Global businesses failing to live up to claims they are putting the customer first

New research reveals that over 80% of businesses are talking about the benefits of a customer-first approach, but few of these are turning talk into action. Over half (51%) of respondents said customer centricity isn’t focused on enough in their organisation, despite the rhetoric.

This is according to a global research report from Optimizely that surveyed over 800 purchasing decision-makers from marketing, product and IT teams in the UK, US, and Germany. The Digital Experience Economy report uncovers the keys to success in the new age of digital experiences and reveals the cultural and structural barriers that are holding back innovation.

The findings show that employees from different departments across the organisation need to be empowered to have a meaningful impact on customer experience. According to 79% of business leaders, the customer experience would benefit if the product, marketing, and IT/engineering teams worked together more closely.

A significant 91% of respondents claimed that their organisation’s employees are capable of delivering a constant flow of new ideas focused on improving the digital customer experience. However, over a third (34%) say that organisational structures make it too difficult to turn an idea into reality and team members don’t have the time to focus on developing new ideas. According to 32%, siloes cause issues as responsibility for delivering new ideas is kept locked down in one team within an organisation.

Changing attitudes to change

If businesses are to constantly improve the digital customer experience, they must experiment with new approaches. New ideas will not always work, so adjusting attitudes towards failure is an important consideration for innovative businesses.

Currently one in five organisations (20%) still have a culture where failure is not an option. But this might change soon. In the past 3 years alone 68% of executives have altered their attitude to change, with 94% of these executives claiming their organisation has become more open. It is leaders who are driving this trend, as 43% of decision-makers embrace failure more than less senior employees.

“Innovative organisations such as Amazon and Google have consistently embraced failure as a part of their culture,” says Dan Siroker, co-founder and executive chairman at Optimizely. “Being able to experiment and fail fast allows organisations to innovate and stay in touch with the ever-changing Digital Experience Economy. A business-changing idea can just as easily come from the customer support desk as it can from the board room. For this reason, organisations need to ensure they have a culture that allows all employees to have a voice when it comes to customer experience initiatives.”

Businesses struggle for digital clarity

It is no coincidence that this trend has come at a time where businesses see digital disruption as a constant threat. In fact, two-thirds (66%) of global businesses are either moderately or very concerned about being digitally disrupted by their competition. With the customer experience pivotal to success in this landscape, 89% of business decision-makers see digital experimentation as an important part of transforming their customer experience.

It is clear that communication around such digital transformation must be improved. Worryingly, 40% of business decision-makers don’t understand what their organisation means by ‘digital transformation.’ Further to this, 58% agree that the definition of digital transformation and what it means is not communicated clearly enough by leadership teams.

Ultimately, an inability to effectively communicate digital transformation initiatives will result in projects being stalled, or failing altogether. Whilst a quarter (25%) of businesses from the U.S. and Germany don’t expect it to take more than a year to roll out their digital transformation initiatives to the entire organisation, only 14% of respondents in the U.K. felt this was achievable.

“Ten years ago, investment in digital for most businesses was significant. But today, we’ve seen rapid exponential growth towards how companies think about experience design, product engagement, and customer experience. With the democratisation of software for gathering data, analysing data, and using data to make better products and experiences, businesses have the opportunity to get closer to their customer than ever before. I see experimentation as the key enabler to helping businesses get closer to their customer, to iterate and validate their way into value creation. It’s a continuous and iterative process for understanding what your customers most need and expect,” said Matty Wishnow, Managing Director, Experience Design and Optimisation at Accenture Interactive.

To learn more about the cultural barriers blocking successful digital transformation, the organisational structures that are halting innovation, and how businesses can position themselves for true customer-centricity, click here to download the full global report.

About the Research Report

The research was conducted by independent research firm Sapio, based in the United Kingdom on behalf of Optimizely. Optimizely surveyed 808 purchasing decision-makers or influencers from the U.K. (25%), U.S. (50%) and Germany (25%).

All interviews were conducted online in March 2019.

About Optimizely:

Optimizely is the world’s leader in digital experience optimisation, allowing businesses to dramatically drive up the value of their digital products, commerce and campaigns through its best in class experimentation software platform. By replacing digital guesswork with evidence-based results, Optimizely enables product and marketing professionals to accelerate innovation, lower the risk of new features, and drive up the return on investment from digital by up to 10X. Optimizely’s impressive customer list includes Visa, BBC, IBM, Wall Street Journal and many more global enterprises. To learn more, visit optimizely.com.