Yext has partnered with Italiaonline, the country’s largest digital media company. The partnership will bring Yext’s powerful technology to Italian businesses via IOL Connect, Italiaonline’s new service, which allows businesses to manage their location data online. By joining forces with Yext, Italiaonline will help businesses improve their searchability on any of the 100+ maps, apps, search engines and directories in Yext’s PowerListings Network — including Google and Facebook.
“Together with our partner Italiaonline, we’re excited to put hundreds of thousands of Italian small businesses on the map,” said Howard Lerman, CEO of Yext. “Using the Yext Location Cloud, they will be able to manage their location data online easily and in real time, reaching more customers and driving more visits.”
The partnership between Yext and Italiaonline comes at a critical moment in Italy, as mobile search continues to gain dominance throughout the world, and as the country’s ever-growing Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) community increasingly demands a one-stop-shop for making real-time location data updates.
“IOL Connect is an integrated digital location system that, thanks to the partnership with Yext, we are proud to launch exclusively for the Italian market,” said Antonio Converti, CEO of Italiaonline. ”Being found on the web is essential, especially for local businesses. We now have a powerful tool — together with our sales network and local ties — including over a thousand agents and a hundred media consultants specialising in digital marketing.”
Yext is expanding its European integrations and network rapidly, partnering with leading digital platforms and directory services throughout the continent. This latest expansion comes on the heels of several new product launches, including the Healthcare Location Cloud in the US, as well as a partnership with Snapchat to make sponsored Geofilters easy.
For more information, check out Italiaonline’s press release.
2021 Predictions: Digital Channels Will Become The Default For Day-To-Day Banking — But Branches Are Here To Stay, Too
There’s no debating that COVID-19 changed life as we know it around the globe. But what is debatable is when — and if — we’ll really return to normal. From a business perspective, companies and organisations can count on one thing: Many of the shifts and trends in digital consumer behaviour we saw over the past year are here to stay. In fact, some industries are already operating 5 to 10 years in the future thanks to the pandemic.
While there are many insights to take in as we continue to navigate the first quarter of 2021, we wanted to get a first hand account on how businesses are adapting in order to not just be digital first in their approach, but “digital best” to ensure they’re not just surviving online, but rather thriving. We spoke to a few of our customers and partners to get their takes on the biggest trends of the past year that were most relevant to their business, their strategies as we move forward, and a few bold predictions for 2021.
Up next in our multi-part series, we have James Roy, SVP of digital marketing at People’s United Bank.
While 2020 was a case study in unpredictability, it was also a year of tremendous transformation through innovation. What shifts or trends stood out most to you in your industry?
JR: We’ve definitely seen a big shift to digital among banking customers. They’re using digital
platforms as an additional way to manage their money. But, surprisingly enough, we’ve noticed
customer returning to branches when they were able to. So, even though we’ve seen a big increase in digital banking adoption, our prediction going forward is that the branch experience is just going to continue evolving.
It’s really going to be about that marriage between digital and the human touch, which our talented bankers provide. Banking institutions right now should be trying to find the right balance to be able to serve both customers who are digitally inclined, and those who are not.
You mentioned the important relationship between digital and the ‘human’ perspective. Has your view of digital changed this year? And what do you think will be its importance looking forward into 2021?
As with every other financial institution during the peak of the pandemic, we saw rapid increases in digital adoption and digital banking. But one of the lessons learned coming out of that, was there was a lot of additional pressure put on our call centres. We’re seeing a lot more inbound inquiries than usual because more people are relying on these online platforms for information. Moving forward, there are just going to be more and more issues and questions that people need immediate answers for. And waiting an hour on the phone for an agent just isn’t the experience that we want to provide.
We came out of the peak of the pandemic asking ourselves, ‘How do we rapidly enhance our service journeys to provide really great ongoing customer support?’ That’s what brought us to Yext Answers, which is a far superior platform for site search.
So thinking about digital strategies generally for 2021, I think it’s only going to become more important to provide really intuitive and informative web experiences for customers.
Make a bold prediction about your industry: What’s going to happen — or emerge as a hot new trend — in 2021?
There’s a lot of talk that branches are going to go away. But people still need to interface with somebody for complex financial needs. There’s still a very strong place for branches — at least in the immediate future. Once the veil has been lifted, of the pandemic, I think people will be going back into branches.
So, my ‘bold’ prediction is that branches are actually here to stay. Digital channels will become the default for people’s day-to-day banking — like depositing checks, and paying bills, and paying friends, and things like that. So they’ll really be going into the bank for conversations around complex financial needs — making those in-person trips to physical branches more meaningful than ever.
In 2021, it’s no longer enough for businesses to be digital first. Instead, it’s about becoming “digital best.” How are you thinking about continuing digital transformation in order to be best in class? What strategies will you continue? Which will you sunset?
Our underlying strategy has always been trying to take the best-in-class branch experience that our customers receive, and replicate that digitally. So as we head into 2021, we’re going to continue to explore new ways of providing a personalised experience. We want to really get to know our customers — through our data, and through their behaviour, and really be able to meet their needs in the moments that matter throughout their digital journey.
