Simon Tate

The author is President at Asia Pacific, Adobe

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Why Competition For Indian Digital Customers Is About To Heat Up?

For Indian brands to join the leaders in 2023 and beyond, they must close any gap between customer expectations and the digital experiences on offer

Across the world, business leaders are grappling with the implications of a new market cycle. While there are few places to hide from global macroeconomic and geopolitical uncertainty, APAC leaders choose to respond differently.

Compared to their counterparts in the US and EMEA regions, APAC business leaders are twice as likely to increase their technology investments in 2023. In addition, more than half are planning to overhaul IT systems or re-platform.

At a regional level, at least two factors are driving the trend. The first is the widespread consensus among APAC leaders that consumers want an exclusively online experience – end-to-end and self-served. This may be particularly true for Indian consumers, who, according to research from Adobe in 2022, are the most likely of any APAC country to prefer digital experiences over in-person ones.

The second is that a small but elite group of businesses, locally and globally, are resetting the customer experience bar for everyone else. In India, this group is still select, but far more extensive than average.

Looking at the attributes of experience leaders reveals that increased investment is designed to keep customers close and deliver value on a personal level. Used well, it might help defend market share amid short-term volatility and gain customer loyalty and trust over the long term. 

However, it’s not just today’s leaders that are set to pull further ahead. Adobe’s 2023 Digital Trends: APAC in Focus research shows that many APAC leaders increasingly invest in new marketing and data capabilities. This suggests a growing group of challengers determined to deliver better customer experiences and join the leadership pack.

Consumers go even deeper online

It is well established that APAC consumers are some of the leaders in digital adoption across the world. For instance, the adoption of IoT devices is set to run well ahead of the rest of the world, with 38.9 billion set to be in circulation by 2030. Asia also has the highest number of mobile users globally, but there is still room for further expansion, with the fastest growth rates forecast in South and Southeast Asian countries. 

Their experience during the pandemic sent digital activity into overdrive, and business leaders are bracing for what’s next. Our research confirms that senior executives envisage customers moving further online, and 70% think customers want to go through the entire journey free from human interaction.

The reality of meeting the digital experience expectations of consumers means bringing together increasingly fragmented customer journeys. Most leaders also recognise that more than a good experience is needed; you must raise the bar each time. 

Across APAC, the disparity of leaders who deliver outstanding experiences is an exclusive minority of 8% of organisations. In contrast, a third (33%) of organisations keep pace with customer needs, while 39% lag expectations. 

India over-indexes in the number of organisations delivering exceptional customer experiences, doubling the APAC average by 16%. This is likely helped by outpacing others in APAC in capabilities such as personalising customer experiences based on previous behaviour and far ahead on personalising based on predicting intent.

Case in point here, ICICI Securities. They started their next-gen personalization drive a few years back which has helped them design and deliver specific products depending on the customers’ need and propensity, leading to increased cross-sell ratios and a completely transformed business. 

Trust-building capabilities

What sets these exceptional organisations apart is their prioritisation of customer-centricity and understanding. They enrich real-time first-party data with human empathy and insight to deliver personalised, in-the-moment content creating customer value and building trust.

Another area of opportunity is extending personalisation capabilities. It’s clear that the full potential of existing tech stacks around the world remains untapped. In the digital economy, Indian leaders can’t afford to wait to build trust with their customers as they once did in person. 

An example of exceptional experiences is the personalisation delivered by Delhi-based TLC DigiTech as it sought to meet customer expectations in the luxury hospitality industry. By focusing on real-time personalisation at scale, it has acquired 100,000 new loyalty members and driven up to 50,000 hotel transactions through its apps.

As Executive Chairman, Sudhir Gupta, said, “Loyalty programmes are about engaging and attracting customers. Adobe Experience Cloud helps in creating personalised customer journeys and automated interventions at various nodes of that customer journey.” 

Looking over the horizon 

If the past two years taught us anything, it is that if you can’t unlock customer preferences and create value for them, your digital experiences will not hit the mark. 

In the current climate, every Indian company must ramp up its digital capabilities to retain loyal customers and attract new ones. With new customer journeys, ever-changing digital preferences, and macroeconomic headwinds, that’s almost certainly going to be more challenging over the next three to five years. However, investing astutely now for future gains is part of shaking off the recent short-termism that 73% of senior leaders globally admit to. It’s a turning point where long-term strategy is no longer sacrificed for short-term, fleeting wins. 

So, for Indian brands to join the leaders in 2023 and beyond, they must close any gap between customer expectations and the digital experiences on offer. That starts with having the first-party data capabilities to know who and where your customers are and what matters to them personally. 

Add to that tracking complicated customer journeys across several digital devices. It ends with the ability to deliver customer experiences that can embed perceptions of personal value. This is crucial to ensuring hard-won customer loyalty and trust aren’t thrown away to the advantage of competitors.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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