A massive 80% of U.S. marketers said their responsibilities have increased a great deal in the past year, specifically supporting customer acquisition (47%), new online or virtual services (46%) and social responsibility / sustainability (41%). All this while facing internal and external stressors, including pressure from upper management to boost results (47%), swift changes in strategy (39%) and unrealistic deadlines (20%).
But the nightmare that was 2020 also led to some positive outcomes with more than three quarters (77%) of U.S. marketers surveyed saying they saw greater innovation and were able to build an advanced tech stack this year more quickly than in the last three. And, perhaps most importantly, the vast majority (81%) feel more connected with their customers because of their digital transformation efforts over the last 12 months.
The corresponding consumer study reveals a less patient, fickler customer, with brands fighting harder to maintain customer loyalty in a year of online-only interaction. The arrival of this more demanding customer contextualizes why marketers felt intensely pressured over the last 12 months:
- A whopping 70% of consumers will navigate away from a site and choose an alternative if they can’t find what they need in just a few clicks.
- Most consumers (65%) have less patience with slow or poorly functioning websites since the pandemic.
- More than a third (42%) of consumers are less loyal to the brands they usually shop with since the start of the pandemic.
“As a leading pet-specialty retailer, one of our top priorities always – but especially since the pandemic – is to provide personalized pet-centric experiences for our neighbors (shoppers) at scale,” said Miles Tedder, chief operating officer, Pet Supplies Plus. “Working with Sitecore, we’re able to craft seamless, personalized e-commerce interactions for our online community of pet parents as we continue to navigate an increasingly digital world.”
The sudden, unexpected arrival of a digital-only approach to customer engagement brought an accelerated pace of change for marketers, with most (79%) stating that they had to fundamentally change their customer experience in response to the pandemic. The vast majority (81%) needed to upskill quickly to meet the changing demands of their jobs in areas including digital experience platforms (54%), personalization and customer journey (39%), and automation of customer service / AI (36%).
To more fully understand the mindset of today’s marketers and consumers one year into the pandemic, Sitecore worked with global research specialist Advanis on the survey of more than 400 U.S. marketing professionals and 1,000 consumers, gauging how marketers coped with the pressures responding to unprecedented demand from consumers.
Paige O’Neill, CMO, Sitecore, comments on the findings and their significance for the changing online customer experience: “The digital customer behaviors we were expecting by 2030 arrived in 2020; not by the customer’s own choice, but driven by a world that needed to switch to digital-only engagement literally overnight to survive and thrive during the pandemic. Consequently, rising expectations of exceptional customer experience and speed of reaction to a new consumer climate is the new battleground across industries. Our survey shows the extreme pressure that marketers underwent in the previous 12 months, indicating that no one could have anticipated the extreme speed and agility required to meet the accelerating consumer demands. Going forward, marketers must accept that this is the new norm, and we aren’t going back to where we were before.”
Advanis conducted a survey among consumers and digital marketers, commissioned by Sitecore, reflecting on COVID-19 impacts and priorities going forward. 400 marketers from the UK, 88 from the Republic of Ireland and 402 from the US were surveyed from March 5-10, 2021. An accompanying study of 2022 UK consumers, 1,000 consumers from Republic of Ireland and 1,000 U.S. consumers was conducted March 10-16, 2021.