Why we have reasons to be optimistic.

Harry Bolser, Client Solutions Executive in London, UK
10 December 2020

Our most recent event, on the back of our new white paper, explored the digital priorities for leadership in the coming year. The purpose of this webinar was to dive deeper into a discussion that would give c-level management a guide to navigating the opportunities and challenges in 2021. Our brilliant panel unwrapped the key themes of our white paper and (informed by years of experience) highlighted what the priorities should be for businesses in the coming year. 

The panel was made up of leading digital experts across a number of industries, including Adam Powers (Global Head of Experience Design at HSBC), Serina Saroian (Head of Product Marketing at Vodafone Smart Tech), Paul McMahon (SVP Product and Innovation at Coats), and Yessi Perez (Editor at UNLEASH) who mediated the discussion. Here, I’ll run through some of the key areas covered in what was a lively and informative chat. 

The future of the physical store

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to rapidly move to a full online experience. Those that have been unable to provide an end-to-end customer journey through digital channels have struggled to retain customers and maintain levels of sales. The key question is, what role does the physical store play in a world where the entire customer journey can take place online? As Serina said, “The store is still a really important part of the customer experience. There’s something special about being able to actually interact with a product through touch and feel.” In 2021, physical stores still have their place but it’s a case of evaluating why that store is there and what purpose it is serving for customers. Businesses should focus on how they can use digital to enhance the experience and ensure it’s driving value for customers and not used as a last resort where brick-and-mortar has failed.

Cultural implications of remote working

The pandemic has meant that the majority of organisations have had to rapidly adjust their ways of working so that their employees can work remotely. There has been a number of positives as a result, with employees getting more time with their families and saving time on unnecessary commutes. Businesses may also benefit from less expensive office spaces in what proves to be a difficult time for most. However, Adam pointed out some of the flaws with remote working. He joined HSBC nine weeks ago and found that, “Onboarding at a large business from my daughter's bedroom is really challenging. It’s very important to have zoom calls where there is no real purpose but it’s just a chat. This is not a nice-to-have but a must have.” There is a significant challenge for businesses in terms of maintaining culture through the casual conversation that zoom generally fails to cultivate. The key for businesses in 2021 will be a hybrid model that creates an environment where employees have flexibility but also considers the importance of human interaction and informal conversation. 

Saving on costs through automation

All the economic data points to a global economic recession. With this in mind, businesses can offset adverse sales with cost savings through automation efficiencies. Paul highlighted the importance of automation for Coats. He said that, “This has been super important in terms of the manufacturing side of the business, helping to reduce inefficiencies and generate cost savings. But also for our business strategy, automating processes for customer support, giving them the time to focus on adding value.” This emphasises the power of automation for a business, freeing up that time for your staff to focus on what’s really important - the customer. 

Optimism in a time of crippling pessimism 

It’s striking that what really came through in the discussion was a sense of optimism. Of course, the pandemic has unearthed a number of difficult challenges that give a justifiable reason to be pessimistic. But our panel highlighted the positives for business, employees and society that are here to stay. We should embrace these and take the best forward into 2021.

You can download our digital priorities white paper here and watch the full webinar recording here:

After such a successful event, we’re excited to explore this topic further in our next event. Our new panel of experts, composed of Cristine Cravens (Group Manager, Product Design & Research at Kroger), Jay Aho (Team Leader, Marketing Personalization at Quicken Loans) and Pete Markey (Chief Marketing Officer at TSB Bank), will dive deeper into the digital priorities for leaders in 2021. Join us on Wednesday, 20th of January at 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM GMT (9am - 10am EST). Sign up here.

Global Digital Leadership Priorities Event