Of course, that line starts to blur with the physical world as well. We also want to make sure our bankers can take advantage of our customers’ online journey, and see the ways people are expressing intent through digital touchpoints. We want to make sure our physical and digital channels combine to provide the same outcome: a stellar customer experience.
And finally, not to make it all about us, but: How do Yext solutions fit into your business’s transformation in 2021?
We’ve just scratched the surface in terms of what we can do with the Yext platform. Especially now that the platform itself has evolved and expanded into all these other important areas — such as site search with Yext Answers, and new integrations like ours with Adobe. Once you build your knowledge graph, and have the ability to expand that structured data across more and more places, it opens up a whole host of possibilities. Yext will become an increasingly important part of our ecosystem that’s all centred around the customer experience.
The digital transformation has been underway for some time, but last year the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated it with warp speed. As we look at the state of the industry in 2021, it’s important to understand how consumer behaviour is potentially changed forever. In this report we’ll examine three key trends that will shape businesses across all industries in the new year.
But what changes when we return to “normal”? While the roll out of vaccines will no doubt allow us to return to things like traveling and eating in restaurants, not everything will bounce back to its pre-COVID ways. So, as we look at the state of the industry in 2021, it’s important to understand how consumer behaviour is potentially changed forever. In this report, we examine three key trends that will shape companies in all industries in the new year:
- The customer journey is online
- The digital transformation is exploding
- The rise of decoupled architecture
Trend 1: The customer journey is online
From punch cards to the mouse to the advent of touchscreens, the experience of interacting with computers has seen several profound evolutions in the past 100 years. Today, we’re witnessing the next seismic shift: conversation.
With the rise of of natural language processing (NLP) and AI, computers can finally understand our language. And not just disparate keywords — we’re talking human language exactly as it is spoken.
The impact is profound. Because NLP is showing up in so many different places — from search engines to chatbots to virtual assistants — we’re actively being trained to use technology differently, yet more naturally. In other words, when we need something, we simply have to ask.
For example, years ago, if you typed “pizza” into Google, you’d see links to a bunch of blogs that just mentioned the word pizza. Today, that’s no longer the case: If you type in “pizza,” you get a structured list of pizza places. You get an answer — an answer that understands that you want to find a pizza place, not just read facts about pizza online.
Further, if you type in “best pizza,” you’ll actually get detailed, structured answers about where to find the best pizza. When we add more depth to our questions, we get better answers back. So now, we’re more comfortable asking things like, “where’s the best pizza place in New York that’s good for kids and has accessible bathrooms?”
As a result, our search behaviour has changed. Where we once used a single keyword and had to sort through a list of not-so-relevant links, NLP has made it so that search engines can understand our natural language questions – and give us full answers that meet every part of our query.
The ease with which this question/answer process now happens has us asking more specific questions, more often. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic caused online searches to spike, the rise of NLP was conditioning people to search more, making search foundational to our daily lives. (In 2020, Google processed more than 3.5 billion searches per day on average.) This expectation that we can ask questions and get relevant answers back has changed the customer journey.
To illustrate: Think of the last time you bought something. You probably went online and started searching. (In fact, that’s probably all you did last year: Online searches are at an all-time high.) You may have visited a brand’s website, talked to a chatbot, talked to Alexa, looked at Google — researching and reiterating, asking a bunch of different questions until you learned enough to make a decision. This is the new customer journey in a world where you can simply ask for what you want. But are brands really prepared to answer these questions?
Answering questions is difficult
We’re living in a world where the customer journey starts with a question — and where people are posing these questions to search engines, voice assistants, bots, and brand websites. But here’s the thing: It’s really hard for brands to deliver answers the way customers have come to expect. Here’s why:
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a question.In this single question, we see financial advisors, locations, hours, products offered, and even the modifier “best.” Where would you even get all of that data? Just to answer this one question, brands need information from all over your organisation — and the traditional methods of computing and storage data simply don’t allow you to relate all this information together. So in order to give customers the experience delivered by the consumer web, you have to rethink your tech. Specifically, your search technology.
Modern search is key to delivering answers and transforming your martech stack
Several big brands, like Amazon, have invested heavily in search technology. In fact, search is critical to driving millions of valuable transactions a day. (When was the last time you used a drop down menu to order something from the online retail giant?) Yet too many top brands can’t answer even a basic question about themselves with their own site search. That’s a big problem, as search engines like Google and websites like Amazon have trained people to expect a seamless search experience. So if a business can’t answer a simple question on their own site, it could be costly.
But it’s not entirely their fault. The problem is borne out of the fact that existing marketing tech isn’t built for a world where computers can speak our language — and that’s starting to change. This new model of computing will radically change the digital marketing landscape over the next few years, and the winners will be businesses who can answer users questions exactly as they ask them, wherever they search. Those who develop a truly modern, conversational search experience will be able to keep users on their site for longer, answer more questions, and convert customers more often — while avoiding sending them away to a search engine like Google.
