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Embracing digital: from survival to thriving in the post-COVID-19 world

The post-COVID-19 world is digital

While the world works on containing the coronavirus, businesses do whatever is needed to ensure business continuity and survival. In the long term, responding and recovering won’t be enough, however. To grow and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world, swift transformation into a pandemic-proof organisational model is vital.

As digital helps shape the new normal, it is the CMO who sets the agenda for growth.

The post-COVID-19 world is digital

With physical contacts kept to a minimum, it is digital that proves to be a lifeline for many organisations. Consumer brands and retailers who have embraced digital are now growing their online orders and keep their business running through home offices. Through COVID-19 it becomes visible what being digital truly means. It is not just about cool apps, but about having a solution chain that runs deep across processes, people and technology. It’s a fundamental change in the way we work, live and do business.

As government measures are leading to flattening the curve on coronavirus, we will enter into a period that may feel as if it’s business as usual. But demand will fluctuate as new outbreak intervals and government measures are very conceivable in a next possible wave. The coming period is therefore not only for recovering and balancing demand with capacity. Businesses should also prepare for a coming volatile period and the post-COVID-19 world after.

By becoming sharply aware of the consequences of COVID-19 and the likely scenarios ahead, you can adapt and thrive in the new normal. Almost overnight, customer behaviour, media consumption and the internal processes needed to deliver on them have changed. Foremost, digitisation is accelerating. To lead in the post-COVID-19 world, the organisation’s eyes are on marketing and sales: do these departments have the right digital and data capabilities to create a better connection to the customers? And can they collaborate effectively with the supply chain?

Setting the agenda for growth

Understanding those moments that matter to the customer now and adapting to these should be on top of the organisation’s agenda. Not just to sell extra, but to reshape the business value to transform into a rapid-response organisation, potentially a digital company that can weather the next outbreak. It’s about increasing flexibility to respond and the ability to better understand customer needs and the universal human values behind these, such as convenience and the need for control.

Take for example, sports brands. The image of playing together outside with a large group of fans and supporters watching and cheering is not a given anymore with games being played without live audiences. Making sports a healthy and daily habit got a new meaning in the past couple of months – since in some countries sport and fitness centres are temporarily closed. The first sports brand that successfully repositions itself as the brand for a healthy daily habit either at home or outside is going to win the game.  To load the brand with new positioning and core values, organisations should start now by creating stories and working together with influencers and home exercise apps. The speed to react will determine the share of market in the post-COVID-19 world.

First, consumer brands need to realise what is at the heart of the customers at the moment. Then they’ll need to be able to respond quickly enough and show: we understand what’s on your mind right now and we’re here for you. More than ever, the CMO is in the right position to bring the voice of the customer on the table.

The three CMO challenges to win in a post-COVID-19 world

Keeping the focus on understanding the customer and staying relevant in the post-COVID-19 world will bring about many different challenges. Primarily, it’s about being able to create customer relevance in a sustainable and structured way. That means you’ll need to discover true customer needs, translate those into action and have the ability to align the organisation to realise true customer engagement:

  1. Turning customer data into actionable insights. In the current age of information, it’s actionable insights that glue a successful organisation together. Data matters, but actions are king. The biggest challenge CMOs are facing now is the unavailability of quality customer data. Without data sources connected from inside and outside the organisation and discipline in place for data quality, customer insights simply can’t materialise. That impacts marketing and the ability to decide on actions. On top of that come issues such as incompliance with privacy regulations such as the GDPR and digital ethics
  2. Creating relevant customer engagement. At the core, a brand wants to help people. They want to be engaging with people and give them the experiences they love. That calls for careful aligning technology and data with human values and identity. That’s why long term engagement with customers is difficult to establish. It requires end-to-end capabilities to translate customer insights into actions that are both relevant and meaningful. The resulting experience should be human and addressing universal values since everything you do is for a person. With digital becoming an integral part of the new normal, those brands that can elevate the human experience will be able to make a lasting emotional connection with their customers, which then becomes transformational.
  3. Building the organisation that delivers. Technology and data do not work like a wand that will magically solve all your issues. You need to have the relevant capabilities, skills and customer-centric organisation to help the delivery of these customer engagements. From collecting and analysing data, creating actionable insights and feeding those into tech to having a customer-centric culture that aims to build, understand and maintain these human connections. If there is no customer-centricity can-do mentality set firmly in the DNA, no amount of data and technology can save you.

These three CMO challenges are closely intertwined. Mixing data, technology and organisation enables you to embrace digital and leap ahead of the competition in the new normal.

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