Deciphering the Digital Puzzle to Forge Ahead

The dire events over the last year have acted as an accelerant for digital transformation, putting topics that were once years away from consideration right at the top of today’s agenda. Given that the digital customer experience is now the driver of growth and strategy, how can organizations engage our new world of digital-first customers?

Organized by CDOTrends together with Adobe, the virtual roundtable discussion “2021 Digital Trends: Deciphering the digital puzzle to forge ahead” saw various executives from Hong Kong sharing their take on this topic.

Pivot to digital

There was no doubt among participants – from industries such as financial services and retail, that digital is the way forward. “Not going into digital [would be] a strategic mistake,” said Hanane Sabri, the APAC marketing director at Kipling Asia Pacific.

But going digital is more than just embracing e-commerce or leveraging digital channels. Sabri explained that it boils down to how well the retail sector embraces the consumer experience. “We had always been using CRM systems with VIP initiatives to identify and serve our customers, but the face of purchasing and customer loyalty is changing. [Ultimately], it is about the content. How do we create the emotional connection – such that consumers choose [our] brand versus [another] brand,” she said.

Scott Rigby, chief technology advisor and principal product manager at Adobe observed that leadership is crucial for a pivot to digital. Noting that many leadership teams started their careers in the pre-digital era, he said: “[They might not have an] understanding of digital and might be wary of it. Some might also be trying to see out their years without destabilizing [the existing situation] and their exit packages.”

According to Rigby, a major Southeast Asia oil and gas business looking to pivot to be a lifestyle brand piloted an innovative approach of running a secondary board to make their technology investment decisions for them. “They realized that the current board didn't necessarily have the skills make the right investments at the pace that was required,” he shared.

Flexibility in technology

Organizations still grappling with deploying new capabilities should probably hurry up, though. Alex Pang, the associate director of Business Transformation at AIA International pointed out that many businesses have acquired various backend systems or gained the capabilities to handle customer segmentation and analytics over the last few years.

“The upcoming one or two years is a time for them to integrate and automate these systems… now it is time to do the integrations to further enhance the time to market. I think this is key for managing the BAU for financial institutions,” he summed up.

The way that technology investments are made has also changed, according to the senior vice president of an international bank. What used to be an annual exercise with rigid implementation schedules and limited leeway for deviation has evolved into a more flexible approach with room for new requirements midstream. 

“With this pandemic, I think everyone knows that we have to move faster and that things have to change. I think agile is the way forward now, and we have to move in a more flexible way and be ready to accommodate new [requirements] as needed,” he said.

Creating new value

But technology can often throw up surprising opportunities that require the organization to step up if they want to harness them. Using content creation as an example, Rigby noted that an offline business transitioning to the digital world will likely find themselves inundated with rich data about their audience segments. Brands need to respond with the right content to take full advantage of these insights, says Rigby.

“Many companies have underinvested in their ability to deliver content at velocity. They must hence ramp up the use of their content, the ability to personalize that content and deliver that to all these new segments. And this can be a bottleneck for them.”

“You need two parallel streams of work. One is resolving your data, and the other one is resolving your ability to deliver content at a personalized level. Data is the voice of your customers. So as customers interact with your brand, you are getting what we call real-time, behavioral triggers around what your customer wants, your products, and how they're comparing the channels they want to engage you on.”


“A lot of brands and companies are focusing on value creation, and not enough on what I call ‘value capture’, or strategic planning. And it is not all about the bottom line, but also how do we organize ourselves? And I honestly believe that strategic change is as important as strategic formulation,” said Sabri.

“And I do believe that what makes the difference at the end of the day would be a combination of new technologies, new online platforms, and new markets. But it is mainly about the people and how they embrace that change,” she summed up.

Paul Mah is the editor of DSAITrends. A former system administrator, programmer, and IT lecturer, he enjoys writing both code and prose. You can reach him at [email protected].​

Image credit: iStockphoto/tadamichi