woman wearing a virus-prevention mask working on a laptop with a man in the background.
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So that was an interesting year.

2020 is winding down, and it’s no surprise that our top story of the year came in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses across the globe grappled with sweeping changes to how they work — and how they work with customers.

CMSWire contributor Anita Brearton’s March 11 piece, “Marketing in a Time of Crisis,” took the top spot this year. Many marketers at that point were headed into crisis mode and needed a digital, ethical and personal compass to wade through what would likely be their most challenging professional year. Some marketers and those at marketing agencies weren’t so lucky to even retain their roles

Almost half of our top 20 stories for 2020 include a COVID-19 theme, including the shift to virtual events, remote learning programs, company culture inflection points and the general benefits of remote work. Stories unrelated to the pandemic stressed the importance of customer journey mapping, HR’s role in digital transformation, customer data privacy practices and the significance of workplace collaboration tools.

Without further ado, here are they are, CMSWire’s Top 20 stories of 2020.

20. Virtual Conferences Will Not Replace Face-to-Face Events

We've all seen the headlines: The world is changing. Everyone is getting used to the “new normal.” The future is virtual. As a conference organizer I’m having these conversations almost daily. Should we all prepare for the end of face-to-face events? Absolutely not. No matter what happens in the next couple of years, virtual conferences are not a replacement for in-person events.

19. IBM Embarks on a New Era at Think 2020

IBM hosted its annual Think conference in May, providing the first real glimpse of Arvind Krishna at the helm of a new era of transformation for Big Blue. The virtual event saw important announcements in hybrid cloud, edge computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

18. Microsoft Teams: The Channel Internal Comms Can’t Ignore

You can no longer ignore Microsoft Teams as an internal communication channel. The sudden shift in working patterns brought on by the coronavirus has led to a dramatic rise in daily use of Teams. Communicators need to think carefully about how it fits into their channel mix, and the smart ones will do more than just replicate news on the channel.

17. How HR Can Lead Digital Transformation

Human resource departments are more important than ever in shaping corporate culture to support digital transformation. HR is essential when it comes to influencing and sustaining the future of work. No longer can leaders in HR departments sit on the sidelines and wait for those in the C-suite to adopt a culture of technological innovation and digital transformation that serves the company and its stakeholders.

16. 5 Customer Success Lessons Electric Utilities Should Adopt from High-Tech

Electric utilities have had a weak relationship with customers — whom they called “ratepayers” (customers) until recently — for years now. But like all other industries, they must now reinvent their relationship with customers due to several key factors placing enormous pressure upon them. Customer success in the high-tech sector sets a great example for utilities to follow for their transformation.

15. The Implications of the EU's Decision to Shoot Down US Privacy Shield

In July, Europe's top court ruled that the Privacy Shield data-sharing agreement between the U.S. and European Union was invalid. In the ruling by the European Court of Justice, judges expressed concerns that Privacy Shield certification did not adequately protect the data of European citizens from U.S. surveillance activities in the same way they are protected in the EU.

14. Keep Your Eye on These Emerging Social Media Marketing Trends

Social media marketing is never dull. Marketers face a raft of choices and challenges, including choosing which metrics to watch to gauge the success of their campaigns, deciding where to allocate resources and more. Marketing on social media can provide real opportunities, but first marketers need to navigate through some rocky terrain.

13. 7 Voice of the Customer Metrics You Shouldn't Ignore

Many customer-centric organizations are using Voice of the Customer (VoC) data to enable them to understand their customer journeys, which facilitates the ability to keep customers satisfied and coming back. Some businesses are unsure of just how to effectively use VoC metrics, and much of the confusion derives from the fact that they are underutilizing the most valuable VoC feedback they have gathered. This article will tell you about the VoC metrics that you should focus on, and those you may have been ignoring.

