The digital economy is driving new expectations and opportunities

Digial economy and money.

Image credit: Adobe Stock/pushish images.

Over the last several years, digital transformation has driven companies of all types — not just retailers — to digitize their businesses. As a result, the digital economy is rapidly becoming the economy. This shift is creating new rules and expectations, and new opportunities for brands to either thrill or disappoint their customers.

To understand the current and future impacts of the digital economy on consumers and businesses, Adobe surveyed 13,000 consumers and 4,250 customer experience and marketing professionals across 14 countries — the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. These are the highlights from our research:

The digital economy plays an increasing and empowering role in most consumers’ lives. Eighty-four percent of global consumers say the digital economy plays a role in their lives, and over half (53 percent) say it plays a strong role — nearly one in five (18 percent) say “the digital economy IS the economy.” Younger consumers (66 percent of Gen Z and 65 percent of Millennials) are even more likely to say the digital economy plays a significant or dominant role in their lives.

The digital economy is where companies do business. The overwhelming majority of marketing and customer experience leaders (83 percent) say the digital economy is playing a major role in their businesses, with half (50 percent) describing the role as significant, and 15 percent saying their businesses would not exist without the digital economy. Nearly one in five (18 percent) say the digital economy IS the economy.

Trust is paramount in the digital economy, and #1 in challenging economic times. When economic conditions are uncertain, consumers rank trust #1 when choosing where they spend their money, followed by price, selection, and relevance. Younger consumers are particularly strong in this view: When times are tough, trust outranks price by 13 percent for Gen Z and 15 percent for Millennials.

The digital economy is changing customers’ expectations.

Brands and consumers don’t see eye-to-eye on the quality of customer experiences: A whopping 85 percent of marketers say their customers’ experiences are “amazing,” and are impressed by their companies’ ability to keep up with rising expectations. On the other hand, only 63 percent of consumers are happy with their customer experiences. That’s a 22-point gap between what marketers believe they’re delivering and how their customers feel.

As economic conditions get worse, customer expectations don’t fall — they rise.

The digital economy is having positive impacts on companies and employees.

The digital economy is helping marketers work smarter and compete more effectively. Nearly four in five marketers (79 percent) say the digital economy is helping their businesses: 42 percent say the digital economy is helping their companies work smarter and more creatively, and 37 percent say it’s supercharging their companies’ success and giving them a competitive advantage.

Digital technologies play a broad and important role in their customer experiences.

The future of shopping is digital. In the next two years, Gen Z consumers expect to spend the majority of their time shopping in online or virtual spaces (71 percent) — including online stores and marketplaces, social pages, and immersive worlds — versus physical stores (28 percent).

Companies are under-utilizing data and digital technologies to engage customers. Only 54 percent of marketers use data for table stakes-level purposes, such as to help understand when best to send a communication, or which channel to use. Less than half use digital channels to communicate with prospective customers (46 percent), use data to identify high-value prospects (44 percent), use digital content to reach prospects (43 percent), use digital technologies to identify upsell opportunities (43 percent), or use digital documents and e-signatures to accelerate deal closures (42 percent).

Consumers expect new formats to be a big part of their near future experiences. Over the next two years, customers expect new and emerging formats to be part of their customer experiences:

Brands are ramping up to bring more digital magic to their customer experiences over the next two years in the following ways:

Nearly every customer experience is now touched by digital in some way. Embracing digital technologies — whether customer-facing or behind the scenes — will enable brands to meet customers where they are with memorable experiences today, and be prepared to offer even more immersive experiences in the future.

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