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Customer comms' role in digital transformation

3rd May 2022
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Research shows that Gen Z and Millennial consumers account for 25% of the total retail spend in the UK, and this figure is set to grow to 39% by 2030 as more of Gen Z reaches adulthood and matures financially. Businesses need to ensure they’re adapting to the new demands and expectations younger generations are bringing to the market. However, you neglect your loyal more traditional customers at your peril.   

Working with ambitious organisations across sectors, we see the greatest success when customer communications transformation is prioritised over the narrower pursuit of digital transformation. By looking at the entire customer journey, and therefore including physical and digital channels, transformation investment will benefit both your future, digitally-native customers as well as improving the clarity, ease and speed of response for those who prefer a mix or only paper-based communications as well. This important reset takes the investment upstream and pays dividends across the whole customer base without dramatically increasing costs or time to deliver.

In the financial services sector, for example, a recent report from Forrester highlighted that while many established firms are ploughing ahead with significant technology overhauls to cater to the digital demands of younger audiences, overambitious digital transformation plans may actually be damaging their current customer communications. 

Businesses also need to be wary that as Gen Z consumers begin to make up more of their target market, the pressure to accelerate digital transformation programmes will only intensify. This digital imperative threatens to extend the gap in quality, consistency and, ultimately, engagement between digital and physical customers.

Forrester’s research goes on to suggest that while many banks have been pursuing digital transformation efforts for some time, the lack of a coherent strategy is holding them back. Even those that are succeeding with a digital-first strategy are sometimes struggling to achieve the delivery of a seamless experience between channels and consumer contact points.

Barriers to transformation 

Executing a digital overhaul is a complex process, so businesses must ensure that they don’t get lost in the weeds and lose sight of their true goal: enhancing customer experiences. With a narrow focus on digital-only, firms risk creating further legacy, missing the opportunity to amplify their transformation efforts and creating a future in which the pipeline of expensive modernisation projects seems endless.

If this happens, an overambitious and under-planned digital transformation project can damage customer communications by promising a lot, delivering little, and diverting resources away from areas that bring real customer value. 

A higher purpose

Of course, the answer isn’t stopping investment into digital transformation. Instead, you should focus on the higher purpose of communication transformation. This focus can significantly improve digital adoption, moving paper-based customers onto your digital journey far more effectively than any individual campaign.    

The combined power of new technologies and effective communication can join up the customer journey, creating real-time digital conversations that stem from a paper-based starting point. We increasingly find that digital transformation works best when it’s a collaborative effort, built on feedback from customers themselves.  

However, effective communication isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. As businesses’ consumer bases evolve and become younger, they need to adapt and expand their communications to incorporate tactics that will resonate with each age group. We have seen the demand for ‘opti-channel’ communications develop at pace when our clients have a keen ear for their own customer’s needs.

Legacy businesses, like big banks in the financial services sector, have traditionally communicated via printed mail. And while there is no doubt that Millennials and Gen Z will want more digital communications, it is a misconception that there is no role for traditional printed mail. It just needs to be done in the right way. Frictionless channel-shift and specific-but-consistent experiences in each channel are achievable with the right focus.

An omnichannel approach 

The speed, ease and convenience of digital communications are unmatched. However, as the growth in the number of emails people are receiving shows no signs of slowing – predictions show that 376.4 billion emails will be sent and received every day by 2025 – ‘email fatigue’ is a real concern.  There is still scope for physical mail to make a real difference when it comes to effective customer communications. 

Mail also has unique benefits; its growing scarcity has given it a novel value, meaning people – especially Millennials and Gen Z – tend to spend more time looking at letters than emails before discarding them, which leads to enhanced engagement. The conclusion is therefore simple: an omnichannel approach involving a cohesive communications programme across digital and physical channels is a must to engage customers of every age. 

A blended approach to customer communications is crucial, not only to keep customers engaged, but also to keep them informed of the investments being made to improve their experience. 


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