The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated the need for brands to accelerate digital transformation. And as we get further into 2021, brands are looking for ways to stay relevant and innovative. Take for instance, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, a brand that has kept digital experience top of mind.
“We see Digital as an extension of our brand’s unique qualities including the personal attention and care our guests feel when they visit our restaurants,” shared Bryan Hooper, VP, Digital Experience with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. “Our Digital Hospitality journey started with Digital Store, a uniquely Cracker Barrel digital property bringing together the best of our food, catering, and retail into a seamless experience built on Sitecore Experience Commerce. As we continue on our journey, Digital Store will learn what is personally important to each guest and deliver an individualized, hospitality experience that reflects the ways our incredible store employees get to know our guests and make each visit special.”
We recently spoke with Chris Joyce, Vice President of Sales at Sitecore, which is a leading digital experience platform (DXP). He shared insights on how the pandemic has shaped transformation and innovation among top brands like Cracker Barrel, emphasizing the increased need for personalization and customer centricity. Read on to hear Joyce’s answers to the top questions on the impact that digital transformation has had coming out of 2020 and how a DXP accelerates digital transformation.
Modern Marketing Today (MMT): How did digital transformation evolve this past year and how did this impact brands as they connect with their customers?
Chris Joyce (CJ): I think a lot of brands have given a decent amount of lip service to digital transformation as something that’s futuristic and something that they need to do. The current environment has forced brands to innovate and evolve much more quickly. For example, if an organization, company, or brand doesn’t have journeys that start and stop with digital channels and if they have journeys that need to either have a midpoint or endpoint in a physical location, store, or branch, they really needed to rethink how they address their most precious assets, which are their customers, prospects, and future customers.
I think that the pandemic has absolutely hastened and escalated the need for everyone to think digital-first. It’s made brands ensure that they have the right technology, right approach, right journeys, and right mindset to keep the customer at the center of everything that they do.
Now more than ever before, the customer absolutely is in charge and that’s why the need for customer centricity is so important. To this end, it’s critical for brands to be able to serve up the right content in the right channel at the right time based on what that individual customer needs. Customers are very different, and different people need to be supported in different ways. That need for nimbleness and speed and individuality has just become so much more important.
MMT: How important is personalization when connecting with these customers? How should this play into a brands digital strategy?
CJ: I think personalization has always been important, but it’s even more important today. At the end of the day — in whatever we’re doing — we want to be recognized, and we really don’t want our time wasted. Today, everyone has so much on their plate that, when it comes to purchases, they want to get in and get out. Whatever they’re trying to do — they want to solve it quickly, they want to solve it effectively, and they want to do it in their own channel of choice. People want to be recognized as individuals, and they want their interaction with your brand to be personalized. They want to know that their current relationship with your brand is what they expect.
Brands should be prepared and able to make some proactive recommendations because being identified is really important. We also need to understand that we live in unique times where there is this need for empathy and to understand that customers are experiencing this unique moment in their own way. To meet them wherever they are on their journey, we need to have an empathetic lens and empathetic voice. And we need to be very deliberate in how we communicate with them. We can’t keep hammering home the same message over and over again. We need to meet our customers where they want to be met, and we need to know who they are and what they’re expecting, so that we can meet them the right way.
Empathy should absolutely be influencing this digital strategy. I think one of the beautiful parts about digital — whether it’s web, social, email, apps, big browser, little browser — is that it empowers brands to meet the customer where they are on their journey. However, I think it’s more holistic than just meeting them where they are in digital channels; brands need an omnichannel view and many are struggling with this big challenge right now.
At Sitecore, we’ve identified the root cause of this omnichannel challenge as a content crisis. Brands have a lot of content — which is a really good thing but it’s also scary thing — but have no way of knowing or ensuring that they deliver the right content to the right customer in the right channel at the right point in their journey.
MMT: With this personalized customer centric approach in mind, what advice can you offer to brands as they seek to engage with customers in this digital realm?
CJ: Whereas previously, retail success was all about ‘location, location, location’, today the focus is on customer experience: We have to deliver the right experience through the right voice and from an empathetic standpoint, walking a mile in your customers’ shoes and understanding what he or she goes through, and understanding what sort of content we have and what sort of experience we are delivering to our customers across all channel experiences.
While most brands will think digital-first, the most important thing they can do in early 2021 is to evolve their thinking to think more macro. The number of channels through which customers and prospects can engage with a brand is exploding. To harness that energy and deliver success, it’s imperative that we meet them where they want to be met, and we need to deliver them the right content through the right voice.
Find out more Sitecore insights on accelerating digital transformation.