Technology is transforming every industry: from retail and media to healthcare and transportation. This transformation is built on the idea of engaging with customers through new, improved customer experiences. But just because transformation is happening, doesn’t mean that every business will benefit. Couchbase recently launched its Data Dilemma research – a survey of 450 senior digital decision makers in the U.S., U.K., France and Germany that shows how enterprises around the globe are under pressure to transform themselves. However, they also face a significant data dilemma, which could have serious consequences for their very existence.

Check out the infographic here

Over the next few of weeks via a three-part blog series, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the background behind this data dilemma. We’ll begin by discussing the need for a new way to engage with customers. We’ll then dive into the very real data crisis facing enterprises. Finally, we’ll look at the possible consequences before discussing how enterprises can solve their data dilemma.

Digital disruption

The first lesson is that digital disruption is here to stay. From various video streaming services in media, to Amazon in retail and beyond, to Airbnb in travel, we can all think of examples of businesses that have transformed their industries through the way they use technology. Digital decision makers agree that this is inevitable: 73 percent believe their industry is currently being disrupted by digital technology, while 16 percent say it’s only a matter of time. Why is this happening? Because industries realize that the customer experience has to evolve. 94 percent say that improving customer experience is “very” or “somewhat” important, while 95 percent agree the ultimate aim of digital innovation should be to give customers and end-users a truly unique experience.

There’s no doubt that digital teams are feeling the heat: 80 percent of decision makers feel under pressure to be constantly improving their organization’s customer experience through digital innovation projects. But what does this improvement look like? While a truly unique experience is key to capturing customers’ attention, in order to succeed, enterprises need to move beyond experiences to true engagement. This means not only attracting and impressing customers with a single experience, but delivering a series of consistently excellent experiences, ensuring that they keep coming back for more and build a lasting relationship with the business. For instance, the leading ecommerce and streaming media companies today not only give customers a unique online experience, but also offer them TV, movies or products that interest them and ensure they are always sharing new ways to keep those customers engaged. Any successful enterprise should aim to do the same: by offering digital experiences that not only engage customers, but which raise the bar for their entire industry.

Are we there yet?

So, with pressure from above, and a clear drive to succeed, why aren’t we all experiencing brand-new experiences every day? Well, it’s one thing to have an ambition, and quite another to fulfil it. 90 percent of respondents say that whilst the revolutionary potential of digital projects is often talked about, most of the time they only deliver incremental improvements. This is backed up by experience: 48 percent of organizations have only been able to make, at best, incremental improvements in customer experience through digital projects – while at the other end of the scale, only four percent claim to have revolutionized the experience to the extent that it’s unique in their industry. Despite its apparent importance, improving the customer experience isn’t even the most common benefit enterprises have seen from digital innovation projects. Instead, more efficient working processes comes out on top: welcome, without a doubt, but not set to raise the bar for an industry.

What is causing ambitions to be thwarted in this way? And what is the solution? Ultimately, enterprises need to move away from seeing digital transformation as an incremental process, towards seeing it as something truly revolutionary. This should be reflected in investment. In the past year, enterprises spent an average of $5.7M on digital transformation projects – an amount which, considering the average enterprise’s operating budget, isn’t likely to truly transform a business. Ultimately, a lot of this frustration of ambitions comes down to how organizations approach and use data.

In the next installment, I will explain precisely why and how this is now becoming a critical issue.

Posted by Peter Finter, CMO, Couchbase

Peter Finter is a senior international marketing executive with broad experience across product, sales, and marketing functions. He has spent more than 20 years building and leading marketing and sales organizations for a variety of B2B businesses in EMEA and Canada. Peter is an Electrical Engineering graduate of Imperial College, London, and a Chartered Engineer.

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