At the start of 2020, very few envisaged the significant disruption and distress caused by COVID-19 and what the response to the pandemic would entail for people’s day-to-day lives. Businesses needed to adopt a level of agility that would enable the economy to remain afloat and maintain a dialogue with anxious and uncertain customers and consumers.
Highly tech-enabled businesses were at an immediate advantage, using cloud technology to transition to home, work with relative ease, and possess a digital ethos whereby every individual formed part of the solution. On the other hand, businesses that were more rooted in the past often paid a heavy price.
As the dust has settled and we edge towards the end of this pandemic, a life of lockdown and flux has become something akin to normal for many of us. In this space, distant discussion about the long-term legacy of COVID-19 has become an increasingly present reality. Of course, agility and resilience will need to be a given; in fact, businesses will unlikely be considered healthy if they return to the precarious states of preparedness experienced during 2020.
One legacy of COVID-19 is that we witnessed the capacity of business and society to come together to endure a crisis and rise to the challenge of effecting positive change in the long-run. Looking beyond agility and survival, companies must also key into and engage with rapidly evolving expectations. Those that are successful in doing so will cultivate loyalty and grow their market.
That said, while it is easy to preach the need to improve trust and purpose in a world demanding agility, this can present considerable logistical and communications challenges. The challenge of projecting global principles -but cultivating local familiarity. The challenge of remaining grounded in purpose while operationally being able to pivot or even uproot a business. The challenge of being consistent in trustworthiness yet flexible in value drivers.
We have outlined three principles that will guide global businesses through this world of changing expectations and using technology to deploy content with agility and intelligence to meet these challenges.
Projecting your values globally, ensuring they land locally
If global businesses do not engage audiences worldwide on a level that resonates with their values, their share of the market will shrink. 2021 will see a greater understanding of the need to support societies and respect cultures – but this must be genuine and authentic; otherwise, more harm will be done than good. However, the challenge is how a global business can resonate with consumers on a local level in a world of such vast differences in culture and value?
The answer is the technology that ensures context. When correctly delivered, context can have such a bearing on how a consumer reacts to a brand proposition. Companies can take full advantage of the latest developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This is to build a better experience for their employees, their customers, and all their stakeholders.
Closely connected to this, transcreation – adapting content for different cultures – will assume a new significance. AI-powered machine translation will provide an intelligent solution that helps brands deliver more content and quicken the rollout of their global messages. Personalization will move beyond just mere credentials, which feel fake and fool no one, to more genuine, more useful interactions that customers value. Companies who move toward smarter contextualization based on location, channel, and customer knowledge, will be at an advantage in 2021.
Truth is a valued commodity, understand the ROI
At a time of global crisis, the danger of a post-truth culture became more evident than ever. Once only affecting the fringes of society, misinformation about vaccines now threatens the health of whole populations. Across the world, the combination of a sense of crisis and a culture of unchecked information left us feeling more divided than ever, all at a time when, no matter our differences, the response to COVID-19 saw us needing more than ever to act in support of a set of fundamental truths collectively.
2021 will continue to see a tide of disinformation, and people will buy into businesses and brands that act with and project integrity in the face of this culture. Consumers have come to examine claims with far greater scrutiny – and this is not limited to areas such as politics and health. Nearly all businesses and brands serve consumers affected by this culture and decide how they wish to be an example.
Honesty really will be the best policy, and consumers will value brands that can effectively cultivate trust more than ever before. The companies that will come out ahead will deliver their global messaging from a single source of carefully curated and trustworthy content, delivered efficiently and intelligently to a multitude of localized destination interaction points in whatever language and context are required.
Automation enables agility, but lack of transparency will undermine trust
The rapid adoption of automation and AI at the start of 2020 was accepted as a means of survival and continuity. As the rollout of 5G and IoT become more and more of a reality, the prevalence of automation looks set to continue into 2021. In many ways, this presents an immense opportunity, with businesses intelligently deploying content on an unprecedented scale. The potential impact for businesses is enormous, with the ability to express their value and principles in ways like never before (in a more cost-effective way too!)
However, the same automation that has such potential can also have serious consequences. Left unchecked, ‘rogue algorithms’ can stray from personalization to restricting choice or morphing into bias. Regulators and societies are aware of this danger, and organizations must be prepared for increased scrutiny.
Consumers will increasingly demand to see greater transparency and justification behind automated processes. Technology helps – but we should recognize its limitations, and provisions should always be in place to enable human scrutiny and judgment. In 2021, businesses must be transparent and prepared to provide answers about their algorithms.
To conclude, businesses need to rise to the challenge of consistent cultivation of trust, consistent clarity in purpose while simultaneously thriving in a world that demands rapid change and adaptability. Constant and evolving dialogue is critical like never before. Suppose global companies embrace technologies that cut through the veneer of tired marketing speak and instead strive for deeper dialogue with consumers on an individual basis. In that case, everything is to gain in this world of raised expectations.