The drive to transform business operations is relentless, with constant adaption and change. Since the start of the digital revolution, organisations have built ever more cleverly integrated omni-channel experiences to put the consumer in charge of how and when they interact. More recently, the pervasive trend has been towards reducing or completely decommissioning any form of physical channel. This can reduce operational costs and drive a more standardised service offering. It leaves the consumer with an array of zero or light touch digital channels including mobile, social, and various forms of AI. This trend can be seen everywhere: from IT service delivery to shopping.
However, deploying zero touch technology is only part of the story…consumers must actively engage with it in the way intended if you are going to achieve your expected return on digital investments.
The digital first paradox
This is where the paradox comes in: there is a real risk that this drive for digital engagement reduces consumer experience, and can even exclude some groups from accessing your services. Whilst business strategists promote digital first through transformation they often fail to consider the employees and customers who either won’t or can’t engage with the digital first trend. What opportunity are organisations potentially missing out on?
At a time of increasing costs for households, triggered by the rising cost of food, energy and commodities, businesses need to think more widely than services for the ‘digital first’ generation. Millennials, young families and other typically digitally confident groups have already faced average increased annual costs of £1,700 a year1, restricting disposal cash for non-essential purchases.
Engaging effectively with all market segments (including the digital laggards) will help organisations to continue to grow throughout challenging times, and provide some stability to corporate balance sheets in the short and medium term.
For example, the ‘grey pound’ represents ‘the money that older people as a group have available to spend’ 2. The average UK household headed by someone over 65 has more than double the average wealth of households headed by those between 35 and 44 3, and according to the ONS, the over-65s are expected to account for a quarter of the UK population by 2050. All of this means that the needs of older people should be of considerable interest to anyone providing consumer services.
Digital first is still a valid approach for older consumers, who are increasingly engaging with e-commerce and social media channels. However, building in more traditional and physical channels remains a real winner when it comes to feeling valued as a customer, whatever age you are. It’s also worth considering the significant cohort of consumers for whom more flexible channel access is a must. People who experience cognitive impairment find it increasingly difficult to remember passwords, carry out authentication protocols and select from a range of audio options. For these consumers, the ability to reach out and get a human response to unstructured demands for help is invaluable, ensuring inclusion for all members of society and leaving no one behind.
Diversifying channels for success
Whilst organisations should provide a range of channels to ensure inclusivity and revenue growth, there are effective strategies to encourage use of digital channels where possible. This starts with understanding consumer needs. For employees this means understanding factors such as workplace, work type and workstyle; and for customers or service users it’s important to segment your market and deepen your understanding of the lifestyles and challenges experienced by each group. Successful adoption can never be achieved without understanding the psychological element of change and what it means for the impacted consumers. Key to driving adoption is changing expectations and mind-sets, by making it more appealing to engage with different channels, and considering the personal ‘change journey’ that people will need to go on as a precursor to trying new things.
Organisations risk missing out on revenue without a holistic channel offering for all demographics and they risk losing employees with years of experience if meaningful channel engagement is not present.
How is your organisation embracing channel diversity? Are the physical or traditional channels being maintained or even promoted?
To discuss these or any other topics please get in touch, or visit our webpage to find out how our People and Organisational Change Services can help you.
1 BBC.com, 2021
2 Cambridge University Press, 2022
3 (Money Week, 2021