When you’re looking for great Italian takeout, a clean and affordable resort for next year’s vacation or the best new gadget for your kitchen, what guides your decisions as a consumer? 

Years ago, you probably called a friend, relative or neighbor – someone you trusted to share their knowledge and opinions – before following up with online research.  
Today, you grab your smartphone first. In seconds you can find recommendations on social media or other ratings and reviews platforms. Within minutes you can begin interacting digitally with a brand – forming opinions about how well (or poorly) it meets your needs. Before you make a purchase decision, you may confirm or clarify with another human; you may not. 
Although you were likely reaching for your smartphone long before the COVID-19 outbreak, digital channel usage throughout the pandemic has continued to spike. And we don’t expect that to change: Even after consumers feel safe venturing into physical spaces, we believe they will not return to the old “normal.”  
Either way, the bar has been permanently raised on what customers expect as “basic” digital capabilities. As people keep going and staying digital, their experience expectations will continue to rise.  

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It's accurate to say that the pandemic brought 2025 to 2020, accelerating changes in consumer preferences and behaviors and putting pressure on brands to keep pace. 


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Digital by default

Welcome to the world of Digital by Default. It’s a future that Accenture has predicted for years – and that the COVID-19 outbreak put on the fast track. I believe it’s accurate to say that the pandemic brought 2025 to 2020, accelerating changes in consumer preferences and behaviors and putting pressure on brands to keep pace.  
In the world of Digital by Default, convenience, ease and accuracy are table stakes. Intelligence, empathy and reciprocity are the differentiators. And trust is more critical than ever. 
Some organizations have proven better prepared for this world than others. Those with processes that are not fully digitized have faced challenges. After all, if even 5 percent of a process still requires manual intervention, that process was likely bottlenecked during the COVID-19 shutdowns. By contrast, organizations that had already invested in cloud technology, advanced data solutions and mobile employee technology before COVID-19 have been able to navigate the impact more quickly and confidently.  
I believe that five years from now, those organizations will have emerged as clear winners in the market.  
In the meantime, all organizations need to achieve greater flexibility of physical spaces, platforms and data. That includes the ability to continuously recalibrate requirements and investments against the outcomes they support, re-justify space investment, identify platform investments that pay off faster, and ensure that data is both comprehensive and accessible to power dynamic decisions. 
You simply can’t take half-measures when your competition is a tap away. You need a clear and compelling brand purpose – and an experience promise that you can consistently provide to all customers. If you fall short in delivering on your brand purpose or experience promise, you may not get a second chance.  
Years ago, people would “vote with their feet,” quietly taking their money to another product or provider. Today the feedback loop is visible and global, with many consumers who are not shy about sharing their sentiments. The impact can be swift. (Just ask some of the organizational leaders who have recently faced dire consequences from betraying their brand purpose and values.) 

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Get to 2025 now

How can you better position your organization to outmaneuver uncertainty today and tomorrow? Start by assessing where you are and where you have opportunities to improve.  
With those insights, start designing an end-to-end experience and touchpoint strategy. As part of that, consider how you might reimagine the role of physical spaces – and rethink your customer function support model and financials from the ground up. Everything should be challenged and questioned. From there, start executing your top-priority initiatives with a firm commitment to being agile. Keep testing and learning to validate and continually improve your strategy. 
Above all, don’t wait. The future isn’t tomorrow. It’s here. It’s Digital by Default. And if your organization isn’t, too, you could be left behind.  
What to do now? Grab your smartphone and start here


Edwin Van der Ouderaa

Senior Managing Director – Customer, Sales & Service, Europe

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