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2021 CEO Priorities: Digital-Led Recovery or Slow Disappearance

Despite all the uncertainty what the future holds, there is no doubt about one thing: it will be digital.

The COVID-19 crisis significantly accelerates the shift to digital and fundamentally shake up the business landscape. The global pandemic catalyzed all changes we’ve witnessed in the economy, society, personal and corporate worlds. From a critical shift in how we work, learn, live and search, organizations had to reassess their businesses to stay relevant in what will now be the most important arena to do business: online.

The pandemic actually showed how vulnerable companies really are. A client of ours saw its online orders go through the roof, only to realize that they hadn’t prepared to process and fulfill the surge. On the other hand, tech-enabled businesses were able to adapt much faster, managing to meet surging online-order demands.

Having to deal with the new situation, CEOs have been forcing to make difficult choices. Some are making cuts and getting into survival mode, hoping that they will manage to ride out of the storm. However, others are more directing their efforts towards actions that will ensure that once the crisis ends, they will be stronger than they are today.

To achieve the growth necessary to survive and even take the lead in 2021, CEOs need to figure out how they will accomplish that.

Accelerate your digital transformation

Despite the immense challenges CEOs are managing today, now is the time to act. Given how fast change is happening, waiting until you see signs of recovery might be too late.

However, for many CEOs, it’s still unclear and confusing how to define digital and how to improve digital strategy. According to research, 70-95% of digital transformations fail.

For CEOs to maximize their return on digital investments, the focus should be on three levers:

  • Customer Experience to drive more revenue
  • Gaining more efficiency to improve operating leverage by role (through automation)
  • A better employee experiences

To help CEOs understand where they are and what they should be doing, we at AirDesigns have developed a Framework for analysis and optimization of online stores & digital businesses. Take time to assess your business and understand what you need to do to strengthen your digital presence and boost operations in 2021.

Customer experience is the new advertising

The impact of COVID-19 on customer behavior was immediate. It spread across all industries, countries, and demographics. As a result, new consumers who are more thoughtful and selective in their decision making emerged.

Many purchases have shifted from in-person to online channels, creating a more digitally savvy customer that demands easy and effortless interactions.

Factors such as brand, purpose, and reputation are coming into the decision-making process in equal measure to safety, security, convenience, and certainty.

As digital transformation is all set to dominate in the year 2021, CEOs need to focus on reassessing their approach to customers, providing seamless customer experiences for their target audience groups across multiple channels.

CEOs need to build an organization that is unified and connected. An organization where every part of the business is symbiotic and aligned, from the front office to the back office, delivers a superior customer experience.

Make digital marketing pay

The status quo is not an option for most businesses moving forward. As such, CEOs need to understand that they have to embrace digital marketing tighter than ever.

According to Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey 2020-2021, digital advertising will grab the biggest portion of the marketing budget. For CEOs, this translates to severe competition and aggressive digital marketing tactics intensifying the battlefield for customers’ attention.

Making sound investments in digital advertising and SEO will support any long-term and short-term business goal. This winning combination will keep organizations relevant and visible online despite current events.

Companies like Google have a lot planned in 2021 (the page experience update is just one of many). A clear strategy to improve all digital assets and implement actual user experience signals such as loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability should be on the high priority list in CEOs’ agenda for the first quarter of 2021.

If CEOs don’t win in early 2021, they may find their company’s future at risk. Any business not in the race early will be left behind.

Winning 2021

When the end of the crisis comes is not clear. Challenges are everywhere for the CEO’s digital agenda in 2021. But one thing is clear; the CEOs who best prepare their businesses for a more digital future and inspire change within the organization will drastically increase the chance for a brighter future. 

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Valentin Dzhebarov

Valentin Dzhebarov

Managing Partner

General4 min read

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