IDC’s 2020 predictions focused on the need for enterprises to get ready for the digitized economy by accelerating investments in key technologies and new operating models. A global pandemic was just the push companies needed to re-imagine how they engage with customers and manage sales processes.

Alan Webber

“If anybody had told us last January that we were going to shut down pretty much the whole planet and people would have to stay home and businesses would close, I don’t think anybody would have believed it,” said Alan Webber, program vice-president for digital strategy and customer experience with IDC. “What that really did was to force companies to look at digital-first.”

A leading global analyst, Webber joined ITWC President Fawn Annan in February 2021 for an installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series presented by ITWC and IDC to address pressing marketing challenges. Their discussion centred around IDC’s 2021 predictions and the increasing importance of the customer experience.

In reply to a question from Annan about the emphasis on empathy in IDC’s 2021 Predictions, Webber explained the absolutely critical role of cognitive empathy as businesses become more digital and begin to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19. “We’ve always talked about customer data, but I think we’ve finally reached a tipping point where the massive data becomes so important that we need to look at how we use that data,” he told Annan.

Reflecting on what has changed in the past 12 months, Webber identified the main difference as people’s realization that the amount of information transferred in a video is vastly greater than what can be transferred in any other format. “We actually have the technology now to create videos simply, easily and quickly – something we couldn’t do before,” he said.

Moving along to a discussion of gaps in business processes and customer engagement, Webber identified attention to inventory and supply chain management as absolutely critical in meeting customer needs. Fintech, he said, is another area of increased significance, given the massive increase in online sales. “When tech buyers purchase an ATM solution or a commerce solution, there’s a whole network that needs to be built in place to make that work,” he explained.

When asked by Annan to comment on the IDC prediction for 2021 that 70 per cent of new mobile applications will focus on humanizing the digital experience, Webber related it to the recent push for empathy, saying a more human digital experience might be something as simple as apologizing to customers when a problem emerges with a complicated purchase process on a mobile app.

Webber concluded his remarks by summarizing the essence of brand marketing, distilling it to an imperative for businesses to recognize that the world is changing and that customers are changing as well. “Businesses need to ask themselves what new technologies and new business processes should be acquired and how they can check their progress and track success,” he said. “That’s really what this comes down to.”

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