Before COVID-19 changed the world in 2020, brands were already on the path to digital transformation. But when the planet was locked down, they had to speed up their plans.
Early on, brands faced supply chain safeguards, infrastructure issues, and consumers’ rapid transition to digital channels.
Almost two years later, marketers say this rapid switch to all digital has led to more business, greater customer loyalty, and improved operational efficiency.
In a Thursday session titled âContent to Commerce: How Technology Flipped the Customer Experienceâ at CES, moderated by MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, marketers from Instacart, McDonald’s, General Motors and Target explained how the digital revolution has led to better customer connections.
For example, Target executive vice president, chief digital and marketing officer Cara Sylvester, said that while the retail giant is heavily focused on customer engagement before the pandemic, investing and growing the Target app has allowed him to forge deeper relationships with clients. The Target Circle customer loyalty program, available through the app, now has 100 million members.
âWhen you use our app, it’s not just based on what you’ve bought with us before. Now we know who you are as a human so you are going to have personalized experiences, âshe said.
Sylvester added that with the online transformation Target can take a âlifelong approachâ to marketing.
For example, while the retailer could previously target black customers with a campaign during Black History Month, it can now have a personalized and ongoing approach to helping its customers support black-owned brands.
At McDonald’s, Marketing Director Tariq Hassan said digital acceleration has allowed QSR to refocus on what’s really important to customers and double down there.
For example, while McDonald’s drive-thru continued to operate during the pandemic, increased use of its app forced McDonald’s to recognize and resolve issues with mobile ordering, curbside pickup and others. features.
“[Digital transformation] forced us to go back to the things that really mattered to our customers: speed, convenience and precision, âhe said. âIt also gave us access to our customers [with content] and the food they love.
He noted that social campaigns, such as Celebrity Orders, have helped McDonald’s better understand its customers and their interests.
Going digital has also allowed brands to interact with customers on their own terms, instead of offering a rigid experience.
Edward Kummer, chief digital officer at General Motors, said that since adding more flexibility to the car buying process, such as the ability to make purchases and complete paperwork online, the automaker has seeing as clients enter its showrooms after having already done their homework.
âOur clients are much more educated, and now people [buy cars] in different ways, âhe said. “Some people walk into a showroom and want to leave that day, while others will research and educate themselves for months before deciding what to buy.”
But what did it take to get there?
Even fully digital businesses have had to pivot. Instacart, for its part, began analyzing consumer buying habits to create even more relevant experiences on its platform as usage skyrocketed during the pandemic, COO Asha Sharma said.
âWithin a few weeks our volume increased four to five times,â she said. âSo we had to give it all up as a business and focus on three things: keeping our buyers safe, serving as many customers as possible, and fulfilling orders with the highest quality. ”
During this process, Instacart learned that some of its customers’ biggest frustrations occur when they can’t access the key items they buy each week. We had to get really good at predicting and understanding turnaround rates, uptime and tuning our engines for [create] a transparent fund, âshe continued. âFor many people, a shopping spree isn’t just a bag of groceries; it’s a set of experiences and it’s our job to be able to bring them to the fore for them.
Despite the growing challenges, the changes brought about by digital transformation have been beneficial and represent the future of commerce, the panelists agreed.