Connecting With Customers in the Age of Acceleration
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A century ago, after a global pandemic upended the global economy, the rebound that followed produced enormous growth, consumerism, and technological advancement in a decade that’s still referred to as the Roaring ’20s. As the world recovers from our own once-in-a-lifetime-pandemic, businesses and leaders must now adapt to the changes made in the past two years to deliver on new customer expectations in the next era — one that is being defined by accelerated transformation.
One of the pandemic’s most consistent features across sectors has been its ability to accelerate existing trends by decades in a matter of just weeks or months. Take e-commerce, which for the past two decades had grown 1% annually and represented 16% of U.S. retail at the beginning of 2020. Two months into the outbreak of the pandemic in the U.S., that number had grown to 27%. Lockdowns and social distancing accelerated digital transformation as companies adapted to delivering products and services to customers virtually.
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The forced digital catch-up across industries brought about increased accessibility, ease of use, and connection for customers. In addition to fast-forwarded digital trends, customers and society have also experienced rapid change during this period. Socially conscious values, which had been an increasing focal point among customers for years, have also become a key issue in the pandemic, with customers gaining a greater sense of power in holding organizations to account for their brand purpose and values.
Many of the more successful brands throughout the crisis have been the ones able to leverage data and adapt according to shifting customer behavior and expectations. In a new MIT SMR Executive Guide, “Connecting With Customers in the Age of Acceleration,” experts in marketing, branding, and digital transformation offer insights and practical resources for managers.
In the series, authors Kimberly Whitler and Raj Venkatesan, professors at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, examine how marketing leaders can craft a better data and analytics approach to critical business problems. Elsewhere in the series, Sara Wilson looks at the rise of micro-communities within social platforms as an opportunity for investment and growth when it comes to community engagement and brand resilience. Other articles in the series will explore topics such as rethinking pre-pandemic customer assumptions, communicating brand purpose effectively and authentically with customers, and engaging with new technologies to enhance the customer experience.