UK business leaders scale back plans to invest in digital transformation, new Cheil UK survey reveals

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

More than half (56%) of UK business leaders have said they’re not planning to invest more in digital transformation – with 39% saying their plans have remained the same and 17% have even rolled back their plans – despite COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown accelerating the need for digitisation across services.

The data comes from a Censuswide survey commissioned by Cheil UK, the data-driven performance marketing agency, who surveyed more than 200 senior decision makers from medium-large businesses in the UK across sectors including retail, telecoms, entertainment, and consumer electronics on their plans for digital transformation post-COVID*.

It comes as research from PFS shows that COVID-19 has encouraged 39% of U.K. shoppers to purchase new goods online due to the pandemic, and 71% of consumers in both the U.S. and U.K. expect goods ordered online to arrive in a week or less.

David Bedford, director of digital strategy at Cheil UK, and e-commerce and loyalty lead for the agency’s new consultancy arm Cheil Consulting, commented on the findings: “COVID-19 has hit particular sectors harder than others, but it has also accelerated many of the digital transformation plans businesses already had in place. Challenges with budgets are apparent and valid, but we will see the ramifications of not investing in Direct to Consumer – digital and customer service in the coming months and years. This isn’t just about moving capabilities online; consumers expect to be kept safe when shopping in store and investment in digital capabilities from VR to contactless payments to increase hygienic shopping experiences is key to success in the future.

“The growing appetite for online purchases should be a wake-up call for those still asleep when it comes to e-commerce and digital capabilities. If you can’t provide the shopping experience your customer wants when they want it, they’ll move on (and possibly badmouth you to their friends and colleagues). The customer experience is key, and in a COVID and post-COVID world this has to be considered and embedded as part of digital transformation to meet the needs of today’s customer.”

The research aimed to discover what digital transformation meant to businesses and whether their plans have accelerated since the pandemic. It looked at the areas businesses plan to invest in digitally, and which businesses have impressed the most with their digital offerings.

The research shows generally a lack of continuity as to what the term ‘digital transformation’ means for businesses across the board. Telecoms business leaders, for example, appeared to share the same vision; focusing on moving people from offline to online. However, retail leaders lacked unity, with the majority of respondents in this sector not agreeing on what digital transformation means for their industry.

Of those who were planning to invest more in digital transformation, the top response among business leaders to improve customer experience was implementing faster delivery solutions and easier returns; a key challenge during lockdown as commerce switched to online. Other popular solutions included creating new products (40% of respondents), improving site search (also 40%), and better data collation and interrogation (39%).

Interestingly, 75% of respondents were unimpressed with the majority of other businesses’ online customer experience, with 8% admitting they’re unsure if their digital investment will even help them meet their customers’ expectations, let alone exceed them.