Over the past few years, digital and data transformation has been a major theme across many industries, and any business worth its salt will look to harness the benefits brought by these technologies.
Steve Rhee (pictured), chief digital officer of Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., discussed with Corporate Risk and Insurance some of the recent and emerging trends in data and digital, including those that were pushed to the forefront due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Rhee, in today’s business environment, the ability to have digital omni-channel and real time data interactions is critical for companies in order to reach consumers and commercial buyers.
It is also a two-way street, as prospective clients are constantly doing research on products and services. They are looking for information about a company, its customers, their experiences, and whether the company is easy to do business with.
“At the same time, consumers are providing companies with data about their needs, wants, interests, timing, and location via an array of real-time digital devices, such smartphones and wearables,” Rhee said. “With the exchange of data, it’s imperative to interpret the data and provide thoughtful content to your prospective buyer and current clients at the right time and through the right channel.”
This data exchange redefines the buying experience, he added, as it provides companies with the opportunity to be properly positioned at the time of sale and be available in the digital channels that the buyer utilizes.
Social media platforms are now powerful sources of information for buying decisions, news, politics, and social purpose. Rhee observed that social media is going beyond being a source of discovery towards being a source of transacting and buying.
With COVID-19 as a backdrop, digital tools have never been so important. Rhee highlighted several major effects the pandemic had with regard to adoption of digital and data.
- Companies were forced to accelerate digital strategies – According to Rhee, plans that would usually take years had to be rushed down to months, in order to stay relevant to customers and partners. The pandemic accelerated the need for a thoughtful digital presence on select channels where their customers, prospects, and partners interact. Social media was solidified as the primary source of information for people as they interact with a wider array of content beyond personal connections, such as news, sports, politics, product research, and social purpose.
- A stronger need to enable more digital tools to enhance the remote work experience – Video conferencing, virtual events, and e-signatures are all tools designed to enable more collaboration and easier ways to conduct business digitally. There will be further innovation that will allow more intimate interactions to continue to build relations. This will also increase the need for more security around these digital and data exchanges.
- Industries have adopted digital delivery to continue reaching customers – Telehealth is one of the prime examples of this. While brick-and-mortar stores have struggled, e-commerce has been tremendously strong, according to Rhee. E-delivery platforms for food and groceries allow users to order from any participating store on their platform. Finally, video content and streaming platforms have emerged, as more people are at home and work remotely. Many of them are evolving into content providers where they create content to continue to attract new subscribers.
Rhee predicts that the future of digital in business rests on leveraging data, as well as the immediacy of accessibility.
“As we begin our road to recovery, digital and data will be the center of the pandemic recovery,” he said. “Industries will need to continue to invest in customer and back-end digital operations to match the demand to provide data across the customer value chain. Buying behaviors have permanently changed, and data will be driving the investments required in digital.
“Artificial intelligence and predictive models will consume more data to ensure that you are meeting the customer and clients on the channels they want, when they want. Customers will continue to seek a personalized experience and that requires consuming and analyzing data to be able to provide the personalization your buyers are seeking.”
Furthermore, Rhee believes that the companies that offer the simplest way for their clients to interact with them through multiple channels (interpersonal, digital, social media, etc.) will prevail.
“Companies will now need to focus on how to modernize, digitize, and streamline their operations to be able to support the new normal,” he said. “It will need to be a corporate strategy that is now embedded in the culture of how the company will now service their clients and work with their partners.”