Digital Transformation Trends: Q&A with MERGE’s Experience, Engineering and Platforms Leads

PUBLISHED: 10/6/2020

In our recent MERGE Moment interview, Chief Digital Officer Saurab Bhargava explored the accelerated digital transformation we’ve seen unfold across industries during this time of rapid, massive change. Companies that are taking real action now and operationalizing large-scale digital initiatives to inform longer-term strategies are the ones who ultimately will emerge on top. The burning question: Where to start?


To answer this, MERGE’s Experience, Engineering and Platforms (EE&P) Practice Leads offer insights about key areas today’s marketing and digital pros should prioritize to help propel their organizations forward successfully. Here’s what they had to say.


Keir Bradshaw, EVP, Technology

Emerging Technology + Mobile

"COVID-19 has fundamentally changed consumer expectations in technology. In almost an instant, our culture transitioned from one focused on balancing our time at the office and home, to a blended existence where home and office-life are basically one. This shift brought a reduction in face-to-face activities related to shopping, dining and even our own healthcare. We became more reliant on mobile devices to communicate and transact safely and effectively. This quickly propelled consumer expectation and the need for true organizational transformation forward at an unprecedented rate.  


For example, no longer is a trip to rent a moving truck characterized by wasted time standing in line to fill out paper forms. Instead, consumers are now directed by a mobile app that can determine when you are near your truck and guide you through the rental process. This increases convenience and safety for consumers while reducing costs for the rental company. When we finally beat back this virus and emerge to our new “normal,” consumers will bring with them an increased demand of convenience, access and interoperability."


Evan Lavidor, EVP, Technology

Technology + Data Connectivity

"People are used to digital experiences that 'know' who they are and what's important to them as a consumer — experiences that recognize them across their devices and personalize information. All of that is enabled through connected data. The more fragmented systems are in terms of data collection and processing, the harder it is to create connected experiences for your users. Concentrate on ensuring that data links across systems and information is available in as close to real-time as possible. In healthcare, this will always have a higher degree of difficulty given HIPAA, PHI, and compliance rules, but that doesn't mean that it can't be done or that it's not worth doing."


Lauren Sheehan, EVP, Head of Design

Experience Strategy Design

"The proverbial 'digital bar' is always moving upwards, but in the midst of COVID, our expectation and tolerance bar has skyrocketed. People don’t have the time or energy for anything that feels complex or slow. Studies show most loyal customers will abandon a brand after just one poor experience. Mix that with an underlying emotional landscape of uncertainty, mistrust, and anxiety, and things start to feel like experience roulette. For businesses to succeed going forward, they’ll need to adopt an immersive 'reinvention lifestyle' that goes beyond a digital transformation checklist. Bravely embracing and curiously exploring how to reinvent all areas of your organization by blending technology and experience design to make things better for users from an efficiency standpoint is critical...but that’s just table-stakes. More importantly, businesses must prioritize efforts that deeply connect emotionally. That starts with the single most important human evaluation gate: trust. If you don’t instill guttural trust within a few seconds, nothing else matters. Focus all experience strategies on gaining customer trust, and from there confidence, joy and delight are possible — and that’s where conversion and engagement thrive."


Jason Maloney, SVP, Integrated Channels

Performance, Engagement + Marketing

"In the world we’re in today, a lot of topics that have been trending are now upon us in full force. For example, most companies were evolving toward selling digitally, and suddenly, it became a reality that had to be accomplished immediately. With this shift comes the most important priorities for CMOs: the value to the customer and the performance of marketing investments. Providing real value to customers — through quality, service, convenience, or price — is essential, and getting value from the money spent on those things is critical to success. Follow the data and analytics to understand how to keep improving the impact of these efforts on the business’ bottom line." 


With the swift market push for digital transformation at scale, now is not the time to wait and see what happens 30, 60, 90 days down the road. Now is the time to jump in, test out new strategies, see what can be attained in a near-term timeframe, and learn from these experiences to achieve long-term digital goals. It is also the time to assess your current marketing and operations technological strategy to ensure that your organizational infrastructure is optimized to meet this new demand, regardless of your specific industry or vertical. 


However, ensuring you have the right data to guide your path, thoughtful strategies that keep your audiences in mind, and technology to power consumer-friendly experiences will help ensure your organization is on the right path to digital success.