Digital technologies and consequently digital transformation reshapes every aspect of a business. The era of digital customer experience is here. More and more companies are transforming themselves around the idea that their value goes beyond their products and into the total end-to-end experience their customers have with their brand. We are all part of the so-called ‘experience economy.’ In 2017 customer experience continues to rise rapidly as the primary way for organisations to differentiate themselves from competitors. Many of them are investing in holistic design capabilities, looking to create those experiences that will feel personal, compelling and memorable.

There are number of challenges companies face when truly optimising customer journeys across multiple touch-points, channels, for example data capabilities aren’t developing fast enough to enable data driven personal marketing approach. Having well-designed customer journeys that facilitate clear communication and seamless transactions across digital and physical interactions is difficult to master for complex large organisations with many silos and legacy technology still in place. A key part of delivering differentiated customer experiences in the near future will involve looking beyond mobile and focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and leveraging evolving artificial intelligence capabilities (AI). Design-centric mindset and combined design expertise help to create customer experiences that are as personalised, relevant and valuable as possible. Being design-led means having an eye on the overall customer experience and ensuring it is consistently served across all touch-points.

Evolving customer expectations driven by tech companies

Across financial services customers expect big banks to keep rolling out technology innovations at the same pace that tech companies do. They got used frequent app updates offered by their App Store and expect banks to proactively respond to evolving customer needs and expectations.  It is a challenge to keep up with these expectations driven in many cases by industry disruptors from Uber and AirBnB to Monzo, SimpleWealth or Atom Bank (Read more). Failing to do so means that many would leave their banking or insurance provider and switch to a fin-tech  startup or  brands like Amazon, Google, Apple or Facebook if they expand into offering financial services. But how likely is it that one of these big tech companies will move into big finance? Google has been flirting with the idea through a series of small, but significant financial services. Amazon has taken a step further than both by offering loans to thousands of invited sellers in its market place. So we can assume these companies have an appetite to develop further finance offering. (Read more) Value, personalisation, relevance and simplicity are increasingly regarded by consumers as audience factors and not as innovative proposition.

Growing importance of the user experience

The customer experience (including employees) is the ultimate goal of any digital transformation. Customers have more choices and are quicker to turn away from brands that do not align with their needs and expectations. User experience design is a tactical capability that leads to improvements in the overall customer experience. A top-notch user experience across digital interfaces is a fantastic way to keep customers involved and engaged with a brand. It needs to ensure consistency, simplicity and clarity of any processes, interactions across channels and devices. Every touch point matters, and those leading the transformation should constantly be asking how are we removing friction and enhancing the experience for every customer regardless of where they are in the journey.  New and increasingly intuitive technologies (think speech, gesture, touch, sight and more) are enabling consumers to interact with their environment, make payments and authorize purchases in more convenient ways.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)

The booming success of the Pokémon GO AR app is a wakeup call to any business that hasn’t evaluated the potential of AR and VR. These technologies were once limited to the gaming realm, but they’re now easier to implement than ever before. The mainstream shift toward AR and VR provides new ways to connect with customers and offer unique, memorable interactions. The popularity of AR and VR also open up the gates for workplace gamification.

Application program interfaces (API)

APIs are a secret weapon for embracing true digital transformation. eBay and PayPal are two companies that have relied significantly on these technologies, and it’s enabled them manage an incredibly high volume of transactions. As companies seek to tie together more and more best of breed technologies, APIs will play a big part in making this possible. Instead of being forced to marry a platform, the API will open doors for multiple platforms to tie together in an ecosystem that is fast and flexible. For companies looking to deploy the technology that creates the best user experience, it is often required to source from multiple vendors.

Big data and analytics

Analytics drive business by showing how your customers think, what they want, and how the market views your brand. In the age of Digital Transformation, almost everything can be measured. In the coming year this will be a cornerstone of how businesses operate. Every important decision can and should be supported by the application of data and analytics. Customers seeks one single getaway to any company across their products and channels, and one single view of their relationship with a brand. This requires data integration across organisational silos in the back-end that enables a seamless customer experience in the front-end.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Speaking of how invaluable big data is to marketers, the IoT offers immeasurable insight into customer’s mind. It’s also changing how daily life operates by helping create more efficient cities and leaner enterprises. Businesses and customers alike will continue to benefit from the IoT.

Smart machines and artificial intelligence (AI)

Our relationships to technology continue to evolve. Soon machines will be able to learn and adapt to their environments. AI has long been considered the realm of science fiction, but as technology improves, AI becomes a reality. There is already a wide adoption of chatbots and many investment banks are developing a robo-advice propositions. While advanced learning machines may replace low-skill jobs, AIs will be able to work collaboratively with human professionals to solve intensely complex problems. AI stands to become one of the most disruptive forces across the industries. Recently Scandinavian Nordea bank has deployed chatbot with the mission of providing customers with a better experience, speaking up customer queries response timed allocating customer questions and problems to the right agent. The solution can analyse hundreds of messages per second, opening up a broad range of applications. The chatbot has been introduced initially to answer basic queries and refer customers on to human colleagues for more complex questions. Over time, however, the bot is becoming more intuitive as it learns on the job, building more knowledge about how to interpret and respond to customers’ queries.

Destroying organisational silos to enable a customer centric culture

The role of the CIO has changed dramatically over the past decade. With rise to new roles like the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Design Officer or Chief Customer Officer, we are seeing a rise in the important of digital transformation happening NOW, and the importance of it happening not just in the technology of a company, but across the entire organization. Traditional solutions are more multidimensional and technology CANNOT be used as a crutch. A focus on breaking down silos, will give innovation more room to flourish and collaboration becomes easier.

These trends and technologies are at the core of digital transformation efforts in 2017 and will continue in 2018 and far beyond. There is no question that digital transformation is no longer an option as the need to build an organization that can change both its technology and its culture rapidly will be core to not only surviving in the time of business disruption, but building a business model that is agile, adaptable and designed to thrive long into the future where change is the only constant.

Written by Michal Jerzy