Straight Talk Weekly: COVID-19’s requisite pivot to digital leaves industries with the underlying question: “how can enterprises sustain digital customer engagement for the long term?” Omdia’s newest ICT Enterprise Insights 2020/21 research suggests the appetite for further investment exists, but it may be too little, too late.

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The post-pandemic market requirements have undoubtedly highlighted the urgency for customer experiencefocused digital technologies that can meet the needs of borderless working environments and digital-anywhere, anytime customers. However, an underlying question has recently emerged: How can enterprises sustain digital customer engagement for the long term?

Omdia’s newest research, ICT Enterprise Insights 2020/21Drivers and Technology Priorities, suggests the appetite for further investment exists, but it may be too little, too late. According to the survey results, when asked about the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the relative importance of specific technology areas over the next 18 months, a combined 76% said transforming the customer experience is “more important” now or even “significantly more important” than before.

Although enterprises across all industries recognize the importance of elevating the customer experience, they aren’t necessary prepared to optimize digital customer engagement on a long-term basis. Omdia’s ICT Enterprise Insights (ICTEI) survey asked respondents about their progress and status toward enabling omnichannel customer engagement and only less than a combined one-third said their digital transformation efforts are complete or well advanced.

Even more surprising, according to the same ICTEI survey data, most enterprises aren’t prepared to meet customers’ digital engagement expectations. According to the same survey data, only 17% have completed support for a digital environment. Even more sobering, is the news that the majority of firms either haven’t started digital transformation efforts, are in early stages, or don’t even think it’s relevant. In fact, a combined 62% of firms, remain in the early stages, haven’t started, or view digital transformation as irrelevant; a combined 56% of respondents said they are in early stages of establishing support for a digital culture, haven’t started, or view it as irrelevant; and another combined 62% are in the early stages of articulating a digital strategy, or haven’t started, or view it as irrelevant.

These firms face risk of not only misconstruing and underestimating customer expectations, but worse, customer attrition. In this current environment, where consumers are relying on a combination of web, chat, mobile, and video, the companies that fall into “early stages” and “not relevant” may have a long uphill battle. Those in the early stages are likely delivering fragmented customer experiences, which in turn can lead to a loss in sales as well as customer loyalty and retention. While enterprises that view digital transformation as not relevant face possible extinction.

Over the next few years, a major portion of revenue growth across all enterprises will depend on digital operations and offerings, indicating that investments in a digital strategy and a move toward cloud infrastructure development and platform environments are non-negotiable.

In a positive sign, more than half of the respondents the ICTEI survey are planning strategic investments in digital over the next 18 months. However, in the next vital chapter of recovery these enterprises must move swiftly in developing and communicating their digital strategies. They also must swiftly, yet prudently, harness emerging digital technologies that align with their business goals and customer needs, as well as enable them to remain agile, proactive, and relevant to customers.

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