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PHOTO: Alex Kondratiev on Unsplash.

From school to work to socializing to shopping, life has moved online in 2020. With in-person interactions either greatly limited or out of the question, the customer experience and digital experience have merged.

That means business leaders need to think about customer experience holistically. First, acknowledge and accept the new reality. Then, ensure customers have a range of secure digital options to interact with the organization. At the same time, leaders need to re-examine the organization’s offerings and modify them as needed to reflect the continuously changing situation customers face.

That piece requires a technical infrastructure that actually enables responsiveness. As both a source of customer insight and fuel for personalization, data plays a big part in this infrastructure. But companies also need systems to rapidly analyze this data and turn data-based insights into relevant, personalized experiences.

These systems need to be adaptable, extensible and open. To forge a path forward under such circumstances, organizations need to be able to move quickly. But what makes speed and agility possible?

Related Article: What a Holistic Approach to Customer Experience Looks Like

Be Open to Experimentation

When faced with challenges that are entirely new, an organization needs to be able to try new things. This involves quickly identifying and exploring options, pursuing the options that seem most promising and then continuously experimenting based on what worked and what didn’t.

Facing store closures and limited in-store shopping options, home decor brand West Elm experimented with work from home Zoom backgrounds and new digital design studios on its website. Lululemon is offering online yoga classes. Creative approaches like this abound.

Experimentation and exploration require flexible tools. Specifically, they require tools and systems that are inherently open. From a technical standpoint, there are two ways that your systems must be open:

Be Open to Other Tools

Your options are limited if the tools you have are limited or if your systems can integrate with some tools but not others. That’s clearly the opposite of flexibility. The systems you rely on should make it possible for you to follow a best-of-breed approach, one where you use the tools your strategy demands not those dictated by the technology you own.

To enable this openness, the systems you choose should feature open APIs and ideally be built with extensibility in mind. Whether you need website content management, personalization, analytics, marketing automation or business intelligence, it should be quick and easy to build the best solutions for your use case.

Be Open to Data

Digital experience tools and systems have little value in the absence of data. And frankly, without data your options are limited, too. You can neither understand your customers nor create increasingly personalized and relevant experiences for them. This means your systems need to be able to collect data from any source and use it to create persistent and actionable customer profiles. But they also need to be able to push data to whatever tools or channels that need it.

That’s never been more important than during COVID-19. Buyers and their purchasing behaviors have changed and different types of customers don’t map to the old personas. Some have seen more drastic changes but everyone is experiencing some sort of adjustment. The value of data — and connecting individual data points across the CRM, e-commerce and customer support systems to create personalized experiences — has never been more critical.

Related Article: 7 Customer Data Platform Implementation Tips

As brands adjust to new ways of working and find moments to build relationships with customers, continuing to experiment and creatively analyze data and learn from it will be essential. Organizations of all sizes need this kind of agility when faced with today’s novel combination of change and uncertainty. Such agility also calls for a flexible framework that supports both experimentation and, if the experiment works, scale.

Agility and flexibility give you a path forward regardless of the circumstances ahead. With that path, your organization can cultivate the resilience that keeps companies going.