Data & Enablers: Behind the scenes of big brands’ digital transformations

  • With many new businesses adopting a digital-first strategy, big brands are increasingly digitalising their business models to keep pace with changing technologies and consumer demand
  • Many of the online touchpoints between flagship brands and customers are powered by less well-known third-party digital specialists
  • These specialists comprise what we have termed ‘Data & Enablers’, which we believe present compelling investable opportunities

Many of today’s big brands have histories spanning several decades. But in an ever-changing digital world, they run the risk of falling behind their younger and more nimble competitors if they don’t quickly adapt to changing technologies: in a recent survey1, 84% of people – driven by millennials and generation Z2 – believe that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Over the past few years, many businesses have found efficiencies in the process of digitalisation by engaging with third-party digital specialists, for which we have seen increased demand, especially in 2020. These are typically technology companies who provide the tools, engineering and expertise to enable traditional businesses to migrate into digital ones, and also support new brands in adopting a ‘digital-first’ strategy - these companies comprise what we have termed ‘Data & Enablers’.

Think about those apps you use for food delivery or booking a taxi – they may be household names, but your interactions on the surface are likely to be powered by lesser known technology companies.

COVID-19 accelerating the need for digital transformation

More than ever before, firms need to place greater importance on improving – and, in some cases, building out – their online offering. With many businesses forced to close their physical premises at the height of the pandemic, this has seen firms accelerate their digital communication strategies by an average of six years3, in order to adapt to the new normal and meet the growing demand for online services. We strongly believe this is not a temporary trend but the acceleration of a pre-existing permanent shift in consumer behaviour.

In this environment, we believe companies within the ‘Data & Enablers’ sub-theme are being increasingly called upon to help companies develop their digital presence via various channels and devices - by providing crucial technology support across various areas:  

  • Client services

Customer service is critical in the virtual economy. This includes being able to handle a high volume of calls related to how firms are providing services, and ensuring a seamless day-to-day running of their operations.

Five9*, a provider of cloud contact centre software, recently partnered with Google Cloud to deliver a solution that enables their customers to deploy an intelligent virtual voice agent that can understand frequently asked coronavirus-related questions and provide answers specific to a firm’s operations – responses that can easily be updated depending on how the health crisis evolves. Five9’s customers – which include Salesforce and Siemens - can benefit from reduced waiting times on the phone, while the software also offers customers the option of speaking with a live agent.4

Zendesk, another cloud-based customer service platform, expanded its customer relationship management solutions earlier in the year, which will enable customers to have real-time, ongoing and personalised communication with companies, especially on messaging apps and social media.5 Its roster of clients include Airbnb and major UK grocery retailer Tesco.

Being ‘cloud native’, both Five9 and Zendesk have been able to provide a smooth transition from office to virtual call centre settings - and are poised to benefit from the rapidly growing e-commerce industry as the necessity of online channels for retail companies grows.   

  • Building the infrastructure to ensure a seamless customer journey

A customer’s overall journey has become paramount for big brands, who wish to not only retain but strengthen their customer relationships – and in a world where we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology, trust can be hard earned but easily lost.  

Twilio, a digital communications platform, helps businesses to easily send important messages in a timely fashion via SMS, in-app messaging or email. For example, the firm helped to design and build Uber’s communication architecture via SMS and voice – a company that has an average of 17 million trips per day across 400 cities worldwide, where customer transactions happen in real time.6  Twilio’s software has allowed Uber’s users to easily communicate via texts and calls, facilitating a smooth experience - whether they are booking a taxi or ordering food on the app.

  • App performance improvement

Applications through the web, mobile and other avenues can act as inexpensive yet powerful tools for businesses to monitor customer behaviours and their ever-increasing demands.

Globant, a cloud-based service software, is part of a new breed of technology that combines the technical rigour of IT service providers with the creativity and cultural approach of digital agencies to deliver innovative, next-generation software solutions for their customers. The company has an enviable list of top-tier brands including Google, Disney, Electronic Arts (EA) and LinkedIn. Globant provided its technical expertise to EA – more specifically to its highly successful FIFA franchise – to maximise the overall quality and ensure there were zero bugs when releasing the video game to customers; for instance, they simulated and analysed large amounts of ‘user stories’ – ranging from a simple scenario to more complex gameplay issues.8

The potential to thrive in a digital-first post-pandemic world

Digital transformation is expected to be an important focus for businesses over the coming years, and we expect it will further accelerate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Investment will be key for businesses that wish to create the right online strategy to retain their market share, win new business and remain ahead of the competition. We expect ‘Data & Enablers’ firms will see increased demand over the long term, particularly from the big brands still playing catch-up in their digital development, who could disappear altogether if they don’t make these changes soon enough.  

Sources:
*All stocks mentioned are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered as advice or a recommendation for an investment strategy
[1] State of the Connected Customer Report, Salesforce, June 2019
[2] Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins, Pew Research Centre, 17 January 2019
[3] COVID-19 Digital Engagement Report, Twilio, 15 July 2020
[4] How Five9 is innovating with Google Cloud to help with COVID-19, Five9, 8 April 2020
[5] Zendesk expands service-first CRM solutions to transform customer experience, Zendesk, 4 March 2020
[6] First Quarter 2019 Results, Uber, 30 May 2019
[7] Twilio, information accurate in 2020
[8] Globant, data accurate in 2020