experience.