12. Shifting to a Virtual Events Strategy

The world of events has seemingly gone virtual. Recent announcements from prominent brands signal that the run in virtual events may continue for quite a bit longer. Salesforce announced the cancellation of all in-person events for 2020, moving most of them to the virtual format. Last year, Dreamforce brought 170,000 attendees to San Francisco’s Moscone Center. This year, participants attended from browsers and apps.

11. 5 Ways To Improve The Customer Journey Map for Better Customer Experience

In the current climate CX has become a top priority, as companies work to meet shifting customer demands and customer journey maps are a critical part of delivering on those demands. The customer journey refers to all of the touchpoints and pain points a customer experiences as they interact with a brand, while a customer journey map is a visual representation that illustrates each of those touchpoints and pain points. 

10. Why Culture Change Is Essential for Digital Transformation

Shortcomings in organizational culture are one of the main impediments to company success in the digital age, according to a recent McKinsey survey of global executives. The survey highlighted three digital-culture deficiencies: functional and departmental silos, a fear of taking risks, and difficulty forming and acting on a single view of the customer. And while technology gives us the opportunity to optimize, organizations can end up focusing on optimization over innovation, dampening experimentation and potentially slowing growth.

9. Why Is Starbucks so Successful Despite Its Mediocre Coffee?

Starbucks is so successful because it was able to provide an experience that changed how much of the world thought about coffee shops and how many of us drink coffee outside of our homes. Starbucks created a third place between home and work where people can relax, enjoy a cup of coffee and experience the inviting ambience. Starbucks doesn’t compete with other coffee companies, it competes with going to see a movie.

8. 6 Proven Business Benefits of Remote Work

Job seekers have long been drawn to remote jobs because they provide flexibility in the form of greater personal and professional control over their private lives and careers. If you are considering extending telework options into the future, we cover six proven business benefits of remote work that could positively influence your decision and inspire a modern retooling of your current practices.

7. 7 Insights Into Salesforce's Acquisition of Evergage

Salesforce acquired Evergage in February to fill gaps in its marketing cloud offering for personalization and add a real-time focus in Web and app channels, putting it ahead of Adobe in the personalization and recommendation categories. The move also creates a “race to the intelligent marketing platform” where many providers in the space will be targeted by larger marketing cloud players.

6. BPA vs. RPA: How Are They Similar, How Are They Different?

As we wade through the sea of technologies within the modernization realm, automation, especially process automation, has grown by leaps and bounds, taking on a new guise in the form of robotic process automation or RPA. However, process automation is not by any means new to the computing industry.

5. COVID-19 Puts Company Cultures to the Test

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus is pushing businesses around the world into an unprecedented inflection point. Company culture, leadership, employee experience and digital workplace experiences are now being put to the test.

4. Why Did Gartner Kill the Web Content Management Magic Quadrant?

Ding. Dong. The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management is dead. Why? 

3. The Rise of the Virtual Conference: How to Host Your Next Event Entirely Online

Amidst the Coronavirus epidemic, many B2B brands are left with huge event marketing budgets. In fact, in a study by the Events Industry Council (EIC), business events contributed a shocking $1.5 trillion to the worldwide economy. With the rise of virtual conferences underway, we’ve asked marketing leaders whether virtual events can actually replace in-person events, and how brands can plan their own virtual conferences.

2. Why Remote Learning and Online Learning Are Not the Same

A Gartner survey of 800 global HR executives indicated that 88% of organizations have encouraged or required employees to work from home, regardless of whether they showed coronavirus-related symptoms. While there are many work-related changes that enterprises and workers will experience, one of them will be the need to introduce online, or remote, training in order to keep existing talent.

1. Marketing in a Time of Crisis

Marketers talk frequently about how being agile and flexible helps them capitalize on shifting market dynamics, changing customer demands and competitive threats. Big things generally mandate a big course correction. All that talk about agility and flexibility? It needs to be turned into action. So where to start? For issues that impact your company alone, communications strategy and cost management should be your two immediate areas of focus.