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Episerver May 12, 2020

Sink or Swim: Key Advice from Episerver on How to Respond to Digital Demand


In a recent Episerver webinar, Product Strategy Manager, Chris Purcell, took us through the process of creating a digital roadmap for dealing with the coronavirus crisis and planning for recovery. The talk aimed to give viewers a deeper understanding of how a digital experience platform (DXP) can support businesses by enabling a customer-centric approach.

The talk began with a discussion around what drives digital change in a business. In the past, this was the preserve of C-suite roles –  the CEO, CTO, CMO. Now, it’s COVID-19 that’s driving digital transformation. Some businesses are moving to a D2C model, some are reordering their customer journey from a face-to-face to digital-first, and some are pivoting to new revenue streams such as subscription services to guarantee cash flow. All can benefit from creating a digital roadmap that takes into account the immediate needs of the crisis period and the next 6, 12 and 18 months of industry recovery.

Looking at the sectors well positioned for this crisis, like e-commerce, video conferencing, logistics, streaming and home entertainment, the clear link is that each industry is digital first. While a retailer like Primark, with no e-commerce option, is struggling, their online competitors Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing are prospering from increased demand for ‘waist-up’ fashion and loungewear. While Primark will be questioning it’s previous decisions, it’s fair to say that a global pandemic wasn’t on anyone’s business planning radar, and no solution can ever be fully ‘future-proofed’ for times like this. 

Do you have the agility to deal with the future?

Charting economic recovery is not as simple as watching the X and Y axis of time and the economy. We cannot forget the Z axis, the structure of the economy; is your business model built for how the economy used to function, or how it will function? The difficulty is in predicting what the future economy looks like. Digital agility is a major benefit in a situation like this, being able to respond to unexpected change, whether it be disruption to the supply chain or a shift in consumer demand. Opting for a best-in-need DXP can add agility to your business, making it easier to track changes in consumer behaviour and update content channels accordingly.

Changing Consumer Behaviour

Chris drew attention to the recent changes to consumer behaviour, as reported by EY in their Future Consumer Index. EY found that four behaviours stand out when looking at the population at large:

  • Save and Stockpile – 35% of consumers
    A bunker mentality that sees consumers bulk buying any product seen as an everyday essentials, particularly when there is a cut price offer on the market.
  • Cut Deep –  27% of consumers
    Consumers with the most pessimistic view of the next 12 months, reeling in any extraneous spend to ensure their finances can support them in the future.
  • Stay Calm, Carry On – 26% of consumers
    Unchanged attitudes to spending, looking to live as close to their pre-crisis lives as possible.
  • Hibernate and Spend – 11% of consumers
    A smaller group of consumers that are concerned for the present but optimistic for the future. Typically younger, this group is happy to spend if it means the lockdown period is more bearable.

The obvious question when reviewing current consumer attitudes, is what comes next? EY’s report suggests five personas that the previous groups each flow into.

  • Get to Normal – 33% of consumers
    People looking forward to living as they did before the pandemic.
  • Cautiously Extravagant – 25% of consumers
    Typically higher income people that will make the most out of increased freedom, spending more on what matters to them.
  • Stay Frugal – 22% of consumers
    Lower spending driven by pessimism for the future. 
  • Keep Cutting – 13% of consumers
    Lower income groups hit hardest by the pandemic, having to lower their spend more to stay secure.
  • Back with a Bang – 9% of consumers
    Young professionals, looking to experience everything they missed on lockdown. Optimistic, spending across all categories.

B2Cs need to consider how their offering fits the crisis and post-crisis era consumer groups. Similarly, B2Bs need to consider what this infers about how the economy will recover. Spend on necessities will return, but additional purchases will be deprioritised. 

Purcell also discussed other long-lasting effects businesses are likely to see as the recovery period begins. The continued popularity of online purchasing, particularly in the food industry, looks certain due to the recent reliance on these services. A fall in luxury goods would be a likely result of economic downturn, and reprioritisation of goods and services.

Similar to the continued use of food and grocery delivery, the popularity of new media like livestreaming services and TikTok is likely to stay, with the lockdown driving new audience growth. At the same time, in-person events are expected to slowly return, as the population is reluctant to move too fast as lockdown measures ease.

It is important to see each of these as an indicator of behavioural shift during the crisis. They suggest a broad move towards opting for online options wherever possible, and a reluctance to rush the recovery. Because of this, there are two clear business priorities that rely on digital transformation: surviving the crisis and embracing the new normal.

Surviving the Crisis

Survival is built on what can be done today. Small changes that improve engagement and open new online sales channels, with a view to using these channels as a supporting sales function when all options return. 

Brands should be looking at their online content and platform and thinking about how useful the current offering is. Can customers easily find what they are looking for? Do they have enough information on how the business operates during the lockdown to finalise their purchase?

Episerver provides a real time content audit to check if messaging resonates with the audience, revealing what topics, products and problems customers are searching for. These content diagnostic options can help businesses to move quickly as the situation develops, allowing them to be more agile when a new trend develops. This includes purchasing trends, but also shifts in the popularity of different types of content, for example video to written content, and long vs short form. Measured against clear KPIs, a content diagnostic platform can be the go-to real time report that informs each action in your content strategy.

Embracing the new normal

In terms of approaching the new normal, all organisations should be asking themselves what their  business and their industry will look like in six months. Public opinion is split on how much and how quickly behaviour will return to normal but, based on the early indications from the EY report, pre-crisis activity will be slow to return and digital options will have superseded traditional propositions.

Episerver’s digital transformation process is grounded in a ‘crawl, walk, run, fly’ approach. Across ten customer experience and digital operations focused criteria, the Digital Agility Model looks at each aspect of the business’s digital profile. This process makes it easier to see the areas for improvement and how the next step can be taken. It also supports the business in drawing up a digital roadmap for the next six, 12 and 18 months, adding more certainty to the long term outlook. You can find out where your organisation sits by downloading Episerver’s Digital Maturity Model Report,

Pivoting quickly & effectively

As an best case example of business agility, Purcell discussed the rapid pivot of Norwegian food retailer, Coop. Before the pandemic, Coop didn’t sell online. After lockdown hit and the Norwegian government called for more online food shopping, the retailer decided to launch an ecommerce offering. Within two weeks, the store was selling their products online.   

Referencing another Scandinavian success story, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health migrated their platform to Episerver to create a scalable website that could best communicate the advice of medical professionals to the public during the pandemic.

Dept has teamed up with Episerver to launch a ‘Rapid Deployment’ package for its Experience Platform for frontline industries, which includes all of the core features of content management and search, launched on a globally scalable, secure cloud infrastructure. The out-of-the-box template makes it easy to customise the website’s user experience, so that new sites that are on-brand can be spun up very quickly. 

Time to Prepare for Recovery

As countries around the world begin to ease their lockdown measures and we begin to enter the recovery phase, the behavioural shifts of consumers and businesses will become more apparent. To prepare for this, all companies should be building a digital roadmap around what we know of the structural shifts that are occurring in the post-COVID-19 world. 

Consider the benefits of a customer centric DXP, what agile content creation and real time reporting can offer your business, alongside the clear technology needs of your company. Choosing the right solution can be the difference between success and failure in the modern economy.

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