Trend 2: Digital transformation has exploded
Ecommerce has existed for more than twenty years; that’s nothing new. But there’s no doubt that the global pandemic accelerated digital transformation beyond by a magnitude of years: In a world where the “digital front door” quickly became the only door, even those claiming to be “digital first” struggled to maintain continuity in the new “online only” reality. And spoiler: much of that new reality is here to stay.
There’s practically no facet of life that didn’t move online in 2020.. But there are three specific changes affecting digital that have had the biggest impact on businesses: new service interfaces, product & service pivots, and unexpected scale.
1. New service interfaces
COVID has driven the adoption of a wide variety of new service interfaces that are becoming major drivers of business continuity and new revenue opportunities across industries:
- The computer becomes the classroom: the coronavirus pandemic sparked the world’s largest remote learning experiment: 85% of countries closed schools and 1.4bn students shifted to school at home. Now, the education technology (EdTech) market is expected to grow from a $107bn industry in 2015 to a $350bn industry by 2025 — 69% growth.
- Digital banking soars: April saw a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%, according to Fidelity National Information Services (FIS). What’s more, 42% of consumers in the U.S. (47% in Canada) said they will reduce branch visits after the COVID-19 lockdowns end.
- Telehealth takes over: hospitals are using remote patient engagement messages ranging from up-to-date education about avoiding the spread of COVID-19 to instructions on how to receive prescription refills through the mail. Telemedicine revenue is expected to grow from $628.3mm in 2019 to $2.40bn in 2024.
- CPG goes DTC: COVID-19 has forced traditional retailers to shift to e-commerce or risk becoming obsolete. Consumer packaged good (CPG) manufacturers are entering the direct-to-consumer space and recognising the value of first-party data and higher-margin sales opportunities that come from owning their customers — with PepsiCo building an end-to-end system, Snacks.com and Heinz now bundling shelf-stable items like beans, spaghetti, condiments and soup.
2. Product and service pivots
It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and 2020 certainly put that to the test.
Faced with record-setting demand for certain categories of products, some companies shifted their production drastically at the start of the pandemic. GM pivoted from building cars to producing ventilators. Multiple retailers started making face masks in addition to clothes. Alcohol brands like Bacardi rushed to produce hand sanitiser. Others experienced drastic decline in demand, so they switched to serving different populations with new types of services: Airlines shipped cargo, and restaurants set themselves up as grocery stores or pantries.
The lesson is that any business can reinvent, but in order to be successful, companies will need the right technology — not only to adapt their products and services, but to communicate these changes to their customers in real time.
3. Unexpected scale
While some companies had to undertake full product and service pivots in 2020, others were faced with extreme demand for their existing offerings — and they had to scale up production quickly.
From workplace productivity tools like Slack or Zoom, as well as providers of essential goods (remember the Spring 2020 toilet paper shortage?), a number of businesses caught tremendous tail winds from the pandemic. But it wasn’t necessarily easy. First, they had to determine how to ramp up production to meet the demand of a populace in need. Next, they needed to effectively communicate updates to those same people during an intense period of delays, reorganisations, and technical issues that slowed supply, delivery and bandwidth.
All three of these shifts changed our world in the short term. But in the long term they remind us of the importance of getting your data ready for a new level of digitisation. Why? Because all of these product and service changes required significant data reorganisation, and many industries were left scrambling. That’s why it’s more than just being “digital first” — for brands to really thrive they need to be “digital best”. Future success will come if the right technologies are adopted now, including digitising product inventory, providing better service information, and rethinking website UI.
Trend 3: The future is built on a decoupled architectureTechnology seems to go through a cycle of consolidation and creation every few years. It happens for many reasons: It could be a transformational technology shift, like the cloud, or players in the market trying to capture market share by buying competitors and adjacent offerings. But today, we are coming to the end of an era of consolidation.
The “old” martech stack is couple and monolithic. Many vendors position themselves as a one-stop-shop for web, email, CDP, and social. When you are building a website, you typically use one tech provider and a single tool. A single marketing platform that takes care of every layer of the experience — the presentation layer or UI; the API layer, which connects to other tools; and the backend layer, which supports the whole structure.
But in the same way that humanity evolved out of early-Stone Age reliance on one or two tools, so too will marketers progress beyond the monolithic martech stack.
Prepare for the future with a martech stack that is decoupled.
Instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all approach, the “new” decoupled martech stack employs many different solutions to optimise performance and cost. The future is all about the right tools for the right job.
In this new world, each layer is decoupled from the others, so businesses have the opportunity to choose the tools that they want for each function of their martech stack. They aren’t bound by the limited functionality of a single provider. And if conditions change and they need to pivot the way you do business — as we saw everyone do in 2020 — can easily scale and switch to new tools.
The decoupled martech stack is economical, best in class, and flexible, which means it’s built for a future of uncertainty, a future that requires agility. When you have the power to assemble your own marketing stack based on your brand’s changing needs, it’s insurance against being stuck with clunky software that can’t change with you.
It’s still early days in the decoupled evolution. But as you look at the trends above, it’s hardly a surprise that this is a rising ride over the last few years — and that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption. Expect to see a lot more of this throughout 2021 — and beyond.