The world has seen tremendous change in the last few months. “Social distancing” has become the norm to protect against coronavirus and businesses, big and small, have been shaken to their core. Some are experiencing an unexpected shortfall in demand, while others are struggling with increased consumer demand and supply shortages. The dynamics of the customer journey – both for B2B and B2C customers — is constantly changing as we adapt to our new surroundings. It is even more important now to effectively reach out to your customers and help in whichever way possible to emerge strong together from this pandemic.
How COVID-19 is changing B2C
Customer engagement touchpoints have changed abruptly, leaving many businesses with little time to prepare, react, and respond. In the past decade, there have been more omnichannel experiences for customers. The pace of these transformations has varied across industry sectors, and every organization has prioritized its responses differently. Organizations that were at the forefront of their digital transformation adapted quickly to this unprecedented change. Digital transformation — whether big or small, strategically-focused or tactically-approached — has defined how well the organization is positioned to handle external shocks like COVID-19.
For example, some retailers have a website or app that acts as a direct-to-customer channel. Some are brittle monolithic infrastructures that don’t easily extend to accommodate new capabilities. Others have reasonably good integration capabilities through XML or JSON file interchange, but they don’t scale up with traffic.
Organizations with true omnichannel capabilities provide channel-agnostic and seamless omnichannel experience for their vendors, suppliers, and partners, and are in a stronger position to adapt to the current situation. For example, grocery chains who integrate with the on-demand food delivery platforms, such as Instacart or UberEats, have seen a 300% surge in demand in the past few weeks — which is more than the website traffic of all the retail groceries combined.
Achieving a 360-degree view of the customer
As consumer behavior shifts, organizations need to better understand their customers. Businesses can uniquely target certain audiences with data on customer segmentation. To properly track, analyze, measure, and gain customer insight from this complex volume of unstructured data, organizations need a robust platform that unlocks and unifies data from various systems — whether it be a marketing platform, CRM system, or data analytics tool.
Integration is critical to assembling all of the disparate data across the organization to construct a 360-degree view of the customer. A service-based approach to integration creates a unified view of the customer journey map in real-time.
Using technology in new ways to deliver new customer experiences
To stay at the forefront of disruption, organizations need to find new ways of connecting with customers digitally. There are several ways that businesses can use technology to transform and deliver new customer experiences:
- Bringing more interactive content on digital platforms, such as a 3D graphic of a consumer good on an eCommerce website, could help convert to a sale. However, such content will probably increase the amount of streaming content over the network, requiring a content delivery network (CDN) will be vital to manage the storage and retrieval of this type of content.
- Contactless payment services is another way to adapt to the changing consumer behavior. Payments using near-field communication (NFC) will become the new normal. Companies need to adapt fast to integrate its payment methods with emerging payment services — requiring a modular architecture that is driven by APIs.
Resilient operations and 24/7 uptime of services will also be important for delivering great customer experiences. Organizations with architectures that are event-driven will adapt faster to increasing consumer demands, compared to the organizations that are batch-driven and expect downtime in systems when updating supply information. Auto-scaling capabilities will also be necessary as organizations look to spend wisely on infrastructure.
Leveraging an API strategy to enable new experiences
Organizations with a well-defined API strategy and have exposed external touchpoints for data to be exchanged through secured APIs are in a better position to meet customer needs during a supply chain disruption. For example, grocery vendors that securely expose their inventory management, order management, and payment provider can quickly integrate with Instacart and Peapod to serve customers through third-party delivery channels. This is not about having a large number of external-facing APIs, but about how optimized these APIs are for discovery and consumption. Having a self-service model, such as a developer-friendly API portal, can accelerate secured access to those APIs for the external consumers. As more information on the structure and content of the APIs are available, less time is required to integrate and onboard third-party systems, accelerating go-to-market initiatives. Anypoint API Community Manager combines a full-featured API portal and industry-leading digital experience capabilities, transforming how teams collaborate across the entire lifecycle of an API program. Companies can create customized digital experiences that promote API products, support API ecosystems, and increase engagement between developers, partners, and employees.
Getting your organization ready for change, anytime
The customer journey will continue to evolve in more profound ways than ever before. The effects of COVID-19 on consumer behavior will persist even after the crisis. Physical touchpoints will be minimized wherever possible, and new innovative ways to interact with the customer will surface. For example:
- Online shopping for groceries will continue to evolve and expand as people realize its benefits.
- Home office and work-from-home concepts will become normalized across industries wherever feasible.
- Streaming media content will be more mainstream, and new ways to cater to this demand will evolve.
While we can’t be sure just what the new customer journey will look like after COVID-19, we can assume that change is constant and innovation will be centered on the idea of engaging with the customer digitally at all touchpoints.
In order to quickly adapt to change, organizations will need to build future-proof foundations with modular systems that can be easily replaced or extended. By leveraging APIs to turn these systems into pluggable building blocks and build an application network, organizations can be ready to pivot when a major disruption or crisis occurs in the future and act with resilience and efficiency to deliver on their customers’ needs.
For more information on how to build an IT infrastructure that is built for change, watch our webinar.