A new global research study of 8,000 consumers and 800 marketers examines how COVID-19 has forced brands and customers to rapidly adapt to a digital-first reality. The report, conducted by digital experience leader Acquia, looks at trends across three dimensions: technology, talent, and personalized use of touchpoints to optimize the customer experience (CX). It also examines changing consumer behavior: 40% have bought more goods online in 2020 and 84% have used digital channels—including social media, mobile apps, and websites—more frequently than they did in 2019.
Despite tough economic conditions, a rapid shift to digital has enabled brands to deliver a better CX. Eighty-three percent of global marketers said that their spending on digital marketing and CX tools increased over the last 12 months, and 82% agree that they’ve experienced positive ROI from these technology investments. Among organizations’ CX improvements, customers are responding overwhelmingly well to a personal touch: 96% of marketing teams saw improvements with customer engagement after implementing personalization.
“COVID-19 has thrown most organizations a curveball, but the results of this study show just how resilient marketing teams are in shifting to digital and improving the customer experience,” said Lynne Capozzi, chief marketing officer at Acquia. “Even though marketers are trying to do more with less, technology has created opportunities to connect with consumers on a personal level—at a time when their digital engagement is higher than ever.”
Marketing Teams Resilient in the Face of Change
In terms of internal impact on teams, marketers have pressed on despite the quick shift to remote work and office shutdowns. The majority of marketers (82%) said their teams were prepared to deal with remote work before shutdowns began. Even so, many organizations have been taxed to do more with less. Nearly all marketers (93%) said skills gaps prevented them from building better digital marketing campaigns. One-third of teams have had to cope with a COVID-19 related reduction in workforce.
While the CMO is responsible for driving the CX strategy at more than half of organizations (52%), many marketing teams have struggled to recruit the technical talent needed to execute. Interestingly, data scientists (43%) and machine learning engineers (40%) represented an emerging category of skills gap centered around making the digital CX more personal and data-driven. Technology may be helping to fill these skills gaps, with 44% of global marketing teams investing in AI and machine learning tools, and 54% in customer data platforms.
How Consumers React to Marketing in “The New Normal”
The study found that personalization is highly effective at improving customer engagement, but there’s still a gap between marketers’ perception of trust and consumers’ reality. Three-quarters of marketers said that their customers trust their organization’s use of personal data more in 2020 than they did in 2019. However, just over half (52%) of consumers say they are comfortable giving brands personal data in exchange for a better experience. While there’s still a lot of room for improvement, 2019 CX survey results showed that 79% of consumers believed brands should not be able to use personal data for marketing.
To see the full results and key takeaways, download the report, Design Resilient Digital Customer Experiences in Disruptive Times.
About the Survey
To gain a perspective on customer experience in 2020, independent global research firm Vanson Bourne collected the views of 8,000 consumers and 800 marketers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The survey explores how marketing and consumer behaviors have shifted to adapt to the new landscape after the start of the pandemic. This is Acquia’s third annual CX survey.
Acquia is the open digital experience platform that enables organizations to build, host, analyze, and communicate with their customers at scale through websites and digital applications. As the trusted open source leader, we use adaptive intelligence to produce better business outcomes for CX leaders.
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