How Times Have Changed: Improving the Digital Customer Experience During Unprecedented Change

Sumit Dhawan, Chief Customer Experience Officer, VMware

Only a decade ago, improving digital customer experience meant optimizing and mobilizing websites and e-commerce platforms. Oh, how times have changed.

During this time, the most successful organizations have focused on delivering a holistic, customer-centric digital journey. This means personalizing, streamlining, and boosting the performance of every customer touchpoint and interaction. Why? Because the best customer experiences lead to loyalty, which in turn leads to repeat purchases and top-line growth. And the digital experience is at the core—especially modern applications.

A recent global survey of 5,000 application developers, business decision-makers, and IT decision-makers conducted by Vanson Bourne, commissioned by VMware, explores the connection between digital transformation and modern apps. For example, 79% of survey respondents say organizations won’t be able to deliver a best-in-class experience without successfully modernizing app development.[1]

Apps At the Ready

The survey’s new findings are complemented by what others have been saying, namely:

  • 88% of surveyed CIOs and IT senior executives agree improving app portfolios improves customer experience.[2]
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75%.[3]
  • Over half of consumers say they will pay more to buy from a retailer they’re loyal to—a significant opportunity for brands to drive long-term revenue.[4]

Has the digital customer experience changed during the time of COVID-19? Absolutely. And it’s pretty clear which companies prioritize customer experience by modernizing digital offerings.

Becoming Future Ready

Rapid Response: Phase 1

Agility and end-user experience are key digital transformation drivers at high-performing organizations. In contrast, respondents from underperforming organizations say their enterprises prioritize reducing costs.[5]

Even before the pandemic, nearly 8 in 10 agreed customer experience is tied to revenue growth. Yet, almost half (48%) haven’t improved their apps in a year or more.[6]

For IT leaders behind the customer experience curve, a modern apps blueprint is emerging. And from the actions of high-growth organizations, we know combining software-minded people with agile processes and automated, self-service platforms is a path to success.

To support their organizations during this unprecedented time of change, lines-of-business and IT leaders came together very quickly. They needed to rapidly make products, services, and solutions accessible to their employees and customers through contactless digital experiences. This meant reducing purchasing hurdles and hassles while empowering employees in new locations to sustain business operations. Fast and effective teamwork with proven IT partners has been a key to rapid response for many.

“We went from having about 25% of employees working remotely to jumping overnight to well over 90%. Having a digital workspace platform, VMware Workspace ONE, and robust VDI environment, VMware Horizon, already in place meant that, fortunately, we didn’t have to burn the midnight oil to support a nearly fully-remote workforce.”

—Joey Toms, manager of IT end-user services, World Wide Technology

Related story: The Remote Work Genie Is Out of the Bottle: Now What?

Adapting to Become Resilient: Phase 2

Software-minded leaders are embracing phase two of the global crisis as an opportunity to reinvent workflows and processes. This triggers a shift from reactive to proactive innovation. Targeted investments help drive adaptability and speed by tapping into the power of interconnected digital innovations, including:

The ultimate goal? Become more resilient to boost operational stability, the return to growth, customer satisfaction, and workforce efficiency.

Customer Spotlight: ZOZO Technologies

“We experience a huge surge in shopping traffic to our website, sometimes more than three to four times the usual traffic on an average day, during seasonal sales. This meant we needed to scale up our IT infrastructure very quickly to ensure a smooth and seamless online retail experience for our customers and over 1,300 store owners. VMware was successful in scaling up to 100 hosts on-demand through VMware Cloud on AWS during the 2019-2020 Christmas/New Year sales period,” says Nobuhiko Watanabe, team leader, Development Division of ZOZO Technologies.

“During the COVID-19 quarantine and summer sales event this year, there was an increase in traffic, but we achieved similar success, despite our teams working entirely from home. With VMware Cloud on AWS, we were able to scale up hosts easily and without any disruption. Both successes demonstrate the power of a consistent cloud infrastructure and operations to enable our business to scale on-demand and help meet business continuity requirements.”

Accelerating Innovation: Phase 3

The pandemic has changed nearly every facet of life. And even when we can safely reunite in offices, stores, schools, and other public locations, our experiences will be forever changed. And that means the technologies that power those experiences must change, as well.

It’s been gratifying to see how the benefits of modern apps are directly linked to not only the developers who believed in them but also to the success of everyone across the business. Think about one of the most critical services during the pandemic: grocery shopping. Local Kroger stores, for example, quickly pivoted to curbside pickup and home delivery. That was all possible because of the company’s early commitment to modernizing and speeding its app development and delivery processes.

The challenge now is to quickly help under-performing organizations adopt the best practices of high-performing peers. To succeed during this time of unprecedented change, enterprises must embrace software-minded thinking and modern apps to deliver great digital customer experiences.

Ultimately, the businesses that do it best will thrive.

[1] Vanson Bourne, commissioned by VMware. “Successful Digital Transformation: Apps At The Ready,” May 2020.
[2] Forrester Research. “Improving Customer Experience and Revenue Starts with the App Portfolio,” March 2020.
[3] Bain & Company. “The Best Way to Cut Costs Is to Make Customers Happy,” October 29, 2018.
[4] Yes Marketing. “The Retail Shopper’s Journey to Loyalty,” June 2019.
[5] Vanson Bourne, commissioned by VMware. “Successful Digital Transformation: Apps At The Ready,” May 2020.
[6] Vanson Bourne, commissioned by VMware. “Successful Digital Transformation: Apps At The Ready,” May 2020.