Vision 2022: What are CEOs prioritizing?
Having already navigated two turbulent years, most CEOs are feeling the pressure to sustain growth amid continued disruptions. A December 2021 survey of 3,000 executives reveals that the top six priorities all have a strong focus on technology including:
- Exploring capabilities in AI and automation
- New competition or business models
- Technological advances in processes
- Better pervasive connective tech infrastructure
- Data privacy and protection
- Personalization capabilities.
This view is supported by the results of an EY survey which showed that 47% of CEOs believe technology is the key to improving margins and customer engagement.
With so many technology elements to focus on it can be challenging to know what to prioritize, especially when tasked with big revenue growth targets. In addition there are several new trends emerging in customer experience (CX) that are influencing the direction companies take in 2022 (Read our previous blog post 5 New CX habits for 2022).
We believe CEOs will use three core principles to determine which technologies can deliver the most business value, help them lead their companies to greater levels of success, and prepare them for the next inevitable disruption.
At the start of 2020, many companies had a positive outlook and believed they had sufficient capabilities to respond to disruptions. The pandemic truly put this to the test by upending overnight many aspects of business and CEOs suddenly had a whole new set of challenges to deal with. As a result, business leaders have changed their definition of agility, acknowledging that being agile requires much more than strategy.
The companies that thrived were already exploring ways to connect with and sell to customers on digital channels. For them it wasn’t a major shift as much as it required accelerating and maturing programs already in development.
What took many companies by surprise was the degree to which customer behavior and priorities changed and then continued to evolve over time. It highlighted the need to have technologies that could keep pace with change and many dynamic variables. This directly fueled greater interest and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is able to sort through large amounts of complex data quickly and efficiently to provide insights on how customer behavior changes. This is critical to helping companies respond more effectively with experiences that better connect with their target audiences.
More than anything CEOs want answers. They want to know what’s changing in the marketplace, how the company is responding, what’s working, what’s not working, and most importantly why. This ties in with the priority to become more agile because it’s not possible to be agile if you can’t generate answers quickly and truly understand the reasons beyond these answers.
One of the biggest challenges companies face in responding to customers is not a lack of data, but the ability to extract insightful and actionable value from that data. This leads to the importance of matching the pace at which everything is changing. While A/B testing tools are tried and tested, they require far too much time and traffic to generate answers. Plus they are limited in their ability to test multiple ideas. At a time when businesses need to extract maximum value from their technology investments, a key requirement is being able to go beyond simply testing a few ideas in favor of experimenting at velocity and scale. This delivers the ability to optimize digital channels by experimenting with more ideas to quickly find the answers to what’s working and why.
AI-driven experience optimization is meeting this need and helping companies generate more value for the business and their customers in the process, by optimizing digital experiences on landing pages, checkout process, and product detail pages, for example. With AI, it becomes possible to experiment with hundreds of ideas and variables in thousands of combinations and find the top performers quickly using live visitors and customers. More importantly, AI-driven experience optimization is able to identify what made it a winning combination and then make suggestions to continue to improve it even more. In short it delivers answers at speed and at scale.
A primary challenge for most companies and especially larger enterprise companies is getting departments or business units to align on strategies and priorities. A secondary challenge is aligning business goals with strategies that deliver customer value.
Aligning to what customers want requires knowing what their preferences are and keeping up as they change over time. Listening to the voice of the customer (VoC) is important, but so is having the ability to experiment broadly to discover what customers are responding to.
One of the leading trends in e-commerce is a growing desire for more personalization. It’s not enough to have good offerings, they need to be relevant to what customers need at that specific moment in time. If not, customers simply move onto the next competitor. AI-driven experimentation and personalization helps close the gap between generating ideas for more engagement and delivering more relevant experiences that will get visitors to move further along the customer journey and click the buy button. This is achieved across all channels for a consistent omni-channel experience and is based on delivering on the customers intent to successfully meet their request.
Internal misalignment is often one reason behind why efforts to improve customer experience (CX) fail or don’t deliver the expected results. It’s possible to change this when CEOs prioritize alignment and invest in technologies that enable greater collaboration and data sharing between departments. In our experience with enterprise clients, when AI-driven experience optimization starts to deliver growth in real terms, such as an increase in sales or average order value (AOV), it becomes easier to get the buy-in across different departments. It also makes the case for greater data sharing. While the benefits of alignment are obvious, in reality it is hard to achieve. Technology that can add business value and generate useful insights can be the CEOs best weapon to achieve this difficult task.
The pace of change shows no sign of slowing down and competition in e-commerce is increasing. Well known brands are going Direct-to-Customers (DTC) and are investing in delivering memorable digital experiences. Plus new market entrants are carving out a niche wherever they see an opportunity. This coupled with increasing demands from customers for more personalized customer experiences across all digital channels and in-store is causing CEOs to look to advanced technologies such as AI to help them achieve their business goals. There are distinct advantages to being able to experiment broadly and at a velocity that can keep pace with change. For CEOs that want to stay ahead of the competition and respond quickly to the next big disruption, AI-driven experience optimization has the potential to make a big impact and is a must have.