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Essentials for Your Digital Strategy: Digital Responsibility Resizeimage Min

Delivering seamless, consistent, and engaging experiences starts with a customer-centered digital strategy. This ongoing series explores the characteristics that make up a great digital strategy and how to deliver powerful brand moments that solidify customer loyalty and drive differentiation for your organization.

When you hear “digital responsibility” what comes to mind? If your company thinks like most, digital responsibility means being compliant with GDPR, CCPA, and other privacy regulations.  
The reality is corporate digital responsibility goes beyond addressing customer data privacy and complying with privacy laws. It’s about creating a digital environment that conforms to customers’ expectations not only around privacy but also transparency, inclusion, accessibility, and diversity.
If digital responsibility equals privacy compliance in your organization, then you’re missing the big picture of what it means to be a good corporate digital citizen. Let’s further explore digital responsibility and why it’s an essential building block for a customer-focused digital strategy.

Digital responsibility matters more than ever

With any digital transformation, you have to think about responsibility. In today’s world, a brand can be made or broken by a single digital responsibility decision.
Consider some of the major data breaches in recent years at various retailers, a major hotel chain, and a credit reporting bureau. Consumers’ awareness of data security and privacy is at an all-time high. At a minimum, customers expect your brand to protect sensitive data. The lesson learned from these events is that you need to help customers understand how you use and interpret their data from digital channels.
Looking beyond this, digital responsibility is also a business driver. Today’s customers have an increased sensitivity for inclusion and diversity. When you add diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility to your digital channels, you will lift your top line, gain customers, and foster loyalty.
A good example from the retail industry is size inclusivity. If you’re an apparel retailer for women’s fashion and carry sizes zero to 24, what kind of impression does a customer have after she views the product detail page and only sees pictures of models wearing size zero? Even if you sell sizes up to 24, that customer is less likely to buy from you. She wants to see herself in your digital platforms.

Lay the foundation for digital responsibility

With most businesses focused on security and privacy, the bigger question might be, “How can my organization strike the balance of security and privacy with trust and transparency?” Policies for digital responsibility need to be broad. Digital responsibility can be an extension of your corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. It boils down to embracing responsibility-first thinking.
Building trust and transparency with customers is no small feat. Customers want frictionless experiences and will share their data to get them. By law, you have to communicate with customers about the data you collect and how you will use it.
Rather than viewing this as something you must do, the responsibility-first mentality shifts the focus to your customers. Create messaging in plain language that educates them about why you’re collecting their data. This will establish transparency with your customers. And, communication and education are key for building trust and transparency.

People want to belong, to be loyal, and purchase from brands they can trust – the ones that will provide a frictionless experience.

Proving to customers that your business will be responsible with their information takes time. For example, if you give your measurements and email address to a clothing retailer, then the proof comes from receiving recommendations for items in stock and in your size.  
Privacy by design is another concept that’s increasingly relevant within the context of digital responsibility. It’s an overarching governance and design approach that has numerous applications. Privacy by design takes into account people, process, and technologies and then puts a privacy spin on it. Considerations include:

  • How will you store customer data?
  • What channels will you use to collect their data? 
  • How will you communicate this to customers?
  • What actions will you take to demonstrate value?

Foster customer loyalty with diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility

Many brands are fighting for share of customer loyalty within their market. Introducing diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility into their business – both online and offline – make it possible to increase customer loyalty.
For example, accessibility is an important but often overlooked aspect of digital transformation projects. Think about the importance of accessibility for your digital properties, considering how many customers engage with your brand through a website or mobile app.
Section 508 outlines regulations for website accessibility with which government entities must comply. However, these aren’t yet required for businesses. An estimated 16 million Americans with disabilities benefit from accessible websites that meet Section 508 criteria. Considering this, what percentage of your customers fall into this group? And, how many potential customers are you not reaching because your digital channels aren’t easy for them to use?

Authenticity starts with customer empathy

Authenticity is inherent in a solid digital responsibility approach. Your brand can’t be both inauthentic and digitally responsible.
Today’s savvy customers are intolerant of any hint of inauthenticity in a brand. A recent survey revealed that 90% of consumers say authenticity [of digital content] is important when deciding which brands they like and support – up from 86% in 2017. This demonstrates the importance of authenticity when it comes to social proof tactics.  

Digital responsibility means fostering an authentic ecosystem in which your customers interact and advocate for your brand. You have to be authentic in how you secure customers’ data, share that information, and use it to drive personalized experiences. That responsibility also must extend to brand-owned channels and support that ecosystem of advocacy.

Customers want authentic interactions with people – your employees. It’s the human part of this equation that must lead the creation and execution of your digital strategy.
Your company should reinforce the feeling that you see your customers, you’re there for them, and your digital properties will shift to address their needs. Authenticity like this will ultimately earn more business with new and returning customers.

Remarkable real-life examples of digital responsibility

What does digital responsibility look like in real life? Everlane is one consumer brand excelling at this.
The direct-to-consumer clothing brand is committed to “radical transparency.” Everlane exemplifies digital responsibility across its operations – from how it sources and produces the merchandise and throughout its entire supply chain. Transparency also extends to its digital properties, where the company discloses price breakdowns for each product.
Everlane also offers inclusive sizing, uses plain language in its online privacy policies, and has an accessible website. This brand is truly a marquee example of what it means to be a good digital corporate citizen.  
Fujitsu stands out within B2B brands. It’s a company leading the conversation around corporate social responsibility and digital responsibility. Fujitsu also sets the benchmark of what digital citizenship and responsibility looks like in the new world.

“We all work in a world that is moving faster and demanding more as digital transforms our business. Every customer experience must be better, slicker, and more personalized, while operations must remain efficient, effective, legal and compliant in the face of increasing regulation.” – Fujitsu

Next steps on the road to digital responsibility

People, process, and technologies all need attention in your organization. Start building in the right measures and technology systems now to comply with the latest regulations. However, technology is usually the smallest part of any compliance initiative.
The bigger challenge, which also drives the business case, is aligning your people and processes. Change management is essential for supporting your people and processes to remain compliant.
Educating, training, and preparing your teams for change are key for success. They must not only understand thinking about customers in a digitally responsible way but also be empowered to act and respond to them. Education has to take place across your organization; it can’t sit in one department.
Additionally, your brand shouldn’t underestimate customers’ ability to understand and manage their own data. Being a responsible corporate digital citizen means focusing on education and messaging to your customers too. Whether that’s through email or text communications, in-store events, or enabling customer service or field reps to have 1:1 conversations, transparency and openness with customers is key.

Words of wisdom for the CMO

Corporate social responsibility and digital responsibility are becoming one in the same. You can’t be socially responsible without also being digitally responsible.
Putting digital responsibility into action requires communication, education, and creating a continuous feedback loop with your customers. When you focus on your customers – and do right by them – it will yield success for your business now and in the future.

Creating stand-out digital customer experiences that attract, engage, and retain customers is a tall order. Perhaps you’ve already done some of the foundational work, and you need help with the next step.
When working with clients, we help make sure you know your customers and understand their journeys. Through design-thinking tools, industry research, and pragmatic ideation to execute from end-to-end, you will have what it takes to deliver experiences that surprise and delight your customers.
Ready to get started with your digital strategy? Dive in for more resources.

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Kim Williams-Czopek

Kim Williams-Czopek is a Director of Digital Strategy at Perficient. She’s been a senior leader in several digital agencies, digital product companies, and served as VP of Digital on the brand side. She specializes in customer experience, commerce, digital responsibility, and digital business strategies.

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